Improving safety and reliability in space

Driven by the “space race” between global superpowers, the Apollo programme of the '60s and '70s successfully landed humans on the Moon and brought them safely home at an astronomical cost of $25.4 billion. Today, the challenge for the space industry is to improve safety and reliability against a backdrop of decreasing fiscal budgets.

Professor Chris Johnson, Head of Computing Science at Glasgow, works with NASA and the European Space Agency among others to identify and minimise risk through improved incident investigation and cybersecurity. Resilience of space infrastructure is one key and urgent area of research as the consequences of failure could have serious repercussions on our daily lives.

“Space-based systems are vital to national critical infrastructures,” says Chris. “GPS and GLONASS, its Russian equivalent, provide location and timing information for unmanned airborne vehicles, electricity distribution and road traffic management. These systems are very vulnerable to physical and cyber attacks as well as to accidental faults and mechanical failures.”

Threats to the satellite data we rely upon for a multitude of critical everyday services – train signalling, shipping and aircraft navigation, for example – are not widely recognised but, clearly, breakdown or malicious misuse could potentially be disastrous.