Issue Brief on “Cyber Warfare in Outer Space: A Cloud on the Horizon”


In March 2020, the US Air Force commissioned a “digital twin” of a satellite to conduct a wide range of simulated penetration tests to detect its cyber vulnerabilities. This testing will also cover hacking of an entire satellite system – an orbiting satellite, on-ground control station and transmission links between them.[1]Taking into account the growing US dependence on space-based assets for the majority of its military operations at strategic, operational and tactical levels, this testing was authorized by the US Congress under “section 1647” of “the National Defence Authorization Act, 2016.”[2] Furthermore, the satellite attack scenarios will be the focal point of the second exercise of the US “Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS),” expected to be held in June 2020.[3]Ensuring the security of space-based assets against potential cyber attacks is not only a matter of concern for the US and other 192 states, but also for the global space economy which is expected to reach US$ 1 trillion by the year 2040.[4]

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