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Space Force’s ‘Digital Bloodhound’ project will sniff out cyberthreats


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The Space Force Delta 6 insignia. (Breaking Defense graphic; original Earth image via Getty)

WASHINGTON — The Space Force hopes to choose a developer next June for its nascent Digital Bloodhound program, aimed at improving detection of cyber threats to space ground systems, according to senior Space Systems Command officials.

Brig. Gen. Tim Sjeba, SSC’s program executive officer for space domain awareness and combat power (SSC/SZ), said on Thursday that the project is a reflection of the fact that cyber defense is a requirement across the military’s entire space architecture, both in orbit and on the ground.

“If we’re gonna protect and defend the architecture, it can’t be just something that we do against just the space threat. It’s got to be against the holistic threat of both space and cyber,” he told the Space Industry Days conference in Los Angeles.

For that reason, he added, “defensive cyber operations and capabilities” are part of the SSC/SZ portfolio “so that we really do protect and defend the entire mission and the architecture against threats from both.”

The two-day conference was co-sponsored by AFCEA’s Los Angeles branch, the National Defense Industrial Association’s Greater Los Angeles division, the Southern California Aerospace Professional Representative, and the Air and Space Force’s Schriever Chapter.

Sjeba’s comments come a week after Space Operations Command chief Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting sounded the cybersecurity alarm, saying Space Force didn’t have nearly a clear enough picture of the threats it faces.

At this week’s conference, Col. Ed Byrne, SSC/SZ deputy, said that the Digital Bloodhound program “includes software development and hardware fielding to support the national security of critical ground systems.” A request for proposals (RFP) will be issued in January, he said, and a “single award” will be granted under the One Acquisition for Single Integrated Services (OASIS) Small Business contracting vehicle run by the US General Services Administration.

OASIS contracts “are a family of Governmentwide multiple award, Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts that provide flexible and innovative solutions for complex professional services,” according to GSA’s website.

SSC/SZ’s Cyber Operations issued a request for information for Digital Bloodhound on July 20. The RFI explained that the goals of the program are “agile” improvements, using DevSecOps, in “information sharing, integration & interoperability” and “infrastructure” for current software “product lines,” as well as “integration of new mission systems and data streams.”
“The work being done under the project name Digital Bloodhound will continue to expand the capabilities of Manticore and further develop Kraken for fielding,” Byrne elaborated. Manticore is a suite of software tools that identifies cyber vulnerabilities. Kraken software throws up real-time cyber defenses against ongoing attacks.

Space Force asked for a total of $28.1 million in FY23 research, development, test and evaluation funds for a new budgetary program element called “Defense Cyber Operations – Space (DCO-S)” that includes both Manticore and Kraken.

“Defensive Cyberspace Operations (DCO-S) provides defensive cyber capabilities that protect the network enclaves of USSF mission systems, to include their associated computer systems, software applications and sensitive operational information against unauthorized intrusion, corruption, and/or destruction,” the budget justification explains.

“The emphasis of the program is directed toward defensive cyberspace capabilities, computer and network systems security, damage assessment and recovery, cyber threat recognition, attribution, and mitigation, and active response methodologies in response to evolving threats and changes to cyber environment,” the document adds.

The budget justification elaborates that the Manticore and Kraken cyber defense tools are used by Space Delta 6 (Cyber Ops) “to protect the following mission sets: Protected Communications, Missile Warning, Military Strategic Communications (MILSATCOM), Position Navigation and Timing (PNT), Ballistic Missile Command and Control, Space Domain Awareness (SDA), Nuclear Command Control and Communications (NC3), and Command and Control Satellite Operations (C2 Sat Ops).”

There is no specific request for Digital Bloodhound in the FY23 request, but the justification document makes clear that SSC intends to continuously integrate improvements to the Manticore and Kraken tool sets, as well as “increase systems engineering and accreditation support.”



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