A US national cyber strategy.
The US has released its national cyber strategy, with a strong emphasis on deterrence. An introduction to the document answers the question "How did we get here?" It calls out, by name, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China, describing them as repressive regimes that exploit open societies and systems while remaining themselves largely, and self-consciously, closed. Terrorists and criminals are named along with these four adversaries as representing threats to American interests in cyberspace. Responding to these threats will be consistent with commitment to an open Internet, and, more importantly to such enduring values as "belief in the power of individual liberty, free expression, free markets, and privacy."
The strategy has four "pillars": "Protect the American People, the Homeland, and the American Way of Life;" " Promote American Prosperity;" " Preserve Peace through Strength;" and "Advance American Influence." Each pillar is explained in terms of specific measures. The strategy commits, first, to "defend the homeland by protecting networks, systems, functions, and data;" second, "promote American prosperity by nurturing a secure, thriving digital economy and fostering strong domestic innovation;" third, "preserve peace and security by strengthening the United States’ ability—in concert with allies and partners — to deter and if necessary punish those who use cyber tools for malicious purposes;" and fourth, "expand American influence abroad to extend the key tenets of an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet."
The priority actions outlined in the third pillar, the "peace through strength" section are, first, "lead with objective, collaborative intelligence," that is, objective, actionable intelligence that will lead to clear and credible attribution. Second, the strategy promises to "impose consequences," that will be "swift and transparent," and imposed in collaboration with allies. Third, the strategy declares its intention to "build a cyber deterrence initiative" also in cooperation with like-minded state committed to emerging international norms. And fourth, the United States will be committed to "counter[ing] malign cyber influence and information operations," including propaganda and disinformation from both state and non-state actors.
Domestically the strategy has been generally well-received by those who've commented on it, notably including experts who worked in the previous Administration. They and others see both continuity and evolution toward a clearer, more active policy in cyberspace.
The US adopts a more agile, permissive approach to cyber operations.
President Trump also this month rescinded Presidential Directive 20, which had mandated extensive interagency coordination before the US would engage in an offensive cyber operations. The new policy, contained in National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) 13, dispenses with much of the National Security Council's mediation across the Government, and instead delegates certain kinds of operations to the Department of Defense. This represents a further integration of cyber capabilities into mainstream military operations. That tendency has manifested itself elsewhere in the growing convergence of cyber operations and electronic warfare.
The Defense Department also issued a cybersecurity strategy. Intended to be consonant with the Government's larger cyber strategy, the Pentagon's vision as expressed in the unclassified version of the plan, involves "defending forward." It's a more assertive posture, and the more permissive policy of NSPM 13 is expected to enable US Cyber Command to impose costs on notoriously damage-tolerant adversaries (read, "Russia").
The US national cyber strategy expressed a desire to foster the development of international norms for conflict in cyberspace. It's been widely reported that there are no international norms of cyber conflict, but that's almost certainly incorrect, at least with respect to cyber operations that produce kinetic effects. Those effects would be subject, one would think, to the same constraints that govern armed conflict generally, in particular those that enjoin proportionality and discrimination.
Close orbital encounters.
France has accused Russia of approaching dangerously close to a French satellite. Defense Minister Florence Parly complained that a Russian spacecraft, Luch-Olymp, approached the Franco-Italian satellite Athena-Fidus. Athena-Fidus is used for secure military communications and operational planning. Defense Minister Parly called it espionage—the Russian satellite has "big ears," she said, and was engaged in attempting to intercept communications.
The Luch family of satellites has aroused suspicion for some time. The US complained last month that a maneuvering Russian orbital system was behaving in a way inconsistent with any peaceful purpose. Luch craft have approached commercial communications satellites before, but governments have tended to keep such encounters quiet. That seems to be changing. Close approach to a satellite is consistent not only with espionage, but also with destruction, which seemed to be the point of the earlier US complaint.
A British satellite has a more benign declared purpose. A team from the University of Surrey has tested an orbital net to capture a piece of debris from its place in orbit, some two-hundred miles above the earth.
Sabotage in the International Space Station?
Russia also reported trouble in orbit—there's a leak in the International Space Station. In this case authorities indicated sabotage. Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin thinks there's a wrecker somewhere in the supply and maintenance chain, and he's determined to find the culprit and name names. Other observers think the leak, which is not life or mission threatening, is as likely to be an accident as it is to be deliberate damage.
Air Force Secretary places the cost of Space Force at $13 billion.
That's over the next five years. The price tag has given some skeptics in Congress further reason for skepticism. On the other hand, some nostalgia for Space Command aside, the Air Force has generally gotten on board with the concept.
Many have asked what the benefits of a Space Force would be. Or, as a panel at the Center for Strategic and International Studies posed the question, what problem would establishing a Space Force solve? The answers seem to involve bringing greater strategic and operational clarity to space operations. All the Services use and conduct space operations, at least in the sense of depending upon space assets for some of their C4ISR requirements. Some suggest that space operations, as important as they are, will suffer from systemic neglect if they remain fragmented across the Services as they are today. Why remediating this would require a new Service isn't, however, entirely clear. Would a dedicated Combatant Command do as well? There are two models of such an approach: Special Operations Command and Cyber Command, and the lessons learned there might help inform debate about a Space Force.
And, of course, those looking for a different example will find one in the Marine Corps.
How many spaceports does America need?
The country just got its eleventh, in Colorado ("The first mile is free," wisecracked Governor Hickenlooper at the dedication) but only three of them actually launched anything last year. This would seem to argue considerable over-capacity. The market for launch services can be expected to undergo consolidation as competition among the eleven spaceports clarifies the relationship between supply and demand.
Department of Defense CIO Dana Deasy said at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit this month that the Pentagon is in the middle of an active RFP process, and sometimes when addressing requests for clarification, it makes sense to extend deadlines. That's what Defense has done. Oracle has lodged a second protest against the procurement, which observers suggest is a way of maintaining legal pressure on the Government. It's a large and lucrative contract, and no vendor wants to be left on the sidelines.
Launch market notes.
Russia will stop carrying NASA crews to the International Space Station. Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said that the contract to carry NASA crews to the station aboard Soyuz craft would end in April. There's some possibility for renegotiation, but NASA is seen as under pressure to get the SpaceX and Boeing crewed spacecraft testing and flying. It's increasingly uncomfortable to depend upon seats in the Soyuz. A note on cost—NASA has paid the Russians about $18 million a seat.
China is also working on the Long March 9, which will be able to lift 140 tons into low-earth orbit. It's expected to become operational in 2028.
SpaceX has achieved better-than-expected reusability rates with its Block 5 booster, and that's expected to drive launch costs even lower.
Northrop Grumman successfully completed qualification testing of its new graphite epoxy motor, designed for use on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched two British commercial payloads this month aboard its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The two satellites are earth observation platforms, NovaSAR and S1-4. ISRO notes that this was a "fully commercial" launch.
SpaceX continues its development of the Big Falcon Rocket, too. The company now now has a paying private customer to help fund the company's own literal moonshot. He's Japanese "clothing tycoon" Yusaka Maezawa, and he'll be accompanied into translunar injection by a crew of six-to-eight artists, all of whose seats Mr. Maezawa is paying for. SpaceX's Elon Musk says the technology will be ready in two or three years. It's a stepping stone to the one-way, Mars colonization trip Mr. Musk says he wants to run in 2030.
NASA to NASCAR?
The space agency is mulling putting ads on its launch vehicles, and letting astronauts do product endorsements. Administrator Jim Bridenstine has directed that NASA study ways of improving its brand, and the model is from professional sports, with rockets as stadiums (naming rights available) and astronauts as celebrity athletes (free to appear on cereal boxes). It would serve as a possible source of revenue, but it would also help with NASA's traditional interest in encouraging young people to consider careers in aerospace science and engineering. There's also some consideration being given to selling NASA-branded merchandise.
Skeptics are concerned over possible conflicts of interest. They're also concerned that Congress might cut NASA's budget on the grounds that the agency could make good on any shortfalls from endorsements.
Russia's done this for some time. Pizza Hut paid $2.5 million to put its logo on the side of a Proton rocket at the end of 1999, and subsequently also delivered a pie to the International Space Station. Two cosmonauts demonstrated a Fisher Space Pen (it writes in zero gravity) on QVC.
Tony Stark territory.
SpaceX founder Musk continues his provocative bad-boy ways, attracting litigation for remarks he made about a cave rescue leader, drawing regulatory attention for tweets about Tesla, and arousing the interest of Air Force investigators for taking (arguably legal) joint hits in an online video. How this will affect SpaceX is unknown, so far.