Six cubesats are set to launch on SpaceX’s 28th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station (ISS), where they will be deployed — among these smallsats, the Aerospace Corporation will launch Moonlighter, the world’s first and only hacking sandbox in space.
A hacking sandbox is a form of cyber security technology that allows hackers to perform tests that could identify methods for preventing the hacking of satellite systems in space. Through this project, which is sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory and supported by Nanoracks, Aerospace will introduce the nation’s top cyber professionals to Moonlighter and its ability to fill gaps in cyber security testing in space.
Developed in partnership with U.S. Space Systems Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory, Moonlighter, a mid-size 3U smallsat, will enable real-time cyber security testing on-orbit for the first time. Moonlighter will allow cyber security professionals and some of the world’s best hackers to do space-based cyber experiments that are repeatable, realistic, and secure.
Moonlighter will be part of Hack-A-Sat 4, an annual challenge supported by the Aerospace Corporation, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Space Force, where finalists will get the chance to hack the CubeSat in orbit during DEF CON, a convention for hackers held in August. With a growing space-based economy and increasing competition in the space environment, Myrick said Moonlighter is a critical tool for strengthening cyber security in space.
In addition to Moonlighter, five student-developed CubeSats are also launching on SpaceX CRS-28. These CubeSats are part of the Canadian CubeSat Project, which was created to increase student engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and prepare the future space industry workforce.
SpaceX CRS-28 is targeted for launch no earlier than June 5 at 12:35 p.m. EDT. This mission will include multiple ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads.
“We wanted to build something new from the ground up to fill gaps in cyber activities in space, where the vehicles to do cyber security testing in orbit have not existed,” said . “When we say it’s a sandbox, Moonlighter is like a playground where we provide the space and the tools for professional hackers to perform cyber exercises and test out new technology. We hope this will lead to more cyber-resilient architectures for future space missions.”
— Aaron Myrick, project leader for Aerospace