The California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) has received grant funding to develop innovative cybersecurity solutions for space satellites.

The $340,091 grant was awarded by the California Advanced Supply Chain Analysis and Diversification Effort (CASCADE), an initiative funded by the US Department of Defense.

Cal Poly will use the funding to conduct a ‘Space Operations Challenge’ series to enable improved safety and security of satellites currently in orbit.

Satellites pose a cybersecurity risk for various stakeholders, including governments, companies and everyday users, making their security a significant challenge.

Cal Poly California Cybersecurity Institute (CCI) programme manager Martin Minnich said: “Space, satellites and cybersecurity are at the national forefront of focus for a multitude of reasons, including national defence and commercial applications.

“Cal Poly, with our involvement in the development of CubeSats and our close proximity to Vandenberg Air Force Base and the 30th Space Wing, is strategically positioned to help with the national conversation in both civilian and governmental applications.”

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Cal Poly will create six specific ‘challenges’ under the programme. Some of the key research areas in the project include secure and reliable space to ground communication, satellite communication design, and secure satellite command and control across a distributed commercial platform.

The programme will also focus on addressing how to enable the quick launch of small and medium satellites.

The university will work in collaboration with a private company or public agency to address these issues.

CASCADE programme director Eileen Sanchez said: “Considering how much of US critical infrastructure relies on connectivity in or through space, the consequences of disrupting or degrading connectivity are prominent and the cybersecurity of space assets remains a top priority for national security.”

The university signed a space situational awareness agreement with US Strategic Command in August to help the command monitor objects in orbit around the Earth.