Cryptographic ICE Cube tests orbital cybersecurity protocols aboard the ISS

Cryptographic ICE Cube tests orbital cybersecurity protocols aboard the ISS

6:46pm, 31st July, 2019
Encryption in space can be tricky. Even if you do everything right, a cosmic ray might come along and flip a bit, sabotaging the whole secure protocol. So if you can’t radiation-harden the computer, what can you do? European Space Agency researchers are testing solutions right now in an experiment running on board the ISS. Cosmic radiation flipping bits may sound like a rare occurrence, and in a way it is. But satellites and spacecraft are out there for a long time and it it only takes one such incident to potentially scuttle a whole mission. What can you do if you’re locked out of your own satellite? At that point it’s pretty much space junk. Just wait for it to burn up. Larger, more expensive missions like GPS satellites and interplanetary craft use that are carefully proofed against cosmic rays and other things that go bump in the endless night out there. But these bespoke solutions are expensive and often bulky and heavy; if you’re trying to minimize costs and space to launch a constellation or student project, hardening isn’t always an option. “We’re testing two related approaches to the encryption problem for non rad-hardened systems,” . To keep costs down and hardware recognizable, the team is using a Raspberry Pi Zero board, one of the simplest and lowest-cost full-fledged computers you can buy these days. It’s mostly unmodified, just coated to meet ISS safety requirements. It’s the heart of the Cryptography International Commercial Experiments Cube, or Cryptographic ICE Cube, or CryptIC. The first option they’re pursuing is a relatively traditional software one: hard-coded backup keys. If a bit gets flipped and the current encryption key is no longer valid, they can switch to one of those. “This needs to be done in a secure and reliable way, to restore the secure link very quickly,” said Armborst. It relies on “a secondary fall-back base key, which is wired into the hardware so it cannot be compromised. However, this hardware solution can only be done for a limited number of keys, reducing flexibility.” If you’re expecting one failure per year and a five year mission, you could put 20 keys and be done with it. But for longer missions or higher exposures, you might want something more robust. That’s the other option, an “experimental hardware reconfiguration approach.” “A number of microprocessor cores are inside CryptIC as customizable, field-programmable gate arrays, rather than fixed computer chips,” Armborst explained. “These cores are redundant copies of the same functionality. Accordingly, if one core fails then another can step in, while the faulty core reloads its configuration, thereby repairing itself.” In other words, the encryption software would be running in parallel with itself and one part would be ready to take over and serve as a template for repairs should another core fail due to radiation interference. A CERN-developed radiation dosimeter is flying inside the enclosure as well, measuring the exposure the device has over the next year of operation. And a set of flash memory units are sitting inside to see which is the most reliable in orbital conditions. Like many experiments on the ISS, this one has many purposes. The encryption tests are set to begin shortly and we’ll know how the two methods fared next summer.
Atlas Air 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas with 3 people aboard; remains found amid wreckage

Atlas Air 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas with 3 people aboard; remains found amid wreckage

7:54pm, 23rd February, 2019
An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 cargo jet flies over Seattle in 2016. (Red Box Pictures Photo / Scott Eklund) An Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet crashed today into Trinity Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast with three people on board, . “Human remains have been found on scene,” . “At this time, there are no signs of survivors.” The plane is part of the Amazon Air package delivery fleet, . It was heading from Miami to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport when radar and radio contact was lost shortly before 12:45 p.m. CT (10:45 a.m. PT), about 30 miles southeast of Houston, the FAA said. Local TV stations aired video showing a long trail of debris in the bay’s shallow waters. “Who knows what’s under the water that we can’t see, but it looks like total devastation from the aircraft part,” . “Knowing what I saw, I don’t believe anybody could survive it.” Names of the crew were not released. Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to the accident site. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation. New York-based Atlas Air Worldwide, which operated the plane on Amazon’s behalf, said it is cooperating fully with the FAA and the NTSB. “We can confirm there were three people on board the aircraft,” “Those people and their family members are our top priority at this time.” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, expressed sympathy and concern. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the flight crew, their families and friends along with the entire team at Atlas Air during this terrible tragedy,” Clark said in a written statement sent to GeekWire. “We appreciate the first responders who worked urgently to provide support.” Boeing said it was “deeply saddened to learn of the Atlas Air 767 freighter that crashed near Anahuac, TX, earlier today.” “We are concerned about the safety of the three people reported to be on board,” . “Boeing is prepared to provide technical assistance to the NTSB as it investigates the accident.” Atlas Air and another leasing company, Air Transport Services Group, or ATSG, each operate 20 Boeing 767-300 jets to serve Amazon’s delivery network. The service was launched in 2016, and now flies in and out of more than 20 airports. Today’s incident was the first fatal air accident connected with the Amazon transport operation. Last December, Amazon said it would work with ATSG to over the next couple of years. Atlas Air Flight 3591 made use of a 767 jet that was converted from a passenger aircraft to cargo, and entered service with Atlas in April 2017, . The plane was registered with the tail number N1217A. Like all the tail numbers associated with planes servicing the Amazon network, . Pilots working for Atlas Air and ABX Air, a subsidiary of ATSG, have relating to the Amazon delivery operation. But it’s way too early to say whether such issues played a role in today’s crash, or to speculate about the cause of the crash.
Atlas 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas with 3 people aboard

Atlas 767 cargo jet, part of Amazon fleet, crashes in Texas with 3 people aboard

6:52pm, 23rd February, 2019
An Amazon-branded Boeing 767 cargo jet flies over Seattle in 2016. (Red Box Pictures Photo / Scott Eklund) An Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet crashed today into Trinity Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast with three people on board, . The plane is part of the Amazon Air package delivery fleet, according to aviation records. It was heading from Miami to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport when radar and radio contact was lost shortly before 12:45 p.m. CT (10:45 a.m. PT), about 30 miles southeast of Houston, the FAA said. There was no immediate word about the fate of the crew, and no names were released. Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to the accident site. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation. New York-based Atlas Air, which leases the planes for Amazon’s use, said it is cooperating fully with the FAA and the NTSB. Amazon expressed its concern and sympathy in a statement from Dave Clark, the company’s senior vice president of worldwide operations. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the flight crew, their families and friends along with the entire team at Atlas Air during this terrible tragedy,” Clark said. “We appreciate the first responders who worked urgently to provide support.” Boeing said it was “deeply saddened to learn of the Atlas Air 767 freighter that crashed near Anahuac, TX, earlier today.” “We are concerned about the safety of the three people reported to be on board,” . “Boeing is prepared to provide technical assistance to the NTSB as it investigates the accident.” Check back for updates in this developing story.