US to Launch MoonLighter Satellite for Space Pentesting

Today, the United States will launch the MoonLighter satellite, making it the first space training ground in the world as five teams of expert hackers from the Def Con conference attempt to hack and take control of the satellite remotely. The aim of this experiment is to test various methods of attack and protection on real space equipment and software.

MoonLighter is a small 3u type satellite that weighs approximately 5 kg, with folded dimensions of 34 x 11 x 11 cm and detailed dimensions of 50 x 34 x 11 cm. The Federal Scientific Research Center in South California, The Aerospace Corporation, in partnership with the command of the US space systems and the research laboratory Air Force, developed the satellite. The Aerospace Corporation is a leading institution in space-related security and is responsible for safeguarding the critical infrastructure of American space systems.

Upon entering orbit, the satellite will be released from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It includes software designed explicitly for cybersecurity exercises and drills, allowing for the testing of cybersecurity methods with real-world space equipment.

The project idea originated from the Hack-A-Sat contest held jointly by the Air Force and the US space forces, which aims to test the security of space systems in real-world scenarios, at the Def Con conference. The first MoonLighter test will happen in August during the Hack-A-Sat 4 contest in Las Vegas. Five teams that passed the qualifying rounds will be competing to hack the satellite, with the three best teams to receive cash prizes, with $50,000 for first place, $30,000 for second place, and $20,000 for third place.

MoonLighter aims to simulate cyber attacks that space systems may face while in orbit. The system uses an isolated software environment (sandbox) to protect against attacks and withstand multiple attacks from different teams without losing critical subsystems.

It is worth noting that during the Hack-A-Sat 2 contest in 2021, James Pavur from the University of Oxford University quickly hacked the satellite utilizing equipment worth $300 and was able to intercept terabytes of satellite traffic that included confidential information from some of the biggest organizations globally.

Overall, this project will test the feasibility of cybersecurity in space and evaluate the industry’s current preparedness.

For more information on MoonLighter, visit here and for more details on the Hack-A-Sat contest,

/Reports, release notes, official announcements.