White House might consider space policies on cybersecurity, supply chain, nuclear power

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Mir Sadat: “If we’re going to start relying on smallsats, we have to make sure that these things don’t get hacked."

WASHINGTON — The National Space Council is weighing a new policy directive that would call for the space industry to voluntarily adopt cybersecurity standards to help protect data and companies’ intellectual property. The White House focus over the past year with regard to space policy has been on “supply chain hygiene,” said Mir Sadat, who served on the National Security Council until last month.

There is a growing push in the Trump administration to raise awareness about hackers trying to target satellite networks and industrial spies stealing U.S. space technology, Sadat said March 9 during a panel at the Satellite 2020 symposium.

“If we’re going to start relying on smallsats, we have to make sure that these things don’t get hacked,” Sadat said.

The commercial space industry’s supply chain is a topic that is extensively discussed at the White House, he said. The administration would like U.S. companies to reduce their dependence on foreign suppliers and, when domestic sources are not available, make sure that suppliers are certified.

“You’ll probably see something in the next couple of weeks or months roll out of the White House on cybersecurity for space,” said Sadat.

Speaking with a small group of reporters after his remarks, Sadat said there are no plans to dictate cybersecurity standards but rather raise attention to the issue and let “the industry figure it out.”

There is no plan to prescribe how commercial space companies should protect their systems, he said. The new space policy directive would recommend that companies work with the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, a non-regulatory agency that develops cybersecurity standards for different industries.

“This will start a discussion,” he said.

Sadat said the National Space Council is likely to discuss the space cybersecurity policy directive at its next meeting.

National Space Council spokesman Will Boyington told SpaceNews that Vice President Mike Pence will chair the next meeting of the council, scheduled to take place March 24 at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.The agenda for the meeting has not been announced.

Nuclear power for deep space

Sadat said one of the initiatives he worked on during his time on the National Security Council was the development of small modular reactors to power space vehicles.

The small modular reactor effort is led by the Energy Department. The White House last month added the Secretary of Energy to the National Space Council.

DOE has promoted the use of small modular reactors for power generation. This technology is generating interest in the administration, said Sadat. “If you’re going to have sustainable presence on the moon, you can’t just rely on solar power for 3D printing and stuff like that,” he said. “If you’re going to Mars it’s a two-year journey each way. This could cut the trip down to three months each way.”