In a shocking new incident, it revealed that Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, and its internet service provider subsidiary SpaceX LLC, also known as Starlink, are not represented on the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Space Systems Critical Infrastructure Working Group. Federal agencies, companies, trade groups, and research institutions make up the SSC. Its goal is to assist the Department of Homeland Security on how to design risk-mitigation strategies for services that are important to the country’s national security.
The DHS formed the working group in May of this year to develop measures to evaluate and reduce the risk to vital American infrastructure assets that rely on space technologies. Several services, such as broadband internet and satellite imaging, have become critical for the business, government, and common customers as the space sector have grown.
The list of firms that are part of this working group, which is run by the Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council (CIPAC), has just recently been made public. Bob Kolasky, the director of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) National Risk Management Center, shared it with Via Satellite (NRMC).
It is made up of federal agencies, well-established space corporations, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), and also other entities. The Boeing Company, Amazon Web Services, and Lockheed Martin are among the established players in attendance. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the United States Space Command, and the Federal Communications Commission are among the 13 federal agencies participating (FCC).
Also present is the Sierra Nevada Corporation who is developing a fixed-wing spacecraft for NASA and Viasat, a California-based geostationary satellite internet services provider.
The working group, however, is devoid of both SpaceX and its affiliate Starlink. SpaceX has established itself as a key provider of transportation services to NASA. NASA relies on SpaceX to carry out crewed trips to the International Space Station (ISS), with SpaceX being the only American enterprise capable of doing so, government or not.
Starlink is also the only American corporation that operates hundreds of tiny satellites in low Earth orbit to provide Internet access to both commercial and non-commercial consumers. Northrop Grumman, a Virginia-based aerospace company that uses its Antares rocket to launch the Cygnus cargo spacecraft for NASA’s ISS missions, is also not on Mr. Kolasky’s list.
Despite its rapid growth, the space sector is yet to be designated as a critical infrastructure by the U.S. government. According to the DHS website, this designation implies a sector,
. . .whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof
In his talk with Via Satellite, Mr. Kolsaky commented on this fact and explained that:
“There may be [industries] where you don’t need a sector designation — and this could be where we end up with space — you just need constant attention to understand the risks and make sure that the players who are the big drivers are mitigating those risks; that information sharing arrangements are in place; and that communications channels are open, and we are having regular dialogues.”