Defense Department Is Planning a Secure Internet in Space

The Hybrid Space Architecture project links ground communication systems with satellite networks.

The Hybrid Space Architecture project links ground communication systems with satellite networks.
Photo: Defense Innovation Unit

The Department of Defense (DOD) has signed agreements with four companies to help develop a space-based communications network of commercial and military satellites. The project hopes to use military and commercial satellites to transport data across a secure communication architecture, ultimately delivering it to military users.

DOD’s Defense Innovation Unit awarded contracts to Amazon Web Services, Kuiper Government Solutions, Microsoft Azure Space, and SpiderOak Mission Systems for its Hybrid Space Architecture (HSA) project, the organization announced on Wednesday.

The project was announced earlier in July, with initial contracts awarded to Aalyria, Anduril, Atlas, and Enveil. Now, the Department of Defense is seemingly diversifying its portfolio of companies, working outside its regular network of commercial partners. “New commercial space systems provide the digital and hardware information systems infrastructure to improve speed, latency, scalability, and interoperability,” DIU wrote in a statement.

DIU was established as a way to allow the military to make better use of new commercial technologies. For this project, DIU is also working with the U.S. Space Force and the Air Force’s Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicle Directorate to develop the space communications network.

“The HSA is essentially DoD’s effort to build an internet in space and will support the Department’s goal of establishing information advantage for national security,” Jason Zander—executive vice president of Microsoft’s strategic missions and technologies team, wrote in a blog post. “By collaborating with commercial partners, HSA vastly expands its range of satellite and space systems across diverse orbits, ground stations and communication paths.”

For the hybrid network, commercial satellites will communicate with one another across Low Earth Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit, Geostationary Orbit, and cislunar space to move larger volumes of data at a higher speed. “A fully networked battlespace has been the dream of commanders for decades, but is now finally within reach,” DIU wrote in its statement.

HSA will also focus on cybersecurity, and fighting against cyber threats by enabling user authentication and data protection across the network. “Our goal is to ensure that not only Microsoft, but also our partners, can adhere to the same high security standards, and can meet and exceed the U.S. government’s security requirements while keeping pace with the evolving cyberthreat landscape,” Zander wrote.

When it was first announced in July, the hybrid network was in its initial phase of proving networking technologies. Today, the project has moved into its second phase to link on-ground cloud and internet services with commercial communications satellite constellations, according to DIU. “It’s time for the internet to move off-planet,” Rogan Shimmin, DIU program manager for HSA, said in a statement.

More: Two Military Satellites Just Communicated With Each Other Using Space Lasers

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