WASHINGTON — Changes in the geopolitical landscape following Russia’s war in Ukraine are pushing space companies to tighten international supply chains amid a renewed focus on security.
“We’re having to scrutinize our supply chain even more,” Tina Ghataore, chief commercial officer at Germany-based optical communications terminal maker Mynaric, said March 22 on a panel for the Satellite 2022 conference here.
“We already have restrictions on where the components and parts can come from, specifically electronics,” she said, but “that has just expanded, and that list is just going to grow.”
Mynaric, which is developing terminals for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), already steers clear of Chinese components but is now scouring its network of suppliers for Russian ties.
Ghataore also said the company is not just increasingly scrutinizing hardware to protect against new threats but also at the software level, where the company is adopting new standards and redoubling efforts to be “very careful about what goes into the makeup of our products.”
While strengthening supply chains are important, Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg highlighted a greater need to fortify cybersecurity networks amid increasingly sophisticated threats.
Dankberg said he expects more attempts to compromise satellite networks following a February cyberattack on Viasat’s KA-SAT network, which distributes services through a third party as work continues to integrate its acquisition from Eutelsat.
“There will be worse cyber attacks than that if we’re not really vigilant,” Dankberg warned.
Speaking to SpaceNews on the conference’s sidelines, Dankberg added that Viasat uses a variety of artificial intelligence and other tools to guard against persistent attacks on the satellite operator’s network.
“The likelihood that we would have detected that attack had those tools been used on that network is very, very high,” he said.
“It certainly feels to me as if the Cold War” has restarted, OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said during a panel discussion. The LEO broadband operator paused its constellation deployment after suspending its use of Russian Soyuz rockets. On March 21, OneWeb said it has a deal with SpaceX to resume launches this year.
Masterson called for more regulation to address a “reality whereby the geopolitical [environment] has changed.”
However, while the conflict in Ukraine has underscored how important and strategic space is, Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg does not expect heightened scrutiny to materially affect how the industry already operates.
“There have always been barriers to the ability to work with any company that you want to work with,” Goldberg said, including “massive restrictions around technology sharing” under U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
“Space cries out for collaboration, given that it is a commons up there but also given that it’s expensive and you need countries working together and governments working together to fully leverage space,” he said, “but we’re not all able to work with each other just given the realities of geopolitics.
“And I think Ukraine reinforces that, but I’m not sure that it changes it that much.”