Frank Lee and Gregory Falco (Johns Hopkins University) Presenter: Frank Lee

End-of-life (EOL) satellites are space assets that have completed their primary mission. Due to their loss in commercial or scientific priority, EOL satellites are often left in place by operators for an extended period, instead of being decommissioned in a timely manner to free up high-value orbits. This period of inactivity exposes EOL satellites to a lower level of operator vigilance, and therefore, higher level of cyberattack risk. With the recent growth in space activities, this paper estimates there will be up to 5,000 inactive satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) within 5 years, magnifying the space cyber risks and resulting space sustainability challenges. To bolster space cybersecurity, the authors illuminate unique attack vectors against EOL satellites, as well as policy and technical mitigation measures. When part of a constellation, the vulnerability of an EOL satellite has even bigger implications, where a threat actor may use the secondary asset to target primary assets. Ultimately, the active management of EOL satellites is significant for a secure and sustainable LEO infrastructure.

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