The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is planning to double its investment in space cybersecurity and other cyber capabilities, according to a top official.

AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate held the first Space Cyber Summit last month at Kirtland AFB, N.M., and AFRL said that more than 140 people from AFRL, the U.S. Space Force, federally funded research and development centers, NASA and other organizations participated in-person or virtually.

“AFRL has identified significant and growing threats and opportunities in space cyber, and has committed to doubling our investment in space cyber technologies,” Col. Eric Felt, director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, told the participants, per AFRL. “Advancing cyber expertise and technologies will be an element of every space experiment we fly and fully integrated into the engineering of every system AFRL designs and transitions.”

While the United States is considering naming space systems as the nation’s 17th critical infrastructure sector, the country needs to address security deficiencies in the space sector as soon as possible, regardless of whether space is an official critical infrastructure, Dawn Beyer, a senior fellow at Lockheed Martin [LMT], said recently (Defense Daily, Oct. 21). Beyer suggested that space is the most behind in cybersecurity and that the space sector struggles with retention and workforce development in training specialists to serve as cyber architects.

Samuel Visner, technical fellow for MITRE, said that new 5G/low Earth orbit SpaceX and other constellations will rely on global cloud infrastructure and that the industry should increase and improve the quality of cybersecurity engineering and resilience engineering for all space systems.

One feature that may grow in importance for the cybersecurity of space systems within the U.S. military’s envisioned Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) construct is laser communications.

Earlier this month, Northrop Grumman [NOC] chose Mynaric to supply laser communications for space systems–an agreement that may be worth $35 million or more (Defense Daily, Nov. 3).

Joseph “Dan” Trujillo, the space cyber resiliency tech area lead for AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, told the participants at last month’s Space Cyber Summit, that the summit would help to identify organizations working on cyber capabilities for space systems, gaps that need filling, and priorities for securing space systems from cyber vulnerabilities.

“The American public and government need to understand the critical services space systems provide in their everyday life, including commerce, navigation, and communication,” Trujillo said, per AFRL. “We must ensure our legacy systems can operate within a cyber-contested environment, and build the next generation of cyber-secure systems.”