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April 14, 2022 | International, Aerospace

Military considers three states for permanent Space Force training HQ

Officials will compare bases in Colorado, California and Florida to host the space training mission.

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  • These 4 technologies are big problems for US military space

    July 3, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    These 4 technologies are big problems for US military space

    By: Nathan Strout A recent report highlights the fact that the commercial space sector is an increasingly important part of the military's efforts in space, but there are places where industry falls short. The national security space arena is a niche market, characterized by low production runs paired with a need for high-quality products. That combination makes it a difficult area for the commercial sector. While national security space increasingly relies on industry to provide components for space vehicles, the fact remains that in some key areas there are no domestic suppliers for critical technologies, leaving the United States dependent on foreign suppliers. Here are four such technologies singled out in a recent report on the United States military's industrial base: Solar cells According to the report, the commercial sector is not investing in the research and development needed to improve solar cells, which are used to power satellites. Businesses have maxed out the capacity for triple-junction solar cells, but do not appear capable of pushing forward to four- or five-junction solar cell technology. The Pentagon also wants solar cells that are able to withstand more radiation for longer than current products on the market. Improving solar cells to get the same or more power out of even slightly smaller panels could have a major impact when it comes to launching a satellite into space, meaning that reducing solar panel size is highly valuable. Tube amplifiers Starting in the 1990s, the domestic supplier market share for traveling-wave tube amplifiers — electronic devices used to amplify radio frequency signals to high power — dropped from 50 percent to just 12 percent. While that market has shown a slight recovery, the presence of heavily subsidized companies like Thales in France make it difficult for American companies to compete. Gyroscopes Precision gyroscopes are used in spacecraft to determine altitude and are essential to providing inertial navigation systems. According to the Department of Defense, there is only one domestic supplier of hemispherical resonating gyroscopes, resulting in long lead times — the report claims that the company can only produce one to two units per month. Fiber optic gyroscopes fair better with three domestic suppliers currently manufacturing them, but those companies are themselves vulnerable to overseas supply issues with their subcomponents. Infrared detectors Just one foreign manufacturer produces the substrates necessary for space infrared detectors, and the Pentagon warns that a disruption of any more than a few months of production of the substrates could negatively impact the quality and completion of American satellites. Because of this, the U.S. government has used a Defense Production Act of 1950 provision that allows it to offer economic incentives to either develop, sustain or expand domestic production of technology critical to national defense, and an Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program is in the works to support the remaining two American foundries for one type of substrate.


    August 14, 2018 | International, C4ISR


    WHEN THE CYBERSECURITY industry warns about the nightmare of hackers causing blackouts, the scenario they describe typically entails an elite team of hackers breaking into the inner sanctum of a power utility to start flipping switches. But one group of researchers has imagined how an entire power grid could be taken down by hacking a less centralized and protected class of targets: home air conditioners and water heaters. Lots of them. At the Usenix Security conference this week, a group of Princeton University security researchers will present a study that considers a little-examined question in power grid cybersecurity: What if hackers attacked not the supply side of the power grid, but the demand side? In a series of simulations, the researchers imagined what might happen if hackers controlled a botnet composed of thousands of silently hacked consumer internet of things devices, particularly power-hungry ones like air conditioners, water heaters, and space heaters. Then they ran a series of software simulations to see how many of those devices an attacker would need to simultaneously hijack to disrupt the stability of the power grid. Their answers point to a disturbing, if not quite yet practical scenario: In a power network large enough to serve an area of 38 million people—a population roughly equal to Canada or California—the researchers estimate that just a one percent bump in demand might be enough to take down the majority of the grid. That demand increase could be created by a botnet as small as a few tens of thousands of hacked electric water heaters or a couple hundred thousand air conditioners. "Power grids are stable as long as supply is equal to demand," says Saleh Soltan, a researcher in Princeton's Department of Electrical Engineering, who led the study. "If you have a very large botnet of IoT devices, you can really manipulate the demand, changing it abruptly, any time you want." The result of that botnet-induced imbalance, Soltan says, could be cascading blackouts. When demand in one part of the grid rapidly increases, it can overload the current on certain power lines, damaging them or more likely triggering devices called protective relays, which turn off the power when they sense dangerous conditions. Switching off those lines puts more load on the remaining ones, potentially leading to a chain reaction. "Fewer lines need to carry the same flows and they get overloaded, so then the next one will be disconnected and the next one," says Soltan. "In the worst case, most or all of them are disconnected, and you have a blackout in most of your grid." Power utility engineers, of course, expertly forecast fluctuations in electric demand on a daily basis. They plan for everything from heat waves that predictably cause spikes in air conditioner usage to the moment at the end of British soap opera episodes when hundreds of thousands of viewers all switch on their tea kettles. But the Princeton researchers' study suggests that hackers could make those demand spikes not only unpredictable, but maliciously timed. The researchers don't actually point to any vulnerabilities in specific household devices, or suggest how exactly they might be hacked. Instead, they start from the premise that a large number of those devices could somehow be compromised and silently controlled by a hacker. That's arguably a realistic assumption, given the myriad vulnerabilities other security researchers and hackers have found in the internet of things. One talk at the Kaspersky Analyst Summit in 2016 described security flaws in air conditioners that could be used to pull off the sort of grid disturbance that the Princeton researchers describe. And real-world malicious hackers have compromised everything from refrigerators to fish tanks. Given that assumption, the researchers ran simulations in power grid software MATPOWER and Power World to determine what sort of botnet would could disrupt what size grid. They ran most of their simulations on models of the Polish power grid from 2004 and 2008, a rare country-sized electrical system whose architecture is described in publicly available records. They found they could cause a cascading blackout of 86 percent of the power lines in the 2008 Poland grid model with just a one percent increase in demand. That would require the equivalent of 210,000 hacked air conditioners, or 42,000 electric water heaters. The notion of an internet of things botnet large enough to pull off one of those attacks isn't entirely farfetched. The Princeton researchers point to the Mirai botnet of 600,000 hacked IoT devices, including security cameras and home routers. That zombie horde hit DNS provider Dyn with an unprecedented denial of service attack in late 2016, taking down a broad collection of websites. Building a botnet of the same size out of more power-hungry IoT devices is probably impossible today, says Ben Miller, a former cybersecurity engineer at electric utility Constellation Energy and now the director of the threat operations center at industrial security firm Dragos. There simply aren't enough high-power smart devices in homes, he says, especially since the entire botnet would have to be within the geographic area of the target electrical grid, not distributed across the world like the Mirai botnet. But as internet-connected air conditioners, heaters, and the smart thermostats that control them increasingly show up in homes for convenience and efficiency, a demand-based attack like the one the Princeton researchers describes could become more practical than one that targets grid operators. "It's as simple as running a botnet. When a botnet is successful, it can scale by itself. That makes the attack easier," Miller says. "It's really hard to attack all the generation sites on a grid all at once. But with a botnet you could attack all these end user devices at once and have some sort of impact." The Princeton researchers modeled more devious techniques their imaginary IoT botnet might use to mess with power grids, too. They found it was possible to increase demand in one area while decreasing it in another, so that the total load on a system's generators remains constant while the attack overloads certain lines. That could make it even harder for utility operators to figure out the source of the disruption. If a botnet did succeed in taking down a grid, the researchers' models showed it would be even easier to keepit down as operators attempted to bring it back online, triggering smaller scale versions of their attack in the sections or "islands" of the grid that recover first. And smaller scale attacks could force utility operators to pay for expensive backup power supplies, even if they fall short of causing actual blackouts. And the researchers point out that since the source of the demand spikes would be largely hidden from utilities, attackers could simply try them again and again, experimenting until they had the desired effect. The owners of the actual air conditioners and water heaters might notice that their equipment was suddenly behaving strangely. But that still wouldn't immediately be apparent to the target energy utility. "Where do the consumers report it?" asks Princeton's Soltan. "They don't report it to Con Edison, they report it to the manufacturer of the smart device. But the real impact is on the power system that doesn't have any of this data." That disconnect represents the root of the security vulnerability that utility operators need to fix, Soltan argues. Just as utilities carefully model heat waves and British tea times and keep a stock of energy in reserve to cover those demands, they now need to account for the number of potentially hackable high-powered devices on their grids, too. As high-power smart-home gadgets multiply, the consequences of IoT insecurity could someday be more than just a haywire thermostat, but entire portions of a country going dark.

  • BAE Systems Receives Order From U.S. Army for Additional M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzers

    December 20, 2019 | International, Land

    BAE Systems Receives Order From U.S. Army for Additional M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzers

    Sterling Heights, Mich. December 18, 2019 - The U.S. Army has awarded BAE Systems a $249 million contract modification to complete an additional 60 M109A7 self-propelled howitzers that will bring improved artillery capabilities to the Army's Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCTs). This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:“ We are excited about the opportunity to continue bringing new howitzers and increased survivability to our soldiers,” said Jeremy Tondreault, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems Combat Vehicles. “The M109A7 positions the Army to execute its current mission with confidence and support its future needs and requirements as long range precision fires evolve.” The award exercises options on an existing low-rate production contract and includes the completion of an additional 60 M992A3 Carrier, Ammunition, Tracked (CAT) vehicles to accompany the M109A7. The M109A7 and the CAT vehicle sets provide increased commonality across the ABCTs, and have significant built-in growth potential in terms of electrical power and weight carrying capacity. The vehicle design includes a new chassis, engine, transmission, suspension, steering system, a new high voltage architecture and improved survivability, while the vehicle's cannon remains the same as that of an M109A6 Paladin. The M109A7 is supported by the Army as a vital technology enhancement program to maintain the combat capability of its ABCTs. It will solve long-term readiness and modernization needs of the M109 family of vehicles through a critical redesign and production plan that leverages the most advanced technology available today. This state-of-the-art “digital backbone” and power generation capability provides a more robust, survivable, and responsive indirect fire support capability for ABCT Soldiers. The M109A7 is a significant upgrade over the M109A6 as it restores space, weight, and power cooling, while providing significant growth potential for emerging technologies. The initial contract was awarded in 2017. This most recent order brings the total number of vehicle sets — M109A7 howitzers and M992A3 ammunition carriers — to 156, and the total contract value to $1.16 billion. Work on the M109A7 will take place at several facilities within the Company's combat vehicles manufacturing network including: Aiken, South Carolina; Elgin, Oklahoma; Sterling Heights, Michigan; and, York, Pennsylvania. View source version on

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