Emergent Awarded AFWERX Subcontract by RunSafe Security for Demonstration of Cyber–Hardened Flight Software
Emergent Space Technologies, Inc. (Emergent) of Laurel, Maryland was awarded a subcontract by RunSafe Security, Inc. (RunSafe) of McLean, Virginia to cyber harden Emergent’s middleware-based flight software (FSW) integration framework via integration with their Alkemist:Code product. The contract was awarded through the 2020 AFWERX Space Challenge, for which RunSafe and Emergent were one of the few awardees selected out of the hundreds of companies that submitted abstracts, participated in the showcase, and ultimately presented to DoD stakeholders at a private Pitch Day. AFWERX is a United States Air Force program with the goal of fostering a culture of innovation within the service. Encompassing a number of programs supported with relatively small amounts of funding, the AFWERX initiative is intended to circumvent bureaucracy and engage new entrepreneurs in Air Force programs.
Emergent ‘s FSW integration framework, called Gear, provides a modular open-source architecture (MOSA) that adapts FSW applications, or apps, to the different middleware and operating systems used for the command and data handling (C&DH) of spacecraft buses and payloads. Gear enables 3rd party FSW app vendors, including Emergent, to rapidly develop, integrate, test and deploy apps for onboard spacecraft autonomy, command and control, cloud computing and machine learning, and more. Alkemist:Code performs software executable cyber hardening at build time to prevent memory corruption vulnerabilities, return/jump oriented programming attaches, supply chain attacks, and zero-day attacks. The Alkemist:Code product will be integrated into Emergent’s Gear framework so Emergent’s flight software product deployments can take advantage of the cutting-edge cybersecurity research performed by RunSafe. Accordingly, this effort addresses one of the critical attack vectors identified in Emergent’s FSW defense-in-depth cyber strategy.
“We are excited to work with RunSafe Security to apply industry’s best protections from the most common cyber exploits used in ground-based applications. While space systems were previously not considered vulnerable to the types of cyber exploits that Alkemist:Code protects software from, that is no longer the case due to increased FSW autonomy, networked constellations, and proximity threats,” said Timothy Esposito, Emergent’s Chief Software Architect and Principal Investigator for the project. Other critical Emergent FSW cyber strategy current and future planned efforts include: Gear Root of Trust application loader; Guardian product fault detection, isolation, and recovery (FDIR) algorithms for command intrusion, payload control, and malware detection; Cirrus Compute service cyber watchdog; Gear Encryption service for messaging and data at rest; and the Gear Security Policy Manager.