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🛰️ Moonlighter’s next mission
⛰️ True Anomaly’s new Colorado digs
💫 Payload’s picks
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Moonlighter’s Second Act To Test Cyber Tech In Orbit
A photo snapped by the Moonlighter sat. Image: Space Systems Command
The Moonlighter satellite successfully completed its first act as a “hacking sandbox” during a competition to discover cyber vulnerabilities in orbit—but the spacecraft’s mission is far from over, officials said.
Moonlighter 101: The spacecraft is a joint project from the Aerospace Corporation, Space Systems Command, and the Air Force Research Laboratory. It launched in June and deployed to LEO from the ISS the following month to be ready this month for Hack-A-Sat 4, which is a Capture-the-Flag style cyber competition in space.
The competition: Teams competed on a number of challenges targeting both ground systems and space assets. In one space-based challenge, teams competed to break into the satellite to get access to locked scripts, Aaron Myrick, a senior project engineer at the Aerospace Corporation, told Payload. In another, which no team was able to solve, teams were tasked with pointing the spacecraft at a specific target and snapping a picture.
Winner, winners: Five finalist teams were able to operate on Moonlighter, but there could only be one winner. mHACKeroni, a team from Italy, was the overall winner, followed by Poland Can Into Space (last year’s winning team, which included participants from Poland, Germany, and Ireland) in second, and jmp fs: [rcx] from the US and UK in third.
But it’s not all underground cyber sleuths. Northrop Grumman had a team in the competition this year, Myrick said, adding that at least five mainstream companies approached him at Space Symposium this year inquiring about fielding a team.
What’s next? Hack-a-Sat may be over, but Moonlighter’s mission isn’t. Myrick said he’s planning to work with companies and government agencies to “really put it through the gamut testing technology” in orbit that has previously only been tried out in laboratory or simulation environments.
“To have a vehicle where we can try out these technologies, and try out different tactics, techniques, and procedures that have been developed during the years in a live environment is an incredible perspective,” he said. “It’s never good enough to do it in a sim environment.”
The Nexus of the Space Ecosystem
Building our off-world future requires long-term thinking. Strategic planning and innovation will help us preserve space for future generations. ASCEND is the world’s premier outcomes-focused, interdisciplinary space event designed to accelerate building our sustainable off-world future.
Across three days in Las Vegas, ASCEND will feature 150 sessions spanning six space domain topics. We'll share bold ideas and perspectives for addressing the most important issues in space today:
• Space and Sustainability
• Space Exploration and Infrastructure
• Space Security and Protection
• Space Traffic Management
• Expanding and Evolving the Space Economy
• Education, Outreach, and Workforce
Be part of the cross-industry collaboration at 2023 ASCEND, Oct. 23–25, in Las Vegas.
True Anomaly Opens Colorado Facility
Image: True Anomaly
True Anomaly unveiled a flurry of announcements yesterday, including the opening of a 35,000 sq ft manufacturing facility in Colorado and new authorization from the government to image other space assets and rendezvous with spacecraft in orbit.
True Anomaly 101: The company emerged from stealth in April with $30M in funding. The startup builds spacecraft and situational awareness software to protect space assets, with a focus on national security missions.
Inspector Gadget: The autonomous Jackal spacecraft, which will be mass produced at the new Colorado facility, is designed to execute close approach maneuvers with satellites—including potentially hostile space assets—and carry out detailed surveillance imaging, making it a true cosmic detective.
The company plans to launch its first two Jackals aboard SpaceX’s Transporter-10 in Q1 2024.
NOAA’s remote sensing license allows Jackal to perform radar, infrared, and visible imaging, meaning the spacecraft can acquire data regardless of lighting.
FCC’s authorization allows the two Jackals that will launch early next year to demo spacecraft-to-spacecraft rendezvous in orbit.
Location, location, location: Colorado’s deep pool of aerospace engineering talent continues to attract space startups and investment. The new Centennial, CO facility, dubbed GravityWorks, will employ an assembly line manufacturing style to pump out one mission-ready bird every five days.
“GravityWorks was built to meet any volume of spacecraft our customers will require and to turn tactical problems into innovative solutions at the powerful intersection of hardware, software, and AI,” True Anomaly chief Even Rogers said in a statement.
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In Other News
📖 What we’re reading
👀 What we’re watching
🏆 ICYMI, here were this week’s three most-read stories on our website:
The View from Space
There’s a lot going on in this image of the Canary Islands captured by NASA’s Terra satellite: smoke from a wildfire, a swirling cloud caused by disruptions in air flow, dust being carried across the Atlantic Ocean, and a bloom of phytoplankton.