August 16, 2022


The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), best known for creating the Internet, has selected 11 teams to work on its space-based adaptive communications node program for communication between low-orbit satellite networks. advanced its plan to revolutionize

Known as Space-BACN, the project seeks to build a low-cost, reconfigurable optical communications terminal that adapts to most optical intersatellite link standards while translating between different satellite constellations.

According to DARPA, Space-BACN will create an “internet” of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that will enable seamless communication between military/government and commercial/civilian satellite constellations that are currently unable to talk with each other. are unable.

The goal of the teams working on Phase 1 of the project, which will take 14 months to complete, will be to create a preliminary design for a flexible, reduced size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) optical aperture that pairs Single-mode fiber and a reconfigurable optical modem that supports up to 100 Gbps on a single wavelength, as well as a fully defined interface between system components.

Also to be developed during Phase 1 will be the schema for cross-constellation command and control, which will be demonstrated in a simulated environment.

The team focusing on SWaP-C optical aperture includes CACI, MBRYONICS and Mynaric. The team working on the optical modem includes II-VI Aerospace & Defense, Arizona State University and Intel Federal. The command and control team consists of five members: SpaceX, Telesat, SpaceLink, Viasat and Amazon’s Kuiper Government Solutions.

Following the completion of Phase 1, six teams will spend 18 months developing engineering design units of optical terminal components, while the remaining five teams will continue to develop schemas to function in more challenging and dynamic scenarios.

Multiple commercial and social beneficiaries

Jim Dunston, general counsel for TechFreedom, a technology advocacy group in Washington, DC, pointed out that optical intersatellite links are a new technology without established interconnection standards.

“I see the satellite industry as a big winner here, more so than end-users, given that the power – 100 watts – and the price – $100K – are going to prevent widespread use of technologies for a single user terminal. that emerged from this program,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“What Space-BACN does, however, is get all players into the same virtual room to work on standards that are much needed, and allow them both to receive federal support for their research and to work with other companies.” Allows you to take advantage of the work.” He continued.

“While a DARPA video space-BACN has been done with first responder communications, as has been done with first responder communications—replace a myriad of individual proprietary systems operating at disparate frequencies—I don’t think the analogy is appropriate here. There is more power reason for the price,” he said.

However, DARPA projects have a way of having a wider impact than may initially seem obvious. “There are many commercial and social beneficiaries that are outside the formal focus of the program,” said Arizona State University professor Daniel Bliss, director of the Center for Wireless Information Systems and Computational Architecture.

“The technologies we will develop are widely applicable to processing and communication,” he told TechNewsWorld. “In the context of the program’s specific goals, we are proving flexible, efficient and relatively low-cost optical communications technologies to rapidly expand diverse low-cost satellite systems.”

reduce LEO costs

Existing operators of satellite constellations in non-geostationary orbit (NGSO), such as Elon Musk’s Starlink network, may eventually benefit from Space-BACN, Dunston noted.

“Optical interconnection is still one of the big value drivers of NGSO systems,” he said. “The radio side of things has been largely commoditized. You can buy very sophisticated software-defined radios [SDRs] Very cheap.”

“Optical systems are still very expensive,” he continued, “so Space-BACN has an opportunity to reduce some of that cost, benefiting all NGSO operators.”

“For existing and new LEOs [Low Eart Orbit] network, we enable the ability to connect legacy and yet-to-be-defined optical communications links,” Bliss said. “We can translate between optical standards and implement new standards as they develop, potentially officially after the launch.”

By putting together the teams for Space-BACN, DARPA attempted to remove friction for the many firms wishing to participate in the project.

“We intentionally proposed to make our Space-BACN requests as easy as possible, because we wanted to tap into the large pool of both established defense companies and innovative small tech companies, many of which do not have the time or resources to make complex government contracts. trace processes,” Space-BACN program manager Greg Kuperman said in a statement.

“We have used other transactions and are very pleased with [the] The diversity of organizations responding and the quality of the proposals,” he said.

democratization of space

Dunstan stressed that DARPA hit a “sweet spot” with the Space-BACN program. “It cast a wide net, bringing both very established and relative newcomers to the table,” he said.

“It uses DARPA’s other transaction authorization [OTA] To avoid the high overhead of most government funding mechanisms,” he continued, “and the 11 winners in Phase I mean that DARPA can take on more risk and allow some failure in the process without jeopardizing the program’s overall goal.” can give.”

The ability of small firms to participate in a project like Space-BACN reflects what the satellite industry is like today. “In the past, satellites used to cost a fortune to build,” explained John Strand of Strand Consulting in Denmark. “We are now seeing smaller companies with limited funding to build satellites for limited applications.”

“They can build satellites using standard components, the same way you would build a custom computer,” he told TechNewsWorld. “So if you look at the number of companies in the satellite industry, it’s booming.”

“Space, historically, has centralized government,” he said. “What’s happening with the space industry now is that it has become democratized because the cost of putting things in space for private-public partnerships has dropped dramatically.”

Safety Questions

In its kickoff announcement for Space-BACN, DARPA said it hopes to establish seamless communication between military/government and commercial/civilian satellite constellations. This could be the rub of the future in the program’s future.

“That would be the final question – can you secure the military/civilian interface,” Dunston said.

“Optical systems are less likely to jam because of their tighter beams. They may also be less prone to hacking, but that remains to be seen,” he continued. “My guess is that DARPA is so interested in the project. One reason is that they can get a window into the security capabilities of these types of networks.”

“Certainly the DoD is not going to sign up for an interface between defense and civilian satellite systems that they cannot secure,” he said. “Given how much SpaceCom traffic currently travels on civilian systems, my guess is that they feel pretty confident they can secure their side of the interface.”

Bliss acknowledged that it’s not always a good idea to directly implement commercial communication technologies. But, he added, “because of the flexibility we’re developing, we can maximize the benefits of leveraging commercial technologies while minimizing security risks.”

Cyber ​​security professionals want the computer industry to emphasize vendor consolidation and open standards.

This major change in the security networks of IT professionals is long overdue, according to new research from the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) International and the independent industry analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), a division of TechTarget.

Seller consolidation and the push toward open standards is driven by buyers themselves, who are challenged by increasing complexity, cost, and the promotion of best-of-breed technology “equipment sprawl”.

Nearly half (46%) organizations consolidate or plan to consolidate the number of vendors they do business with. Concerned by the growing complexities of security operations, 77% of InfoSec professionals would like to see greater industry collaboration and support for open standards that promote interoperability.

Thousands of cyber security technology vendors compete against each other in multiple security product categories. Organizations want to optimize all the security technologies in their stack at once.

According to the research report, vendors supporting open standards for technology integration will be best positioned to meet this shift in the industry.

“Given that nearly three-quarters (73%) of cybersecurity professionals feel that vendors are engaging in promotions on substance, vendors who demonstrate a genuine commitment to supporting open standards are more likely to engage industry-wide. would be in the best position to avoid consolidation,” he said. Candy Alexander, Board President, ISSA International.

He said CISO vendors have become so burdened with noise and security “equipment dispersion” that for many, the wave of vendor consolidation is like a breath of fresh air.

Shift to security platform

ESG studied 280 cyber security professionals, most of whom are ISSA members. The results, released last month, focused on security processes and technologies, and show that 83% of security professionals believe the technology interoperability of the future depends on setting industry standards.

The report’s details demonstrate a cybersecurity landscape that looks favorably toward a security product suite (or platform) as it moves away from a defense-intensive strategy based on deploying best-of-breed cybersecurity products. This approach is based on historical precedent that has consistently increased organizational complexity and contributed to substantial operations.

“The report shows that massive changes are taking place within the industry in what many believe is a long time to come,” said John Oltsik, Senior Principal Analyst and ESG Fellow.

“The fact that 36% of organizations may be willing to purchase most security technologies from a single vendor speaks volumes for a change in buying behavior as CISOs are openly considering security platforms in lieu of best-of-breed point of view devices. are,” he said.

Why Jump from Best-of-Breed

The number of competing security suites has skyrocketed with many organizations managing 25 or more independent security tools. It follows that security professionals are now stressing the need to juggle so many independent security products to do their job.

Managing an assortment of security products from different vendors has increased training requirements, makes it difficult to get an overall picture of safety, and requires manual intervention to fill in the gaps between products. As a result, 21% of organizations are consolidating the number of cybersecurity vendors they do business with, and another 25% are considering consolidating.

“In general, buying, implementing, configuring and operating too many different tools has become very difficult, let alone ongoing support relationships with vendors. Consolidation management/operations makes sense,” says Oltsik told TechNewsWorld.

This ongoing complication is prompting 53% of cybersecurity professionals to purchase security technology platforms instead of best-of-breed products. The study showed that 84% of respondents believe a product’s integration capabilities are important, and 86% consider it important or important that integration with other products create best-of-breed products.

According to 60% of IT teams, strict integration between already separate security controls is a primary requirement rather than a best buy. Improved threat detection efficiency such as accurate high-fidelity alerts and improved cyber-threat detection were on the wish list for 51%.

generalized government mandate

Cybersecurity products cover the basics, noted Oltsik. This includes antivirus software, firewalls, some sort of identity management system, and a range of products for endpoint encryption.

“In many cases, these technologies are mandated by government and industry regulations,” he said. “The biggest influencer in cybersecurity protections is the US federal government which can and does mandate certain standards.

For example, the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) is a synthesis of interoperable specifications derived from community considerations. The In-Process Cyber ​​Security Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) standard mandates certain security certifications for DoD vendors.

“We have also seen standards from industry, such as the activity of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and other OASIS standards. This week, we introduced the Open Cyber ​​Security Framework (OCSF), a standard data schema for security data. Saw the beginning. There are also many identity management standards,” he said.

Finding a shared security base

After reviewing this data, ESG and ISSA recommend that organizations encourage their security vendors to adopt open industry standards, possibly in collaboration with the Industry Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC). In addition, there are some established security standards available from MITER, OASIS and Open Cyber ​​Security Alliance (OCA).

Many vendors speak in favor of open standards, but most do not actively participate or contribute to them. However, this lukewarm behavior can change quickly.

For this to happen, cybersecurity professionals – especially large organizations big enough to send signals to the market – establish best practices for vendor qualification.

In addition, they need to emphasize process requirements that include adoption and development of open standards for technology integration as part of a broader process for all security technology procurement, according to the report.

expected result

Cyber ​​security standards and vendor integration will strengthen the cyber security landscape against the continuing increase in cyber threats by easing product development and integration. Oltsik explained that this will allow industry and security teams to focus more on innovation and security fundamentals and less on building connectors for interoperability.

He sees an opportunity within the industry to support these efforts.

“It seems that some industry leaders are collaborating. I point to OCSF where 18 vendors agreed to support it,” he said.

This group includes a number of leaders – AWS, CrowdStrike, IBM, Okta and Splunk, for starters. He said another potential driver would be the support of large security technology customers.

Oltsik concluded, “If Goldman Sachs, GM, Walmart and the US federal government said they would only buy from vendors that support OCSF, it would really hit the industry.”

The full ESG-ISSA report titled “Technology Perspectives from Cyber ​​Security Professionals” is available here. No form filling is required.