Uncle Sam wants DEF CON hackers to pwn this Moonlighter satellite in space

Uncle Sam wants DEF CON hackers to pwn this Moonlighter satellite in space

Feature Assuming the weather and engineering gods cooperate, a US government-funded satellite dubbed Moonlighter will launch at 1235 EDT (1635 UTC) on Saturday, hitching a ride on a SpaceX rocket before being releasing into Earth's orbit.

And in roughly two months, five teams of DEF CON hackers will do their best to successfully remotely infiltrate and hijack the satellite while it's in space. The idea being to try out offensive and defensive techniques and methods on actual in-orbit hardware and software, which we imagine could help improve our space systems.

Moonlighter, dubbed "the world's first and only hacking sandbox in space," is a mid-size 3U cubesat [PDF] with a mass of about 5kg. Stowed, it is 34 cm x 11 cm x 11cm in size, and when fully deployed with its solar panels out, it measures 50 cm x 34 cm x 11 cm.

It was built by The Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development center in southern California, in partnership with the US Space Systems Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory. It will run software developed by infosec and aerospace engineers to support in-orbit cybersecurity training and exercises.

This effort was inspired by the Hack-A-Sat contest co-hosted by the US Air Force and Space Force, now in its fourth year at the annual DEF CON computer security conference. 

The goal of Moonlighter was to move offensive and defensive cyber-exercises for space systems out of an on-Earth lab setting and into low Earth orbit, according to project leader A ..

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