On February 24th, 2022, at the very same time Russian troops entered Ukraine, alleged Russian hackers launched a cyber-attack on Viasat’s K-Sat network, effectively extending the conflict to earth’s orbit and cyber space. On this day, the strategic perception of cybersecurity for the space industry changed forever.
With a cumulated revenue above $447 billion, the space related industry is a corner stone of the global economy. Indeed, almost every human activity, from car driving to smart farming depends on space technology for basic and fundamental tasks.
In recent years, the space industry has seen tremendous advancements in technology, as satellite constellations, launchers, and ground services have become increasingly sophisticated.
This should therefore not surprise us, that the growth of the space industry is paralleled by an increasing risk, and increasing occurrences, of cyber-attacks. And their potential to cause disruption and harm is commensurate with the importance of “Space Tech” for the whole world.
While the entire space ecosystem can be vulnerable, satellites and constellations are the most obvious targets of ever evolving cyber-attacks and must be better protected.
With such challenges, of course, come new business opportunities.
Take Cysec for example, which is one of the leading start-ups rising to the task. Its unique secured embedded operating systems make satellites more robust to potential attacks. This clearly is a “must have” for future constellations and launchers, in the wake of the Viasat incident.
Much of the space economy, however, operates on earth, and orbital activities are not the only targets of cyber criminals. Ground service providers and critical infrastructures must benefit from a bulletproof protection against all forms of aggressions to avoid any disruption in their mission critical operations. In that respect, the emergence of artificial intelligence for cybersecurity is a major business opportunity.
BforeAI, one of the leading innovators in “CyberThreat Intelligence” is a paramount example of the new start-ups that break the current paradigm. This company can anticipate cyber-attacks before they happen, and thereby dramatically reduces the risk of falling prey to ransomware attacks.
Last be not least, the space industry can be apart of the cyber solution itself.
For instance, recent breakthroughs in quantum computing could threaten to crack RSA algorithms, the pervasive workhorses of modern cryptography. Such a feat would enable potential spies to listen to messages which have been deemed safely secured so far. In order to prevent future telecommunications from being tapped by indiscreet listeners, next generation networks will therefore rely on quantum keys and intricate photons to share information, and thereby become immune to software deciphering.
In this case, space tech is a critical part of the solution. Future quantum keys will be distributed by satellites around the globe via laser links between senders and receivers. The recent announcement of Tequant, an ESA backed network of Quantum Key Distribution satellites outlines the burgeoning of the quantum space industry.
Once again, VC backed companies lead the pack of innovators. Miratlas is one of them. The company deploys telescope networks which will enable the effective routing of laser satcoms and the distribution of quantum keys from orbit to earth.
We at Karista, are convinced that the Space industry is at the dawn of a new era. The sector is undergoing a disruption reminiscent of the revolution which changed the computer market in the 70’s or the telecoms in the 90’s. The new uses of space technologies will have a strong impact on all other big already digitalized market segments.
Smart investors will find ways to seize the value creation opportunities which will emerge from that revolution.
Written by Emmanuel Daugeras Investment Director at Karista.