SpaceX seemingly takes steps to protect telemetry data after leak

Shane McGlaun - Mar 28, 2021, 10:03am CDT
SpaceX seemingly takes steps to protect telemetry data after leak

SpaceX typically broadcasts its tests in their entirety, but some amateur radio users wanted access to even more data. SpaceX is known to use specific frequency bands to communicate with its spacecraft, and some amateur radio astronomers were attempting to access the telemetry data in those broadcasts. SpaceX made a move to encrypt the video feeds after several from a Falcon 9 Starlink launch were intercepted and decoded, giving access to video typically only seen by employees.

Earlier this month, video communications between SpaceX mission control and a Falcon 9 second stage were making rounds on social media. The leaked video showed views of the Earth from the second stage rocket and inside the Liquid Oxygen tank of the second stage rocket. The amateur radio users learned the frequencies SpaceX uses because the company was forced to inform the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the frequencies used to communicate with its rockets.

That requirement meant that the frequencies were publicly available. After success with capturing video and telemetry data from the Falcon 9 launch, the amateurs decided to attempt to grab similar footage from the Starship SN11 test. The user pointed an antenna at the SN11 prototype. While he was able to capture the communication data between the test vehicle and mission controllers, unlike last time, they were unable to decrypt the information.

While the communications between SpaceX and the Falcon 9 mission previously were unencrypted, SpaceX has encrypted data between controllers and Starship. There’s a possibility that SpaceX has always encrypted data for Starship test flights and simply doesn’t bother to encrypt data for Falcon 9 missions.

Certainly, the amateur radio users will attempt to capture data from future Falcon 9 missions, and if it’s now encrypted, SpaceX has taken steps to protect its data. Leaked data certainly poses the potential to harm SpaceX as a company, and it would make sense that it would want to encrypt all of the information.

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