SSC satellite, ground systems experts augment support to Hack-A-Sat 3 final event Oct. 22-23

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  • By SSC Public Affairs
Space Systems Command satellite and ground systems experts join Hack-A-Sat 3’s final event October 22-23 to provide integral support and oversight for the radical satellite challenge.

The event will award cash prizes to the top three teams:  $50,000 first place, $30,000 second place, and $20,000 third place, after submitting an “acceptable” whitepaper within three weeks of the final event. The technical paper should describe the team’s approach to winning the game, to include a description of the attack strategies and defensive measures employed during the final event.

Hack-A-Sat is a competition sponsored by SSC and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) designed for security researchers to hack and learn in an open collaborative environment with the goal of improving the security and resilience of space systems.

In previous years, the competition took place on physical hardware called a flat sat. This year’s Hack-A-Sat 3 is designed completely within digital twin software. The digital twin simulates a more realistic space environment for the competition compared to previous years.

"Hack-A-Sat is a very unique effort that looks to build a unity of effort with academia, industry, and the research community to maximize collaboration when it comes to building resilient space systems,” said Col. Kenneth Decker, director of Engineering, Space Domain Awareness and Combat Power (SDACP); and Battle Management Command, Control, and Communications (BMC3). “It strives to build a culture of experts by presenting cyber and space challenges for talents of all types to solve in their own way.  Next year will be an amazing opportunity with the launch of Moonlighter to build upon this culture and strive for space security."

This year’s event is a prelude to the 2023 competition which will provide an on-orbit satellite platform. Hack-A-Sat 3 is based on the specs for the Moonlighter, a satellite currently-in-development and scheduled to launch in 2023. The Moonlighter is designed and built for the purposes of advancing cyber security researcher knowledge and skills in securing space systems.

Next year’s Hack-A-Sat 4 teams will be testing their skills on the Moonlighter in an actual on-orbit environment. Moonlighter will be the world’s first purpose-built satellite for cybersecurity training and research - a hacking sandbox in space. 

“We are looking to push the limits next year by bringing in a level of realism never seen before in the Capture-the-Flag (CTF) world,” said Capt. Elijha Williams, SSC’s program manager for Space Security Challenge. “This is going to be a very complex competition that will require a team with a diverse set of skills ranging from satellite operations and radio frequency (RF) communications to reverse engineering and exploit development.”

To learn more about Hack-A-Sat 3, please go to and follow Hack-A-Sat at @hack_a_sat or at @USSF_SSC on Twitter.