Camouflage, Concealment, and Decoys (CCD): Debris Field

Threat actors may hide their spacecraft by laying dormant within clusters of space junk or similar debris fields. This could serve several purposes including concealment of inspection activities being performed by the craft, as well as facilitating some future kinetic intercept/attack, and more.

ID: DE-0009.01
Sub-technique of:  DE-0009
Related Aerospace Threat IDs: 
Created: 2023/04/22
Last Modified: 2023/04/22


ID Name Description NIST Rev5
CM0077 Space Domain Awareness The credibility and effectiveness of many other types of defenses are enabled or enhanced by the ability to quickly detect, characterize, and attribute attacks against space systems. Space domain awareness (SDA) includes identifying and tracking space objects, predicting where objects will be in the future, monitoring the space environment and space weather, and characterizing the capabilities of space objects and how they are being used. Exquisite SDA—information that is more timely, precise, and comprehensive than what is publicly available—can help distinguish between accidental and intentional actions in space. SDA systems include terrestrial-based optical, infrared, and radar systems as well as space-based sensors, such as the U.S. military’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) inspector satellites. Many nations have SDA systems with various levels of capability, and an increasing number of private companies (and amateur space trackers) are developing their own space surveillance systems, making the space environment more transparent to all users.* * CP-13 CP-2(3) CP-2(4) CP-2(5) CP-2(7) PE-20 PE-6 SI-4(17)
CM0078 Space-Based Radio Frequency Mapping Space-based RF mapping is the ability to monitor and analyze the RF environment that affects space systems both in space and on Earth. Similar to exquisite SDA, space-based RF mapping provides space operators with a more complete picture of the space environment, the ability to quickly distinguish between intentional and unintentional interference, and the ability to detect and geolocate electronic attacks. RF mapping can allow operators to better characterize jamming and spoofing attacks from Earth or from other satellites so that other defenses can be more effectively employed.* * PE-20 RA-6 SI-4(14)
CM0079 Maneuverability Satellite maneuver is an operational tactic that can be used by satellites fitted with chemical thrusters to avoid kinetic and some directed energy ASAT weapons. For unguided projectiles, a satellite can be commanded to move out of their trajectory to avoid impact. If the threat is a guided projectile, like most direct-ascent ASAT and co-orbital ASAT weapons, maneuver becomes more difficult and is only likely to be effective if the satellite can move beyond the view of the onboard sensors on the guided warhead.* * CP-10(6) CP-13 CP-2 CP-2(1) CP-2(3) CP-2(4) CP-2(5) PE-20 PE-21
CM0080 Stealth Technology Space systems can be operated and designed in ways that make them difficult to detect and track. Similar to platforms in other domains, stealthy satellites can use a smaller size, radar-absorbing coatings, radar-deflecting shapes, radar jamming and spoofing, unexpected or optimized maneuvers, and careful control of reflected radar, optical, and infrared energy to make themselves more difficult to detect and track. For example, academic research has shown that routine spacecraft maneuvers can be optimized to avoid detection by known sensors.* * CP-10(6) CP-13 SC-30 SC-30(5)
CM0081 Defensive Jamming and Spoofing A jammer or spoofer can be used to disrupt sensors on an incoming kinetic ASAT weapon so that it cannot steer itself effectively in the terminal phase of flight. When used in conjunction with maneuver, this could allow a satellite to effectively “dodge” a kinetic attack. Similar systems could also be used to deceive SDA sensors by altering the reflected radar signal to change the location, velocity, and number of satellites detected, much like digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jammers used on many military aircraft today. A spacebased jammer can also be used to disrupt an adversary’s ability to communicate.* * with an ASAT weapon. CP-10(6) CP-13 CP-2 CP-2(1) CP-2(5) CP-2(7) PE-20
CM0082 Deception and Decoys Deception can be used to conceal or mislead others on the “location, capability, operational status, mission type, and/or robustness” of a satellite. Public messaging, such as launch announcements, can limit information or actively spread disinformation about the capabilities of a satellite, and satellites can be operated in ways that conceal some of their capabilities. Another form of deception could be changing the capabilities or payloads on satellites while in orbit. Satellites with swappable payload modules could have on-orbit servicing vehicles that periodically move payloads from one satellite to another, further complicating the targeting calculus for an adversary because they may not be sure which type of payload is currently on which satellite. Satellites can also use tactical decoys to confuse the sensors on ASAT weapons and SDA systems. A satellite decoy can consist of an inflatable device designed to mimic the size and radar signature of a satellite, and multiple decoys can be stored on the satellite for deployment when needed. Electromagnetic decoys can also be used in space that mimic the RF signature of a satellite, similar to aircraft that use airborne decoys, such as the ADM-160 Miniature Air-launched Decoy (MALD).* * SC-26 SC-30
CM0084 Physical Seizure A space vehicle capable of docking with, manipulating, or maneuvering other satellites or pieces of debris can be used to thwart spacebased attacks or mitigate the effects after an attack has occurred. Such a system could be used to physically seize a threatening satellite that is being used to attack or endanger other satellites or to capture a satellite that has been disabled or hijacked for nefarious purposes. Such a system could also be used to collect and dispose of harmful orbital debris resulting from an attack. A key limitation of a physical seizure system is that each satellite would be time- and propellant-limited depending on the orbit in which it is stored. A system stored in GEO, for example, would not be well positioned to capture an object in LEO because of the amount of propellant required to maneuver into position. Physical seizure satellites may need to be stored on Earth and deployed once they are needed to a specific orbit to counter a specific threat.* * CP-13 PE-20
CM0086 Filtering and Shuttering Filters and shutters can be used on remote sensing satellites to protect sensors from laser dazzling and blinding. Filters can protect sensors by only allowing light of certain wavelengths to reach the sensors. Filters are not very effective against lasers operating at the same wavelengths of light the sensors are designed to detect because a filter that blocks these wavelengths would also block the sensor from its intended mission. A shutter acts by quickly blocking or diverting all light to a sensor once an anomaly is detected or a threshold is reached, which can limit damage but also temporarily interrupts the collection of data.* * CP-13 PE-18 SC-5 SC-5(3)
CM0087 Defensive Dazzling/Blinding Laser systems can be used to dazzle or blind the optical or infrared sensors on an incoming ASAT weapon in the terminal phase of flight. This is similar to the laser infrared countermeasures used on aircraft to defeat heat-seeking missiles. Blinding an ASAT weapon’s guidance system and then maneuvering to a new position (if necessary) could allow a satellite to effectively “dodge” a kinetic attack. It could also be used to dazzle or blind the optical sensors on inspector satellites to prevent them from imaging a satellite that wants to keep its capabilities concealed or to frustrate adversary SDA efforts.* * CP-10(6) CP-13 CP-2 CP-2(1) CP-2(5) CP-2(7) PE-20