Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Richard A. Raines, PhD


The U.S. military’s increasing reliance on commercial and military communications satellites to enable widely-dispersed, mobile forces to communicate makes these space assets increasingly vulnerable to attack by adversaries. Attacks on these satellites could cause military communications to become unavailable at critical moments during a conflict. This research dissected a typical satellite communications system in order to provide an understanding of the possible attacker entry points into the system, to determine the vulnerabilities associated with each of these access points, and to analyze the possible impacts of these vulnerabilities to U.S. military operations. By understanding these vulnerabilities of U.S. communications satellite systems, methods can be developed to mitigate these threats and protect future systems. This research concluded that the satellite antenna is the most vulnerable component of the satellite communications system’s space segment. The antenna makes the satellite vulnerable to intentional attacks such as: RF jamming, spoofing, meaconing, and deliberate physical attack. The most vulnerable Earth segment component was found to be the Earth station network, which incorporates both Earth station and NOC vulnerabilities. Earth segment vulnerabilities include RF jamming, deliberate physical attack, and Internet connection vulnerabilities. The most vulnerable user segment components were found to be the SSPs and PoPs. SSPs are subject to the vulnerabilities of the services offered, the vulnerabilities of Internet connectivity, and the vulnerabilities associated with operating the VSAT central hub. PoPs are susceptible to the vulnerabilities of the PoP routers, the vulnerabilities of Internet and Intranet connectivity, and the vulnerabilities associated with cellular network access.

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