U.S. government warns of foreign intelligence threats to the space industry

U.S. government warns of foreign intelligence threats to the space industry

Covering the business and politics of space

WASHINGTON — Companies in the U.S. space industry are being increasingly targeted by foreign intelligence operations, U.S. intelligence agencies warn.

“Foreign intelligence entities recognize the importance of the commercial space industry to the U.S. economy and national security, including the growing dependence of critical infrastructure on space-based assets,” said a bulletin published Aug. 18 by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center is under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

It’s generally known that China and Russia are among the leading foreign intelligence threats to the U.S. space industry, but other nations are also targeting this sector, a U.S. counterintelligence official said in a statement to SpaceNews.

Some countries see U.S. space-related innovation and assets as potential threats as well as valuable opportunities to acquire vital technologies and expertise, the bulletin warned.

Foreign intelligence agencies use cyberattacks, strategic investment — including joint ventures and acquisitions, and other techniques to gain access to the U.S. space industry, said the bulletin.

Indicators that foreign intelligence operators might be targeting a U.S. business include unsolicited offers to establish joint ventures, attempts to recruit a company’s technical experts and provision of financial incentives in exchange for proprietary information.

A company’s supply chain also is a target, the bulletin said. In January 2023, for example, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Spacety Luxembourg, a Luxembourg-based satellite firm, for being owned or controlled by Spacety China. Treasury sanctioned Spacety China, the parent firm based in China, for supplying Russia’s Wagner Group with radar satellite imagery of Ukraine to support its combat operations.

“We’re issuing the bulletin today because we anticipate growing threats to this burgeoning sector of the U.S. economy,” the counterintelligence official said.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...

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