DOD Announces New Contract Awards for Its 'Internet in Space' Effort

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Amazon, Microsoft and SpiderOak will help the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit develop a space-based communications network.

Microsoft, SpiderOak and Amazon are among the companies that have been awarded contracts to help the federal government develop a hybrid communications network of civil, commercial and military satellites, according to an announcement from the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit—or DIU—on Wednesday. 

DIU is working with the U.S. Space Force, the Space Warfighting Analysis Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate to develop an interoperable “hybrid space architecture”—or HSA—that will allow for the secure flow of data across diverse communications networks. 

In a blog post, Jason Zander—executive vice president of Microsoft’s strategic missions and technologies team—said the HSA “will be built in part upon Microsoft Azure and will leverage key capabilities from our suite of Azure Space solutions.”

“The HSA is essentially DOD’s effort to build an internet in space and will support the department’s goal of establishing information advantage for national security,” Zander wrote. “By collaborating with commercial partners, HSA vastly expands its range of satellite and space systems across diverse orbits, ground stations and communication paths.”

In a press release announcing the awarding of four second-phase contracts to SpiderOak Mission Systems, Amazon Web Services, Amazon's Project Kuiper and Microsoft Azure Space, DIU said that the HSA will “link multiple ground communications systems with diverse satellite networks, utilizing all available links including, but not limited to, the electromagnetic radio frequency spectrum, optical inter-satellite links, military tactical data links and legacy and future ground segment wired networks.” 

The agency said this will allow for the integration of commercial and government capabilities needed to “preserve operational and informational security while enabling collaboration between services, as well as with our allies and partners.”

“This project will pursue the goals of an agile and resilient communications architecture that will be able to move data through commercial, military and allied assets, while integrating multi-domain cloud based storage and analytics,” Dr. Rogan Shimmin, DIU program manager for HSA, said in a statement. “It's time for the internet to move off-planet.” 

DIU announced in July that it awarded initial contracts for the HSA project to Aalyria Technologies, Anduril, Atlas Space Operations and Enveil to help “​​demonstrate a network architecture that leverages both commercial and government space assets across diverse orbits to provide secure, assured and low-latency data communications anywhere on and off Earth.”

In a press release, SpiderOak said the contract will enable it “to deliver the company's OrbitSecure zero-trust protocol on-orbit,” thereby helping to fulfill the HSA project’s goal of enabling end-to-end cybersecurity across the hybrid network. 

"We are thrilled to be selected by DIU and [the Space Warfighting Analysis Center] and partnered with York Space Systems to secure this mission, and we are very much looking forward to working with the other companies selected to support the entire hybrid space architecture into the future,” John Moberly, SpiderOak’s senior vice president for space, said in a statement. “Jointly, we are enabling a foundational layer of commercial industry and allied capabilities to ensure our national security is protected from the ground and from space."