• Nelson Santini

Danger Will Robinson! Deepfake! Don't Let Your SDA be Compromised

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

Out of roughly 7.67 billion earthlings alive today, approximately less than ten are in space at any given moment. By and large, the same ratio is true for any day in history. This means that the vast majority of the primary data that scientists have gathered and compiled about space and its objects has been collected from earth or relayed to earth by sensors hitching a ride on a “bus”.

The initial fascination with, and the perceived peaceful use of space fostered trustful sharing and collaboration between entities generating space primary data for either research or operational use. Today, this data is widely distributed, varied in form, and serves different functions. Unfortunately, some of those functions are neither benevolent nor peaceful in nature.

On one hand, what would be the commercial impact of placing a satellite in an imperceptibly incorrect orbit through accurate calculations that started from inaccurate telemetry data? The satellite might do its job just fine and nobody would ever be the wiser that the calculations were slightly off.

On the other hand, what would be the impact to national security if “space domain awareness” (SDA) data streams generated in space were compromised by an adversary wanting to foster a false sense of security? To land this concept, this is the part in “Ocean’s 11” where the video feed to the security center is “fudged” showing the stack of money still in the vault while the robbers have already left the building with all the money.

Assuming that any data about space, regardless of origin or perspective, is the “truth” compromises Space Domain Awareness at its core. Space is commercially competitive and has become our next national security battleground in plain sight.

Our competitive advantage and national security depend largely on how we leverage and protect our shared space generated digital assets (data) against the inevitable “deepfakes” that malicious actors will try to inject into our SDA picture.

This is not a simple problem solved by waving hands and injecting in a deep, calm voice in a speech the right “key words and tricky phrases” such as, “We’ll use AI”, “blockchain the data”, “we'll use a secure cloud”.

The complete solution must include these elements but also encompass:

  • The correct doctrine / policies / procedures and training to use the digital assets.

  • The ability to reconcile and reliably share authenticated digital assets from multiple sources.

  • The discipline of treating every digital asset, new and old, as an NFA (Non Fungible Asset).

  • The capability of rendering the digital assets in a medium that facilitates their optimal use.

If we set the SDA bar at sharing CSV data files and rendering their content as a fancy chart on a 3D screen, we are barely crawling forward when we look to adjacent industries. The same evolution applies to space-born digital assets. Correlating multiple and independently authenticated digital asset sources is crucial to safeguard our commercial and national assets.

The ideas above help land these points:

  1. SDA is ever evolving with the latest provable evidence forging the truth.

  2. If the digital assets we use as source to facilitate SDA are either accidentally or intentionally “fudged”, the SDA we generate may be "cool" but unfortunately, is ultimately useless.

  3. Technology and theory alone are not a complete solution. As a rapidly emerging industry we have to “do”; collaborating, sharing and training together.


The way in which we present and consume the next generation of space-born digital assets and data will make the difference between operating with good but flawed information that approaches knowledge, or squarely accelerating forward into what SDA should enable - command and control of space through fact-based and fact-powered wisdom.

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