SpaceX Dragon CRS-28 mission delivers ‘Moonlighter’ satellite that will be hacked on-orbit at this year’s DEF CON Hack-A-Sat contest

SpaceX Dragon CRS-28 mission delivers ‘Moonlighter’ satellite that will be hacked on-orbit at this year’s DEF CON Hack-A-Sat contest

SpaceX launched the 28th NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-28) mission on June 5th at 11:47 a.m. ET, during which a Falcon 9 rocket propelled a Dragon spacecraft to orbit from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dragon delivered over 7,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). It docked to the orbiting laboratory at 5:54 a.m. ET on June 6.

Dragon CRS-28 delivered fresh food like apples, blueberries, grapefruit, oranges, various cheeses, and cherry tomatoes, for the astronauts at the ISS to enjoy; as well as dozens of supplies to perform scientific research in microgravity. Dragon also delivered  International Space Station Roll Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs). These innovative solar panels, capable of expanding using stored kinetic energy, will enhance the space station's energy-production capabilities. This marks the third set of iROSAs launched in Dragon's trunk, once installed, they will contribute to a 20% to 30% increase in power for ISS operations.

Among the payloads is ‘Moonlighter,’ a 3U CubeSat satellite built by the Aerospace Corporation, it is designed to be hacked on-orbit at this year’s DEF CON Hack-A-Sat contest that is sponsored by U.S. Department of the Air Force, Space Systems Command, and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

The CubeSat weighs approximately 11 pounds and is almost 12 inches long, and will be put into a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) when the astronauts working at the ISS unload the cargo out of the Dragon capsule in the days ahead. This is the 4th annual Hack-A-Sat competition during which the finalist teams will compete for the ultimate prize at DEF CON 31 event which will take place from August 10 to 13 in Las Vegas, Nevada. “The winning team will receive a $50,000 prize and will also have bragging rights that are truly –out of this world,” said the U.S. Space Systems Command public affairs representative. Previously, competitors hacked a simulation not an actual satellite in space. 

“The Moonlighter satellite is absolutely a big highlight for all of us,” said Manfred Paul, a member of the ‘Krautsat’ team that took first place during the qualifications competition. “A major draw to the competition comes from the chance to interact with and learn about real-world space systems and software; it’s just not something people outside of that field get to ‘play around’ with very often.”

Wyatt Neal, one of the members of ‘SpaceBitsRUs,’ the third-place qualifications finishing team, said, “To say the team is excited is an understatement! Everyone is really pumped just to see what’s going to happen; we know the competition is already designed to be challenging and space just makes everything harder.”

“The cost/benefit for this competition is far better than what we’ve seen in the past,” said Capt. Kevin J. Bernert, SSC Hack-A-Sat Program Manager. “Traditionally, to put something on at this scale and get this much information out of it, would cost a lot more. We can actually observe these competitors using tactics, techniques and procedures that can help inform future space vehicle design to make them more secure. If there are any vulnerabilities that we spot, we can take that into consideration for future space systems.”

They highlighted the importance of knowing what the vulnerabilities are in a satellite, “especially as space is becoming easier to access,” Bernert said. “The cost of launching is getting driven down, and a lot more of our infrastructure that people use every day revolves around assets that are in space. This is a win for everybody if people understand the importance of securing all those systems — not just the military, but commercial, as well.” 

“The space industry itself is growing rapidly because everything is becoming more reliant on space. We want to excite people and show them the tie-in between all the cyber-security principles that you’re practicing on the ground and how they can be applied to our space systems, too,” stated Bernert. 

Hack-A-Sat Teams can range from one person to 100 people or more in number. More than 725 teams of over 2,700 individuals from all over the world competed in the previous qualification rounds that were conducted from April 1 and 2. The top five teams are:

  • Krautsat, a 75-member team made up of mostly German CTF teams and people with backgrounds in space science.
  • mhackeroni, an Italian team.
  • SpaceBitsRUs, a team made up of about 120 Northrop Grumman employees from across the company, which won second place and $30,000 in last year’s HAS3 competition.
  • Poland Can Into Space, the $50,000 first-place winner of last year’s HAS3
  • jmp fs: [rcx] team

》 Author's note: Thanks for reading Write your thoughts in the comment section below. If you have any story suggestions or feedback, feel free to Direct Message me on Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo @JaneidyEve Read my most recent stories here: Recent News Stories 《   

Featured Images Source: NASA / The Aerospace Corporation


About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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