Prepared by the CyberWire (Friday, December 1, 2017)—Developments in Signals and Space, from November 1st through November 30th, 2017.
North Korean missile tests demonstrate intercontinental range.
On November 28th, after taking about a month off from testing, North Korea successfully fired a missile that appears to have intercontinental range, range sufficient to reach any target in the continental United States. The missile is said to have travelled 597 miles (960 kilometers) before splashing down in waters belonging to Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone. More significantly than the range the test achieved is the altitude it reached. Reports indicate that the system's maximum ordinate was 2796 miles (4500 kilometers) and it's this altitude that indicates an ability to strike targets in the United States.
The US reacted with calls for more sanctions, telling an emergency meeting at the United Nations that the DPRK's missile testing represented a clear threat to peace, and raised the prospects of war between Pyongyang, the US, and US allies. Specifically, the US wants China to cut off oil exports in particular to North Korea.
South Korea's Unification Minister says that North Korea can be expected to announce completion of its nuclear weapons program sometime next year.
Misconfigured AWS buckets.
Twice this month the US Department of Defense has been embarrassed by misconfigured Amazon Web Services S3 buckets that exposed sensitive information to public access.
In the first case a contractor, now-defunct VendorX, set up cloud accounts that contained the harvest of a large number of social media posts. UpGuard found the archive in unsecured Amazon Web Services S3 buckets ("centcom-backup," "centcom-archive," and "pacom-archive") established by VendorX. The information wasn't secret, but it appeared sensitive. The US Department of Defense characterized the effort as benign, representing open-source collection efforts by VendorX on behalf of US Central Command and US Pacific Command. They did archive some 1.8 billion social-media posts, many of them by US citizens.
Representatives of the Defense Department say that not only were the posts public and freely accessible, but that in any case the data weren't analyzed into intelligence products. It is indeed difficult to see how this effort differs from what a conventional clipping service might offer, but of course large-scale information sweeps always arouse suspicion. UpGuard said it was "shocked," by not only the appearance of surveillance, but by the carelessness that enabled their researchers to find the material in the first place. All the bucket owners would have needed to do was change a few settings and their data would have been much harder to acquire.
The second incident involved classified material. Specifically, researchers at UpGuard (again) found an exposed AWS account that contained Red Disk material. Red Disk is an adjunct to the US Army's Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) intended to provide multi-level security, centralized data ingestion and handling, and readily sharable information for tactical operations. It's generally regarded as having been an unsuccessful program, unpopular with its intended users. Red Disk data, much of it marked as too sensitive to share even with allies, still shouldn't have leaked. The incident is an embarrassment to the US Army's Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), that Service's component of NSA's Central Security Service.
Amazon Web Services has announced a new cloud designed to meet the needs of the US Intelligence Community: AWS Secret Region. Secret Region will allow intelligence agencies to ingest, store, share, and handle classified data. The CIA's Chief Information Officer likes it, and says he believes Secret Region to be a better, more secure solution than the CIA's own data centers. The new service is said to be a multi-leveled one, capable of handling information from unclassified through top secret.
Missile interceptions in the Gulf region; preparations elsewhere.
Saudi-operated Patriot systems intercepted a missile Yemen's Houthi rebels launched in the direction of Riyadh. The Houthis are a Shi'ite group with ties to Iran; the missile they fired was said by US officials to be an Iranian-manufactured Scud variant. The wreckage is said to have "Iranian markings."
Raytheon said that Arab-operated Patriot units have intercepted more than a hundred tactical ballistic missiles since 2015.
Iran says that its Supreme Leader has voluntarily decided to restrict the range of the Islamic Republic's missiles, but that of course is a matter of policy that could change should circumstances so warrant. Tensions between Iran and its regional (and religious) rival Saudi Arabia remain high.
The US Air Force has issued a request for information pertaining to work on a new generation of missile-warning satellites, Space-Based Infrared System Follow-On.
Cyber threats to satellites, military and civilian.
Satellite-carried comms are as vulnerable as any that come across a terrestrial backbone. They're susceptible to jamming (by distributed denial-of-service attack), by interception (through man-in-the-middle attacks), indeed, they can be attacked in any number of familiar ways.
A launch-system era nears its end. A new era in reusable craft may be opening.
The venerable Delta II launch vehicle, a reliable US workhorse for decades, made its second-to-last flight this past month. The Delta's lineage goes back to the Thor intermediate range ballistic missile that first flew in the 1950s and provided the basis for the Delta II's first stage.
Successful glide tests of Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser, a lifting body that could be used for autonomous missions into low earth orbit, were held over the California desert in November.
Failure to launch.
A Russian Soyuz 2.1b launch vehicle's Fregat second stage failed in a November 28th attempt to place nineteen satellites into orbit. Reports put the failure down to a programming error. The launch was from Russia's new facility at the Vostochny cosmodrome, but the Fregat was apparently programmed for launch from the old, familiar, Baikonur cosmodrome. The attempted launch was the second from Vostochny.
There was a failure in the US as well, but this was an experimental static test of a developmental vehicle. A SpaceX Block 5 Merlin motor exploded at the company's MacGregor test facility in Texas. There were no injuries. The Merlin Block 5 is important to SpaceX's plans, as it is designed to improve reusability and turnaround time. The company hasn't announced a date for a first flight, but one is widely expected in 2018.
US Air Force cyber plans.
The US Air Force is working towards an upgrade of its cyber capabilities, both offensive and defensive. Among the changes anticipated are increased wargaming capabilities, clear and dedicated career paths for officers specializing in cybersecurity, and enhanced research and development programs.
Among the research programs is a $50 million award to Ball Aerospace for development of ways to protect weapon systems from cyber attacks. Ball, based in Colorado, will perform the work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Congress offers guidance.
Congress has told the Missile Defense Agency in the Fiscal 2018 Defense Authorization Bill that it wants it to give serious consideration to space-based missile defense.
While authorization of a Space Corps (something the Department of the Air Force really isn't interested in) didn't make the final version of the bill (and in fact the bill specifically precluded the creation of such a Service), Congressional boosters of said Corps believe they scored a kind of victory in the way the legislation pushed an extensive reorganization of Air Force space. It even went so far as to direct the Deputy Secretary of Defense to have someone other than the Air Force draft a road map to "establish a separate military department" for space. So this fight's not over; it's just deferred.
Orbital ATK's shareholders approved the company's acquisition by Northrop Grumman.
Both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman announced job cuts in their Colorado Springs operations.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting China, Germany, Iran, Japan, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
North Korea fires ICBM into Japanese waters(Fox News) North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in the middle of the night local time Wednesday, the first such launch from the rogue regime in more than two months, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News.
The Korean Missile Crisis(Foreign Affairs) The North Korean nuclear threat is more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it is time for the U.S. government to pursue diplomatic options.
The DPRK Dilemmas(RealClearDefense) Now that the DPRK has developed long-range missiles and what appears to be a hydrogen bomb, what next? Does Kim Jung-un plan to incinerate a U.S. city in the near future? Until now, nuclear powers...
Lockheed Martin Arm Wins Satellite Communication Security Deal(NASDAQ.com) Defense major Lockheed Martin Corp. 's LMT Space Systems business unit secured a modification contract for providing engineering and interim logistics services as well as delivering spares and associated material, related to Mobile User Objective System (MUOS). Work related to the deal is expected to be over by November 2020.
Raytheon delivers GPS OCX’s LCS to USAF(Aviation Week) Raytheon has completed the delivery of global positioning system next-generation operational control system’s (GPS OCX) launch and checkout system (LCS) to the US Air Force (USAF).
US Air Force accepts Raytheon's GPS OCX launch and checkout system(Aerotech News) The U.S. Air Force has officially accepted Raytheon’s GPS Operational Control System launch and checkout system, also referred to as Block 0, signifying the company met all contractual requirements when it delivered the LCS to the service on Sept. 29.
Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser performs critical glide test flight(Spaceflight Now) An atmospheric test article of Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser spaceship made a successful runway landing Saturday at Edwards Air Force Base in California after a glide test flight performed to verify the craft’s handling qualities and guidance systems before future resupply missions to the International Space Station.
DARPA taps BAE to create space tech testbed(Washington Technology) BAE Systems' U.S. arm gets tasked by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to create a space technology testbed under a potential $12.8 million contract.
Haley: North Korea 'brings us closer to war' the US doesn't seek(Military Times) The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Wednesday that North Korea’s latest launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile — which some observers believe could reach the Eastern U.S. — “brings us closer” to a war the U.S. isn’t seeking.
US slaps new sanctions on North Korean, Chinese companies(Military Times) The Trump administration imposed new sanctions Tuesday on a slew of North Korean shipping firms and Chinese trading companies in its latest push to isolate the rogue nation over its nuclear weapons development and deprive it of revenue.
Congress sends Trump $700 billion military spending bill(Military Times) Congress on Thursday sent President Donald Trump a sweeping defense policy bill authorizing a $700 billion budget for the military, including billions of dollars more for missile defense programs to counter the growing nuclear weapons threat from North Korea.
Iran says supreme leader limiting ballistic missile range(ABC News) Iran's supreme leader has restricted the range of ballistic missiles manufactured in the country to 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), the head of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said Tuesday, which limits their reach to only regional Mideast targets. The comments on Ayatollah Ali...
Korea, China agree to disagree on THAAD(Korea Herald) After months of a diplomatic spat, South Korea and China are finally in a mood to patch things up. But their detente cleverly circumvents the main point of their contention -- THAAD -- leaving many to wonder what will happen to the US missile defense system in South Korea that China has so strongly opposed.