As space becomes increasingly commercialized, there is growing interest in establishing data centers and computing infrastructure in space. On-orbit data centers could support future initiatives like space mining, space-based solar power, space tourism, and exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Processing data in proximity not only reduces latency compared to transmitting all data back to Earth but also enables real-time decision making. Proposed concepts include modular orbital data centers, Lunar surface facilities, or networks of specialized computing satellites.

However, the harsh environment of space poses massive challenges for traditional data center designs and operations. Radiation, thermal stresses, vacuum, solar flares, and space debris all threaten reliability and resilience. Components of our spacecraft must withstand the intense vibrations during launch. Power, cooling, and radiation shielding require new approaches. Automation and software play an increasingly larger role but with limited physical access for maintenance while supply chains extend across government, military, and commercial entities, spanning the globe.

This threat model aims to analyze the assets, threats, vulnerabilities, and mitigations involved in envisioning data centers in space. It considers risks across technical domains like cybersecurity, networking, software, infrastructure, and the space environment, as well as supply chain security, insider threats, and physical tampering. A multi-disciplinary systems perspective is necessary to secure space-based data centers operating beyond the protections of Earth. This model provides an architectural overview of how threats could manifest based on the unique constraints, attack surfaces and risks involved in this hypothetical scenario.

With companies actively working on concepts like orbital cloud computing and lunar data centers, space-based computing is advancing from science fiction towards reality. Developing threat models early, even for futuristic scenarios, allows time to strengthen defenses and design robust, resilient systems to fulfill the promise of space-based data. This thought exercise in threat modeling aims to encourage “security by design” thinking by increasing awareness of what could imperil the viability of space-based data centers.



  • Physical infrastructure like computing/storage servers, network routers/switches, antennas, solar panels, batteries, cooling systems etc. Failure of or damage to any components could disrupt operations.
  • A satellite constellation comprising many small satellites for communication and inter-satellite links. Loss of key satellites could partition the network or degrade performance.
  • Automation software, APIs and management interfaces enabling remote command, control, and access. Vulnerabilities or compromise of these systems pose risks of interference or takeover.
  • Sensitive customer data, applications, computing workloads, and digital services hosted on space data center platforms. Unavailability, breach, or manipulation of these digital assets and workloads could have major consequences.

Threats: Cyber

  • Hacking of remote access mechanisms, APIs, or management interfaces to breach systems, steal data or disrupt operations.
  • Supply chain compromise of subcomponents that provide adversaries access once integrated into the space data center architecture. Vetting all subsystems is challenging with long, complex supply chains.
  • Malware infection that spreads from ground networks during pre-launch stages or in space via internet connectivity or shared components across satellites.
  • Unintentional software glitches, bugs, or configuration errors that open unexpected interference or access vectors unable to be patched post-launch. Extensive testing cannot eliminate risks.

Threats: Network interference

  • Jamming or spoofing authorized wireless links to manipulate or block data transmissions between satellites, the data center and ground stations.
  • Interception of unencrypted telemetry or customer data in transit which could be accessed or altered before forwarding to the intended recipients.

Threats: Kinetic damage

  • Impacts to satellites or space data center infrastructure from existing space debris moving at high velocities. Even debris the size of a nickel can damage components.
  • Unintentional collisions between satellites in the network constellation at different orbital altitudes and inclinations. Managing traffic across multiple satellites is complex.

Threats: Physical tampering

  • Unauthorized access to space data center components or fully integrated satellites during transportation to the launch site or final launch preparations enables adversaries to compromise systems in ways only activated once in space.
  • An employee or contractor with malicious intent damages, modifies or implants unauthorized components that threaten security or function post-launch. Insider threats are difficult to screen for.

Threats: Environmental

  • Radiation damage, like bit flips accumulating in memory storage or computer processors over long-duration space missions, degrading functionality or corrupting critical systems.
  • Power surges overwhelming components sensitive to voltage spikes and fluctuations. The space environment introduces higher radiation and more frequent thermal cycling stresses.
  • Cooling system malfunctions that result in overheating, so much to the point of damage or failure in sensitive components not designed to operate beyond certain temperature thresholds for extended periods.


  • Limited cyber defenses and insecure protocols/interfaces providing attack vectors for adversaries.
  • Software faults, bugs and weaknesses that evaded testing and threaten systems once deployed.
  • Poor supply chain security controls enabling compromised subcomponents to infiltrate space systems.
  • Unencrypted data links that can be manipulated or intercepted and used to disrupt space data center operations.
  • Limited options for emergency servicing or software patching to address issues post-launch.
  • Exposure of systems and infrastructure without adequate radiation shielding or hardening.
  • Failure to adequately protect space data center during vulnerable stages like transportation or pre-launch.
  • Single points of failure in critical systems without backup components or redundancy.


  • Employ strong authentication, monitoring, encryption and other cyber defenses for all systems and communications.
  • Establish constellation management for space weather/debris monitoring, frequency allocation and data routing between satellites.
  • Implement redundancy in power, computing, networking, and other critical systems including backup satellites and spare components.
  • Rigorously test software and vet subcomponents to validate security and minimize potential faults pre-launch.
  • Use space-grade components with radiation shielding and additional protective measures.
  • Clearly define supply chain transparency and compliance control requirements for all space data center equipment.
  • Conduct regular audits, failure testing and security risk assessments to identify additional vulnerabilities.
  • Establish physical security and monitoring to detect any unauthorized access with appropriate response procedures.
  • Diversify infrastructure by spreading assets across locations and using laser/optical inter-satellite links less prone to interference.
  • Review and update procedures, technology, policies, and operating models continuously based on latest threats and lessons learned.



The unique challenges of the space environment necessitate a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to secure space-based data centers. Traditional data center security measures must adapt to new threats like radiation, thermal stresses, supply chain vulnerabilities and kinetic damage while also addressing risks from software errors to insider threats. As space-based computing moves towards reality, investing in robust threat modeling and “security-by-design” principles from the early stages of planning can help builders preemptively identify and mitigate risks. With adequate foresight, preparation and cooperation, data centers in space could someday provide capabilities enabling discoveries and innovations not possible from Earth.