Whether many of us realize it or not, space — the infinite phenomenon outside the Earth’s atmosphere within which our planet sits — has become part of our everyday lives. Not in the sense of being able to jump onto a rocket to go to work on Mars, as space travel remains a considerable challenge, but rather in terms of satellite communications, and also the number of innovations we take for granted that have come about through research and development by space organizations like NASA.

With satellite communications today powering everything from entertainment channels to mobile phones to navigation and tracking systems, in this episode our panel debates the geopolitical and security dimensions of the current global space industry. A sector that the World Economic Forum values at a staggering $1.8 trillion. We may not be living on Mars any time soon — something else our panel discusses — but it’s arguably never been more important for nation states to join the space race, while also presenting an increasingly attractive target for cybercriminals.

Space hacking

We blast off by asking whether the regulatory protocols in place match the sector’s growing value and status. How could they be improved to avoid the development of a Wild West scenario where chaos rules — a situation likely to fuel cyberattacks? More importantly, just how big is the cyber threat in space and exactly what mayhem could hackers cause whether motivated by greed or political beliefs? Could satellites come tumbling from the sky and missile systems tampered with, or is data the main focus? The practice of GPS spoofing certainly throws up some pretty frightening scenarios.

Pressing on with the subject of vulnerability, our panel turn to the space supply chain. This is not only arguably the most extensive in the world, but also extremely complex, with specialisms so developed that a single company could manufacture just one of the many millions of items that need sourcing, such as the humble bolt. The effects of any disruption could therefore be huge creating a pretty broad attack surface.

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Trash or treasure?

Our panel also look at how the space industry could be affected by satellite clutter and its environmental impact, as debris increasingly accumulates around our planet. When you realize that some space technologies use nuclear power, the dangers become more apparent. So just how much space junk is there and how can it be dealt with?

Emerging technologies like deep space networks provide the final focus for our experts. Where is the industry going? What does the future hold? Could the next world war be fought in space? And just how close are we to inhabiting one of our planetary neighbors? Don’t just sit there, pull on your space suit and watch or listen to our latest episode to find out.