A popular public website that tracks Deep Space Network (DSN) activity has been pulled offline for what NASA refers to as a “cyber security study” related to future Artemis missions.

NASA’s long-running DSN Now website provides a graphical representation of DSN activity at its three locations in Australia, California, and Spain. The site offers real-time information on which antennas at each site are sending or receiving data from missions throughout the solar system, illustrating the network’s degree of activity. This information can sometimes reveal insights about mission status before public announcements.

Nevertheless, the DSN Now website has been unavailable since early this month. Visitors were initially greeted with a message stating that the site was undergoing maintenance, but no further information was provided regarding when it will be operational again.

Deep Space Network

On February 16, JPL stated to SpaceNews that it was conducting a “preemptive cyber security evaluation” of the data provided by DSN Now, which was prompted by the network’s support for future crewed Artemis missions.
“NASA and the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are conducting a preemptive cyber security review of the real-time data provided on the Deep Space Network Now website as the agency prepares to support communications and navigation needs for crewed Artemis missions to the Moon using the Deep Space Network,” according to JPL. It was stated that DSN Now would be unavailable throughout the review but did not specify how long this would take.

NASA utilized the DSN extensively during the unmanned Artemis 1 mission late last year. An industry insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, suggests that NASA may be concerned that DSN Now provided information regarding interactions with Artemis that could allow eavesdropping or jamming of communications with the crewed Orion spacecraft. Unlike the DSN, other NASA missions involving crewed vehicles, such as the International Space Station and private crew vehicles, utilize different networks that lack comparable public-facing facilities.
Philip Baldwin, network operations manager for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Program, informed the Planetary Science Advisory Committee in December that demand for DSN time from both science missions and Artemis will considerably exceed DSN capacity later in the decade and into the 2030s.

“The human spaceflight exploration missions will be challenging,” he said, “as we try to account for those increases” in demand. NASA is investigating strategies to improve DSN capabilities without producing an “overbuilt” network with excessive capacity. This could potentially include using non-DSN antennas as well as data relay assets on the moon and Mars, possibly combining optical communications.


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