SpiderOak demonstrated OrbitSecure cybersecurity software on a Ball Aerospace payload sent into low-Earth orbit in January 2023 on Loft Orbital's YAM-5 mission. Credit: Loft Orbital

WASHINGTON — Cybersecurity specialist SpiderOak reported successful on-orbit testing June 22 of its OrbitSecure software running on a Ball Aerospace payload.

“This is the first time a zero-trust application has been performed in space,” Charles Beames, SpiderOak executive chairman, told SpaceNews.

Zero-trust is important, Beames said, because it offers security at the data level. Each data record is encrypted and stored in a digital ledger. Only someone with the appropriate encryption key can access a specific record.

What’s more, if a hacker breaks the encryption, the breach will be detected and new encryption keys will be issued immediately, Beames said.

Ball Aerospace payload

SpiderOak is demonstrating OrbitSecure on a Ball Aerospace payload sent into low-Earth orbit in January on a Loft Orbital satellite. The payload incorporates Ball’s Open Software System (BOSS) framework, which is designed for speedy data processing and on-orbit modification of applications.

After the launch, SpiderOak worked closely with Ball to upload and demonstrate OrbitSecure software.

While the testing continues, the “demonstration completes a major milestone” in showing the benefit of OrbitSecure for data security and resiliency, SpiderOak CEO Dave Pearah said in a statement.

Terrestrial Testing

SpiderOak also has conducted extensive terrestrial testing of OrbitSecure with flatsat satellite testbeds from Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Ball.

Still, spaceflight testing is an important milestone.

“Successfully operating any military system in an operationally relevant environment is always a big milestone,” retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, a member of SpiderOaks Space Advisory Board, said in a statement. “In the unforgiving environment of space, there is no stronger validation that a system is ready for deployment.”

Jake Sauer, Ball Aerospace vice president and chief technologist, called the demonstration “a step towards fortifying the resilience of our space ecosystem.”

Cybersecurity concerns

The U.S. Space Force is requesting $700 million in the 2024 budget for cybersecurity.

Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, Space Force chief of space operations, told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee in March that the funding would be spent on cybersecurity software, hardware and training. 

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...