The Space Force Of 2021 – Separating Reality From Science Fiction
In 2020 the UK military, following the US’s footsteps in 2019 with the establishment of the US Space Force, announced their very own Royal Air Force Space Command.
Interest, and concern, in recent times, about the future of space, and in particular with regards to military defence capabilities, both offensive and defensive, has been rapidly increasing. More and more countries are acquiring the resources and technology to launch their own rockets, and with this comes the risk of falling behind in what is quickly becoming a possible game-changer for the world’s powers.
“There has been increased focus on offensive and defensive cyber capabilities in the space domain throughout 2019 and 2020, as the latter is increasingly seen as contested by the world’s military powers,” stated Franz-Stefan Gady, an International Institute for Strategic Studies research fellow and specialist in future warfare.
In the meantime, the media has, understandably, had a fun time exploring, and sometimes lampooning what a “Space Force” would look like. Envisioning crack teams of hi-tech fighter astronauts, or Star Trek like scenarios, the reality of what it will actually be, however, at least in the beginning, is at once far more mundane, and more serious.
Outer Space & Cyberspace
Outer space and the realm of internet that we know as “cyberspace” are intrinsically intertwined says experts such as Franz-Stefan Gady. He has warned that the US, UK, and every nation with assets currently out in space, is potentially vulnerable, or soon will be, to common cyber attacks such as DDOS, distributed denial of service, or hijacking via cyberspace.
“Space-based assets like satellites rely on cyberspace links for the flow of data to and from them linking command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance systems.” Says Gady, “They not only provide crucial cyber ISR but are also capable of delivering offensive cyber effects. Cybersecurity solutions for space are first and foremost software-driven as air-gapped solutions or bringing down a satellite for upgrades is not an option.”
The AI Solution
“As military powers are standing up space forces and commands, tailored cybersecurity solutions, perhaps AI-enabled, for use in space that take into account the specific nature of this domain (for example, high radiation levels) will increasingly be sought after in 2021.” Stated Gady.
As such, the US Space Force is currently exploring AI-enabled cyber defence as the primary solution for its approximately 180 space mission systems.
The Reality Of A Space Force
Though the USSF, and RAFSC, draw on troops with expertise in space operations from all military branches, this means that the majority of personnel involved are, and will be, largely IT-based in their training, and will likely remain in front of computer screens and terminals for some time to come. Much like us when we signup at Grand Rush. What it might become will likely also be a far-cry from the imagination of the public.
“We have seen it really confuse people.” stated Air Force Col. Matt Anderson, a liaison to the US Space Command, who has called for a greater need to educate the public on what Space Force is, and why it was created.