5G communications technology is crucial to the U.S. Space Force and will be part of the new organization’s mission. The tech, which will deliver the internet at previously unseen speeds worldwide, will in many cases be delivered via a constellation of relay satellites in low-Earth orbit, many of which will be the property of U.S. companies. Like previous generations, so-called “fifth generation/5G” technology will likely reach into the lives of billions of people on Earth, making it imperative that the Space Force secures the data stream from foreign espionage.
According to CNBC, the Space Force believes that 5G is part of their domain. The biggest concern right now is that that Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is allowed to build out infrastructure in Western countries...
The concern, shared by the Space Force and the U.S. government in general, is that Huawei builds backdoors into its equipment capable of being used by the Chinese government or any group with access to them. This could allow Beijing or others to covertly read data streams passing through Huawei hardware. While a compromise of consumer data is bad enough, it’s inevitable that Western governments and military organizations will eventually use 5G for their own purposes, and such traffic could be routed through compromised networks.
Huawei denies any ties to the Chinese government. It also denies that its hardware is in some way compromised to allow snooping. However, in January 2019 Reuters reported the company’s engineers had worked with the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese armed forces, on a number of projects including radio communications and artificial intelligence. European carrier Vodafone reported it found backdoors in Huawei equipment in 2011. Vodafone asked Huawei to remove the backdoors and was assured the problem had been fixed, but the backdoors persisted.
Earlier this month, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien stated that Huawei, “has the capability secretly to access sensitive and personal information in systems it maintains and sells around the world.”
In addition to keeping Chinese equipment out of the U.S’s 5G network, the constellations of satellites many companies are building to support worldwide networks will be of interest to the Space Force. SpaceX plans to deploy up to 12,000 Starlink relay satellites, with other companies such as Amazon following suit.
If satellite Internet does take off, the services it provides could become as crucial to the U.S.—and world—economy as GPS. Just as the U.S. Navy patrols the sea lanes on Earth that connect countries and facilitate trade, the Space Force may need to patrol space to defend the invisible lanes that connect countries via space. While that may not mean building space battlecruisers, it may mean observing the space activities of potential adversaries and preparing to counter any moves against satellite networks.
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