SAN FRANCISCO – SpiderOak announced the successful demonstration Aug 29 of OrbitSecure zero-trust cybersecurity software on the International Space Station.

Working with Axiom Space and an Amazon Web Services edge computing device, SpiderOak securely transmitted operations traffic between ground networks and low-Earth orbit. Data sent to ISS was transmitted through NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay constellation.

“What we’ve demonstrated involves a ton of different vendors and different moving parts,” Matthew Erickson, SpiderOak vice president solutions, told SpaceNews. “This is a mixed commercial-civil demonstration involving manned spaceflight with the ISS, relay networks through TDRS, as well as Axiom’s ground segment and the AWS compute on the ISS.”

Turning Up the Difficulty

SpiderOak is undertaking a series of increasingly complex OrbitSecure demonstrations. In June, SpiderOak reported successful testing of OrbitSecure on a Ball Aerospace payload and Loft Orbital satellite.

In comparison, the ISS demonstration “definitely turned up the difficulty and provided a more real scenario, which is also critical moving forward in the NewSpace economy,” Erickson said. “When you think about commercial LEO destinations that are going to replace the ISS, they’re going to be having different commercial workloads from different companies, different governmental workloads, space tourists. And they’re all going to be using a common set of infrastructure networks. So being able to demonstrate lightweight, software-defined, multi-domain security between all these moving parts protects national interests and corporate” intellectual property.

Why will robust cybersecurity be essential for the commercial space stations of the future?

“Commercial LEO destinations are being developed to host an array of industry, government and international customers for human spaceflight, in-space research and manufacturing, and space technology R&D and demonstrations,” Axiom Space said in a statement to SpaceNews. “Integrating robust cybersecurity within [Commercial LEO Destination] space systems is paramount to providing orbital infrastructure that guards human life, provides data and communications security, and guarantees protection of customer intellectual property, while preserving the capability to respond to evolving cyber threats.”

Zero-Trust Cybersecurity

OrbitSecure encrypts and stores data records in a digital ledger. Software that can be updated from the ground or in space defines who can access specific data records. If a hacker breaks the encryption, new encryption keys are issued automatically.  

“The future of space is undeniably software-defined,” John Moberly, SpiderOak senior vice president for space, said in a statement. “Our successful demonstration shows that it’s not just possible, but effective and secure to run containerized workloads in modern orchestrated environments with secure data channels from orbit to ground and vice versa.”

In addition to commercial space stations, in-space manufacturing and space-based scientific research could profit from this type of technology, according to the SpiderOak news release.

“SpiderOak’s innovative efforts contribute to reshaping the way we approach space networking,” Jason Aspiotis, Axiom Space director of in-space infrastructure and logistics, said in a statement. “The team’s successful demonstration of OrbitSecure technology is a significant step toward building secure, dynamic, and scalable space communications and data processing infrastructures.”

SpiderOak Executive Chairman Charles Beames said in a statement that the ISS demonstration “represents a pivotal advancement toward a future where national security is maintained beyond the confines of our terrestrial defenses, reinforcing information assurance in an increasingly digitized and interconnected universe. We are paving the way to secure all space operations — military, commercial and civil spaceflight – and scale at the speed of need through remote software deployment.”

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...