Shields up! Defend and protect satellites from natural and artificial threats

Image of a satellite

1. Challenge Statement

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are looking for new and innovative capabilities that can be incorporated into the design and operation of Canada’s space-based systems to defend and protect satellites from a range of natural and artificial threats.

2. Background and Context

The militaries of the Western democracies, including Canada, are increasingly dependent on capabilities that are delivered or enabled by space-based systems and their associated space and ground infrastructure (e.g., communications, surveillance, environmental monitoring, and navigation). The DND/CAF is the only Canadian entity with the mandate of protecting and defending Canada's space capabilities. The Department works closely with allies and partners to ensure a coordinated approach to assuring continuous access to the space domain and space assets.

Satellites are vulnerable to natural and artificial threats (e.g., solar weather, collision with debris, etc.), as well as, increasingly, threats from adversaries who seek to deny, disrupt, or destroy Allied space systems (e.g., cyber-attacks, jamming, spoofing, laser dazzling, kinetic effects, etc.). Most satellite services are commercial in nature and, to date, defensive measures have not been a primary criteria in their design. Space is increasingly becoming a competitive, congested and contested environment and the DND/CAF must defend and protect Canadian satellites or risk putting these capabilities, and its military operations, at risk.

3. Desired Outcomes

Satellites are susceptible to many different natural and artificial threats and adversarial attacks. Concepts, capability designs and prototypes are sought for defending against, but not limited to, the following:

  • Cyber data interception;
  • Cyber control command spoofing;
  • Electromagnetic threats (e.g., interference, jamming, spoofing, etc.);
  • Debris collision and co-orbital anti-satellite interceptions and collisions;
  • Physical manipulation by adversaries.

4. Additional Outcomes

Innovators are free to propose concepts, designs and prototypes to counter other threat vectors so long as they provide a sufficient and reasonable case as to their threat significance. Below are examples of other threat vectors for which additional solutions are being sought.

  • Adversary co-orbital anti-satellite collision;
  • Solar Weather, Radiation Belts, Ionization, and Spacecraft Charging;
  • Adversary ground-launched anti-satellite missiles;
  • Adversary co-orbital and ground-based laser dazzling, etc.

5. Supplementary Information

Canada adheres to several global treaties on the safe, secure and sustainable use of space, as well as voluntary global norms for responsible behavior by space-faring countriesFootnote 1 . Measures must not be injurious to national security, to the defense of Canada, to the safety of the Canadian Armed Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations. Innovation funding will not be granted for any options that are inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations.

Different orbital regimes (Low Earth Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit, Geosynchronous Orbit, and Highly Elliptical Orbits) will influence and change the threat vectors. Innovators are asked to account for their assumptions with respect to the orbital regime within their proposals.

Concepts and designs for defensive measures must account for the radiation environments generated by cosmic radiation, solar weather and interactions with the Earth’s atmosphere.

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