This is a transcript of an indepth interview with Paul S. Szymanski who has a 49 year experience conducting military operations research analyses for the United States Air Force and Space Force, Navy, Army and Marines. These include outer space program analysis, management, and development of space warfare theory, policy, doctrine, strategies, tactics and techniques. He has worked with the Air Staff at the Pentagon (Secretary of the Air Force), the Space and Missiles Systems Center (Now SSC) in Los Angeles, and the Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, along with experience in operational field testing of missile systems at China Lake, California. He is the author of several publications. This transcript is second in a three-part series of content extracted from an interview with Mr. Szymanski.
Interviewed and Edited by: Danilo delle Fave.
What are some of the potential threats in Space?
Cyber Attacks: The most popular means of attack against space systems where the entire spectrum of space systems is vulnerable to these attacks. Each country is vulnerable to such hacking. A smaller/poorer country can purchase a surplus satellite (or critical parts thereof) and then conduct hacker contests against these test satellites with significant cash prizes to the teams that cause the best effects against these space system. The same techniques can be employed to train individuals on how to penetrate space ground systems. All of these space systems, including space jammers, are readily available on the commercial market for installation in your country of choice.
Terrestrial Attacks: Any country on Earth has special forces that can penetrate adversary ground systems (satellite control stations, RADARS, Optical Space Tracking Telescopes, etc.). These special forces can insert cyber codes into critical systems, install mines, etc. In addition, spy networks can be employed to “turn” the loyalties of adversary space technicians to influence them to insert threat cyber codes and sabotage critical adversary space systems on the ground.
Space Surveillance Systems: In order to achieve smart space control, a country needs to better understand the orbits, status and capabilities of their adversary space systems. This can readily be achieved through ground-based RADARS and optical imagery/tracking systems. Optical tracking systems can be assembled using amateur astronomy telescopes, and many amateurs employ these around the World in this role. They do not cost that much, are fully automated, and can be placed on the rooftops of country embassies around the World, particularly in countries that have good weather conditions and visibility to space. With such situational knowledge, a poorer country can attack an adversary satellite at the same time a third country is “visiting” the targeted space system with an inspector/rendezvous satellite in order to place the attack blame on another country.
Laser Attacks: Currently, consumers can openly purchase hand-held 7.5-watt laser systems. Attach one of these to the above-mentioned astronomical telescope, and with the proper alignment techniques, a poorer country can blind an adversary imaging satellite, or maybe even spoof its Earth limb sensors. With even much more powerful and better collimated industrial lasers, a second world country may even be able to permanently damage these sensors. In the least, one should be able to initiate satellite self-defense mechanisms (close sensor shutters, roll satellite) that will take the attacked satellite systems offline for hours if not days, rendering it ineffective during some critical time during a terrestrial battle.