We are excited to announce that the European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a contract to CGI Estonia and Skudo OÜ to develop a hardware-based end-to-end encryption and authentication solution for satellite data communication to be validated in space on board of the OPS-SAT (a LEO satellite orbiting at 500 km from Earth).
On the course of the ESA contract, Skudo, a hardware cybersecurity company based in Estonia and operating in space sector, will further expand its CCSDS SDLS and Extended Procedure security solution based on the integration with the satellite communication of a PKI, digital certificates and its own Hardware Security Module encryption chip (FPGA).
Skudo will also develop a new CCSDS IPcore engine (using the SDR provided by-pass function) which will allow to integrate the SDLS protocol to the OPS-SAT natively over the TC/TM transfer frames. In fact, this integration requires full access to the transfer frames in order to be compatible with the CCSDS SDLS protocol, something which is currently not possible on the OPS-SAT available SDR engine.
The space validation (IOD/IOV) will include a demonstration of Skudo's cybersecurity technologies (PKI and HSM) on a real live bi-directional space data connection with the ESOC's Ground Station in Darmstadt, while sending and receiving data that are end-to-end encrypted by the Skudo´s HSM/FPGA chip. The latter is responsible to perform all encryption operations (symmetric and asymmetric), generate and store the keys, provide all needed primitives to run the PKI on the space and ground segment. Every satellite (in our case the OPS-SAT) will be given a digital certificate (signed by the ground Certificate Authority) which will be used to provide a strong bi-directional authentication so that e.g. even the satellite will be able to authenticate the ground operator commands before executing them. This strong authentication is also very useful in order to provide a secure remote software update functionality (something almost unseen in the current satellite deployments).
While based on the FPGA technology, the Skudo’s encryption chip is fully designed and implemented in Europe, offering a transparent and verifiable solution which is not based on the "blind trust" model.
ESA is continuously working to boost cybersecurity not only within the Agency but also across Europe’s space sector, helping make spaceflight more resilient to attack and accelerate the integration of space systems and services with the terrestrial economy.
Each year, Europe is becoming more reliant on satellites, and space-based applications are now utterly critical to the large and growing range of services on which our citizens and economies depend. These range from navigation, broadcasting and weather forecasting to monitoring the health of our planet’s climate and the conditions of land, oceans and inhabited areas.
The secure Satellite Communications market continues to grow rapidly. According to the latest PWC report, the current civilian demand of satellite communication capacity in Europe is around 2.5 Gbps and is expected to increase to 20 Gbps in 2035 and 30 Gbps in 2040. The increase is also expected in military demand, growing from current 1.5 Gbps to 4 Gbps in 2035 and 6 Gbps in 2040.
The global market for SatCom services is estimated to reach EUR 126 billion by 2025 and the SatCom equipment market is projected to increase to EUR 25 billion by 2022, up from EUR 16.7 billion in 2017 (source: https://www.euspa.europa.eu/).
Stefano Alberico, founder and CEO at Skudo commented: "It is an honour to work on such project for the European Space Agency together with CGI Estonia. Our goal is to demonstrate to our customers how Skudo's technology can change the rules of the game in space communications offering an unprecedented level of security and data protection. It is also a further demonstration of the high-tech capabilities of the Estonian industries and ecosystem, especially related to the cybersecurity innovation market".