Northrop Grumman will build a prototype space force for cyber defense of satellite networks

Published by Industry Update, 1 July 2022

WASHINGTON: Northrop Grumman next spring will begin testing a new hardware and software prototype for space forces designed to protect large, interconnected satellite networks from cyberattacks, company officials said.

The prototype, called the Space End Crypto Unit (ECU), is being developed in tandem with electronics firm Aeronix, with delivery scheduled for 2024.

“We are developing hardware that can survive the space environment, with the intent of deploying the hardware on satellites orbiting in wide low Earth orbit (pLEO),” Amanda Walsh, spokeswoman for Northrop Grumman’s Network Information Solutions (NIS) division. , the email said. “We are also developing cryptographic software that will run on this hardware module, and this cryptographic software will allow network users to communicate securely within the network (ie protect the mesh).”

Northrop Grumman is one of three companies contracted by the Space Agency to develop it Transport level high-speed data and communications satellites in LEO under a February contract worth $692 million. These satellites are being developed as a base for the Pentagon Joint Domain-wide Command and Control (JADC2) the concept of modern warfare in air, land, sea, space and cyberspace.

Cyber ​​defense is a critical issue for large mesh networks, where the breach of one satellite channel can cause the entire network to fail.

The prototype is under contract through National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTXL), Ulash said, but she said the company is not authorized to disclose the value of the contract.

NSTXL operates a Public-Private Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC) under the Contract dated January 15, 2021. SpEC manages a bank worth up to $12 billion over ten years Another transaction body funds and works with the Service’s Space Systems Command to select proven contractors from among its members for specific projects.

The prototype “represents a flexible, high-performance design based on a single-chip, reprogrammable solution and is expected to provide a connected network solution that helps warfighters make faster decisions on a full range of platforms,” ​​the company said in a press release.

Walsh explained that the chip is part of a hardware module “intended to be deployed on satellites, but this hardware can also be deployed in other environments,” such as ground stations and/or aircraft.

“Our open-architecture Space Layer Network prototype provides new capabilities in Space Layer Networking to meet new and changing customer needs,” said Kevin Berkowitz, director of NIS, in a June 8 company press release. processing at mission speed is a critical element of connecting joint forces.”

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