NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
926th Wing’s 14th Test Squadron out of Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado, performs a cybersecurity assessment to validate the cybersecurity posture of the Space Fence program prior to an inspection.
Space Fence System is an advanced radar based out of the Republic of Marshall Islands that helps provide uncued detection, tracking and accurate measurement of space objects, including satellites and orbital debris, primarily in low-earth orbit.
Their capabilities address shortfalls in Space Situational Awareness support to the Department of Defense, civil and commercial agencies, along with United States allies.
The program’s goal is to provide the space surveillance capability necessary to achieve enhanced SSA.
In August 2020, Space Fence began looking for an unbiased, third party to look into and analyze where their system stood in regards to processes and security. 14th TS answered the call.
14th TS regularly performs operational tests of Space Systems, including cybersecurity assessments.
The 14th TS cybersecurity assessment repertoire consists of Cybersecurity Management Assessments and Cybersecurity Vulnerability Risk Assessments during Operational Test and Evaluation of Space systems. During the assessments, everything from daily operations and processes, to the system’s hardware and software configurations are analyzed.
“After we assess all of the technical and non-technical data and findings, we determine and assign a risk rating to each finding,” said Lt Col. Richard Quinton, 14th TS director of operations. “We then provide the customer with a report including actionable results that they can use to prioritize and address security risks we identified in their systems.”
This cybersecurity assessment proved to be a test of their abilities to remotely perform their assessments for the first time, due to COVID challenges and travel restrictions.
Although these assessments normally take five months from initial planning to reporting, performing them remotely allowed 14th TS to conduct their fastest assessment yet. Space Fence reached out for the inspection in August 2020, and were provided a report by the end of October.
“This was a great opportunity to showcase our capabilities, as we were able to develop a test plan based on the system architecture, generate scripts to capture the data, analyze the data and deliver a report in less than 90 days,” said Quinton.
Due to the success of the cybersecurity assessment, and the evolving nature of the workforce, 14th TS continues to utilize remote cyber testing when it makes sense to do so.
Lt Col. Heather Harris, 14th TS commander, stated that 14th TS strives to be the best choice for United States Space Force when it comes to OT&E of cyber components of space programs, and the successful execution of this test set precedence in two areas.
“Successfully executing this complex test with an entire Reserve force supports our claim as the preeminent cyber test unit for United States Space Force,” she said. “Second, the successful execution of this test through entirely virtual means highlights the 14th TS’ vision statement, ‘An innovative team of Reserve Citizen Airmen creating solutions for all OT&E challenges.’”
By completing the test remotely, it allowed 14th TS to overcome the challenges presented by a world-wide pandemic, while providing a solution to other hurdles and variables that normally cause test schedules to slip.
“These slips create a moving target for our Traditional Reservists, which leads to missed opportunities for USSF to leverage their expertise, and the opportunity for TRs to contribute,” Harris said. “This type of test eliminates travel to test locations and budgets that are constantly at risk.”
“Overall, this effort validated the 14th TS claim as the best choice for OT&E of cyber elements on USSF space systems, allows more traditional reserve participation, and produces a better result for all stakeholders,” said Harris.
Dennis Robichaud, Space Fence Systems Engineering, Integration and Test lead, expressed gratitude towards the 14th TS for their report.
“If it weren’t for the AFRC’s efforts, Space Fence wouldn’t be where we are today for Cyber hygiene,” he said.