Prepared by the CyberWire (Tuesday, August 1, 2017)—Developments in Signals and Space, from July 1st through July 31st.
DPRK launch success, PRC launch failure.
The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea conducted another missile test on Friday, July 28. The test vehicle appeared to have reached an altitude of about 2300 miles in its 45-minute flight, which suggests an intercontinental range. (The New York Times says the missile could hit Los Angeles; the London Times says Denver or Chicago.)
On July 4th North Korea had successfully launched a long-range ballistic missile it characterized as an ICBM. Pyongyang says the launch is the "final gate to state nuclear force," characterizing the system as having transformed the DPRK into a "confident and powerful nuclear state that can strike anywhere on Earth." The missile, a Hwasong-14, reached an altitude in excess of 2500 kilometers and a range of 933 kilometers before splashing down in Japan's economic exclusion zone at the end of its 39-minute flight. The story, disturbing as it is, is all about range. It's not clear that the DPRK has succeeded in either engineering a nuclear weapon that will fit the Hwasong-14, or that they've developed a re-entry vehicle the weapon could ride to its target.
Chinese news agencies are taking the ICBM claim seriously. So are American authorities, since the system is said (by Kim, but that's the US Department of Defense assessment, too) to have the range to hit US targets: President Trump has called for a UN Security Council meeting over North Korea's nuclear missile program. The US and the Republic of Korea quickly announced missile defense drills. China called for suspension of further missile testing in exchange for cessation of US-South Korean military exercises; this seems unlikely to happen. And the US pushes China, still the DPRK's biggest trading partner, to increase its own sanctions against Pyongyang.
North Korea's successful launch came a day after a Chinese Long March 5 heavy lift launch vehicle failed, the second such failure in two weeks. The mishap is regarded as having serious consequences for China's space program, and to put it at a commercial disadvantage with respect to India's competing program.
Pakistan has successfully tested a medium-range missile. Iran continues its own missile development program, enjoying some success is tests of a satellite launch vehicle. The Islamic Republic is also developing an increasingly aggressive offensive cyber capability. Prominent among Iran's espionage interests are aerospace companies.
Weaponizing nuclear devices.
The DPRK may have demonstrated an ICBM, but South Korea is quick to point out that there's more to nuclear capability than sheer missile range and throw-weight. North Korea has yet to demonstrate that, first, it's successfully packaged a nuclear device as a deliverable weapon (this is usually cast in media reports as "miniaturization," but there's more to it than that, and a warhead doesn't really have to become all that small before it can be fit onto a ballistic missile), and second, that the weapon's vehicle can survive reentry, and third, that it can reliably hit its target. Accuracy need not be terribly precise, of course--a nuclear strike anywhere would be alarming enough, devastating if it hit a populated area. A groundburst would produce considerable fallout, and the electomagnetic pulse of any detonation could have widespread effect on electronics.
There are disturbing reports that the DPRK may have more fissile material than previously thought.
The US and South Korea are testing and readying missile defense systems. On Sunday, July 30th, the US announced another successful THAAD test. An interceptor fired from Alaska hit a ballistic missile target.
The US National Reconnaissance Office is tweaking satellite coverage to provide closer inspection and surveillance of North Korea.
The US has had small luck, so far, in bringing increased international tension to bear against North Korea. US allies, particularly those in the Asia-Pacific region, are equally concerned about the DPRK's nuclear strike ambitions, but Russia and China have consistently dragged their feet on sanctions or effective condemnation of Pyongyang. China has called for a mutual relaxation of tension, but that tension is mainly being applied from North to South, however it may appear to Kim's regime.
The North Korean regime is said to see cyber theft as an important source of revenue for sustaining its nuclear program.
One interesting range of options is suggested by studies that conclude the DPRK's ruling elite (a very small body) is about as connected to and involved with the Internet as any group of affluent Westerners. The implications of this for targeting in cyber operations are significant. There was much speculation in March that North Korean launch failures were caused by US hacking in what would have been a counter-force cyberattack. Recorded Future's study suggests there might counter-value options in cyberspace as well.
Those concerned about proliferation have other worries than what's up with Pyongyang. The US State Department may have this past month certified Iranian compliance with the controversial nuclear agreement that country negotiated with the US, but US concerns about Tehran's ballistic missile program are inducing tighter, more restrictive sanctions. Iran is crying foul.
Not all launches are malign: SpaceX has some good news (but may reboot its Mars ambitions).
SpaceX continues to deliver on its promise of rapid turnaround reusable launch vehicles. Reusable launch vehicles, industry observers say, are fundamentally a way increasing frequency of flights, which is where cash flow improves. A Falcon Heavy launch is planned for November.
SpaceX has decided against attempting powered landings with its crewed Dragon vehicle. The company has judged them to be be prohibitively difficult and expensive.
In what may be a related judgment about the feasibility of propulsive landing systems, SpaceX now thinks its Red Dragon vehicle isn't the right one to start Elon Musk's projected Mars settlement. Instead, the company may turn to a lunar expedition and work through a different technology for landing on Mars.
The public sector agrees: Mars is pretty far off.
NASA has also noted the difficulty of a Mars mission: it can't put a date on a trip to the red planet. Having for some years characterized the Space Launch System and the Orion crew vehicle as the technological centerpieces of human exploration of Mars, NASA acknowledged that it won't be so easy. Unsurprisingly, the space agency cites lack of funding as a principal obstacle.
William Gerstenmaier, NASA's director of human spaceflight, told the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics on July 12th, "I can't put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars. And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars." Like SpaceX, NASA's now mulling a return to the moon.
Quantum encryption and satellite technology.
Two successful demonstrations advanced quantum encryption technology this month. In one, researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China at Hefei succeeded in maintaining photon entanglement between sites on Earth separated by up to 1200 kilometers. The researchers found that entanglement was easier to maintain in an exoatmospheric environment. In another experiment, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, in Erlangen, Germany, used the geostationary Alphasat I-XL to measure quantum properties at a distance of 38,600 kilometers.
The two experiments represent different approaches to quantum cryptography. The former approach, exploiting photon entanglement, promises more powerful encryption tools. The latter approach, not dependent on entanglement, offers the prospect of nearer term deployment.
Australia's Ministry of Defense has awarded Canberra-based Quintessence Labs a research contract to extend its quantum key distribution technology to free space communications.
More Colorado Springs console jockeys than Starship Troopers, but the US House wants a Space Corps.
The House Armed Services Committee successfully inserted a provision creating a Space Corps into the House's version of the 2018 Defense appropriations bill, and the measure appears headed for a floor vote. The Space Corps would be housed in the Department of the Air Force but as a service distinct from the Air Force itself, roughly as the US Marine Corps forms a distinct Service within the Department of the Navy. The White House and the Department of Defense aren't crazy about the idea. Indeed, it's difficult to find fans outside the House of Representatives. Observers wait to see if the provision makes it through reconciliation, but that seems increasingly unlikely: the Senate is cool to the idea.
The new US Deputy Director of National Intelligence said she intended to push for greater use by the Intelligence Community of imagery from commercial small satellite constellations.
Space technology firms are said by analysts to be actively looking for acquisition candidates among startups.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Keny, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mozambique, New Zealand, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Syria, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
An Isolated North Korea Turns to Cyber Coercion and Cyber Chaos(The Cipher Brief) As North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs ruffle the feathers in the United States and regional players in East Asia, there is another, less visible, confrontation occurring in the depths of computer systems around the world.
Korean crisis near 'nuclear tipping point', says US prof(The Straits Times) The Korean peninsula is reaching a "nuclear tipping point" as the North continues to boost its nuclear arsenal and even crossed a new threshold when it tested what is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
The Iranian Cyberthreat Is Real(Foreign Policy) As Trump increasingly boxes in Tehran, U.S. allies should be worried about the potential for a devastating cyberattack from the Islamic Republic.
APT Group Uses Catfish Technique To Ensnare Victims(Threatpost | The first stop for security news) APT Cobalt Gypsy or OilRig, used a fake persona called “Mia Ash” to ensnare tech-savvy workers in the oil and gas industry into downloading PupyRAT malware.
Raytheon, Orbital, Aerojet Firmer After North Korea Missile Launch(NASDAQ.com) Shares of defense stocks such as Raytheon Company ( RTN ), Orbital ATK ( OA ) and Aerojet Rocketdyne ( AJRD ) were firmer on Wednesday after North Korea test-launched on Tuesday an intercontinental ballistic missile ( ICB ), which some experts believe has the range to reach Alaska and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
Northrop Grumman Unit Wins $98M Contract for USSTRATCOM(NASDAQ.com) Falls Church, VA-based Northrop Grumman Corp. 's NOC unit, Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., has won a contract to offer overall operations, and maintenance of command and control capabilities for the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).
ViaSat awarded DISA contract(C4ISRNET) ViaSat has been awarded a Defense Information Systems Agency contract to support Blue Force Tracking 2.
Boeing and Lockheed Are Heading Toward a GPS Bidding War(Bloomberg.com) The Air Force is taking the final step toward a probable multibillion-dollar competition that would give Boeing Co. a second shot against incumbent Lockheed Martin Corp. for as many as 22 new Global Positioning System III satellites.
GPS III Satellite Rematch Between Lockheed and Boeing Readied(Bloomberg.com) The Air Force is taking the final step toward a probable multibillion-dollar competition that would give Boeing Co. a second shot against incumbent Lockheed Martin Corp. for as many as 22 new Global Positioning System III satellites.
Lockheed Martin’s UK Cyber Works centre(Software Testing News) American global aerospace, defence, security and technologies company, Lockheed Martin, has invested £3million in a cyber security centre in Gloucester.
North Korea heralds ‘final’ nuclear step(South China Morning Post) After Pyongyang claims successful launch of intercontinental ballistic missile, China and Russia call on US and South Korea to suspend military drills in exchange for no further tests
Pentagon confirms North Korea launch was ICBM(Defense News) The Pentagon believes North Korea’s July 4 missile test launch featured an intercontinental ballistic missile shot from a mobile launcher, a marked advance in capability for the regime of Kim Jong Un.
Army rapid prototyping office wants EW, PNT solutions(C4ISRNET) Among a series of questions these EW solutions should be able to answer, the Army is interested if a potential solution can use machine learning and artificial intelligence to assist in understanding local electromagnetic spectrum usage and the performance of command and control of available EW assets.
SpaceX Drops Plans for Powered Dragon Landings(Space.com) SpaceX no longer plans to have the next version of its Dragon spacecraft be capable of powered landings, a move that has implications for the company's long-term Mars plans.
China's North Korean Liability(Foreign Affairs) On July 8, at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, U.S. President Donald Trump held a cordial press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping where they discussed how they would address the growing threat of North Korea.
Time to Lose Your Illusions on North Korea(War on the Rocks) In launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea has done what many experts said must not occur, and what President Donald Trump said would
Kim vows North Korea's nukes are not on negotiation table(Military Times) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed Wednesday his nation will "demonstrate its mettle to the U.S." and never put its weapons programs up for negotiations, a day after successfully testing its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
North Korea's Latest Missile Launch Hastens the Inevitable(WIRED) North Korea's successful test of its first intercontinental ballistic missile carries grave geopolitical implications for a vast swath of the world. Although such an achievement seemed improbable not long ago, it was all but inevitable.
Russia's deputy nuke negotiator visits N. Korea(Yonhap News Agency) Russia's deputy nuclear negotiator has visited North Korea to discuss issues on the divided peninsula with the North's senior diplomats, Pyongyang's state media said Tuesday.
Putin and Xi try to limit US role in Korean crisis(Times (London)) The world has become used to images of western leaders grimacing or looking blankly into the distance when they meet Vladimir Putin at summits, but China and Russia’s premiers were all smiles at...
Regime change is the only way to disarm North Korea(South China Morning Post) John Power says Pyongyang under the Kim family sees its weapons as a security guarantee and powerful negotiating tool, and the only way it will disarm is through a change of leadership
U.S. Certifies Iran Complying With Nuclear Deal But Vows New Sanctions(RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty) U.S. President Donald Trump's administration certified on July 17 that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal and will continue to receive nuclear-related sanctions relief, but vowed to press ahead with sanctions over ballistic missiles, fast boats, and other matters.
Why Regime Change in Iran Wouldn't Work(Foreign Affairs) There are roughly two avenues by which Washington could attempt to accomplish the goal in Iran: by supporting a faction more friendly to the United States or by invading the country and replacing its institutions. Neither strategy, however, would produce the desired end.
Work with India in cyber,space operating domain; Pentagon told(Outlook India) Aware that key defence cooperation agreements -- Communications Capability and Security Agreement and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Intelligence -- have not been completed, the report said the Department of Defence has approached negotiation of these agreements with consistency and good faith...
Space Corps amendment blocked(SpaceNews.com) The House Rules Committee did not accept an amendment submitted by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) for a defense appropriations bill that would have blocked the Air Force from spending any money creating a Space Corps.
Abort The Space Corps On The Launchpad(Breaking Defense) The recent proposal in Congress to create a new military service—the Space Corps—conjures visions of space marines and battlestars. Considering the all-encompassing duties of this service as outlined in the bill, illustrators could be forgiven for their hyperboles.
Pentagon demands contractors up cybersecurity(San Antonio Express-News) Changes include a requirement for contractors to use multi-factor authentication; prohibit the use of flash drives; and send reports of any attacks on computers accessing government networks.