The Elara Edge: Expert Insights on Space Security

Episode 1: The AI Advantage for National Security Space

00:00 – 01:14
Hello and welcome to the inaugural episode of
The Elara Edge: Expert Insights on Space Security. I’m your host, Scott King, and today’s subject is artificial intelligence applications and national security space. Since the launch of ChatGPT in March of 2023, generative AI has seemingly taken the world by storm, becoming the topic of conversation and concern for its potential to affect just about every industry.

Leaders at the Department of Defense have taken notice, too, having launched what’s known as “Task Force Lima” to understand the ramifications and use cases for AI across the DOD. In today’s episode, I am joined by Elara Nova, founding partner and retired Major General Kim Crider, former Chief Technology Innovation Officer for the United States Space Force. Together, we’re going to explore the wide range of applications for AI in national security space, as well as the inherent risks and challenges the Space Force faces in developing it responsibly.

General Crider, thank you for joining me today. This is not the first time the Department of Defense has explored artificial intelligence. Can you bring us up to speed on the historical relationship between the DOD and artificial intelligence?

01:14 – 02:19
Yeah. Thanks, Scott. Yeah, artificial intelligence really came into the forefront within the DOD in the last 5 to 10 years as the Air Force and specifically the intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance community in the Air Force was looking for ways to use AI to be able to better support intel analysts and their ability to understand what’s happening in a specific operation.

You know, when these analysts were looking at imagery on end day in and day out, 24 seven, they’re trying to discern an understanding of what it is that they’re looking at and what might portend a specific threat and be able to derive insights from it. The fact of the matter is you’ve got humans looking at immense amounts of information and trying to glean a very specific insight.

So the Air Force got very focused on what we know as Project MAVEN, a program to teach machines using computer vision technologies, what it is contained in that imagery and what to look for in that imagery that could provide insights for those humans to make better judgments. Project MAVEN really is the first major application of AI to a mission area within the Air Force and the DOD.

02:20 – 02:31
So AI can ease the burden of the warfighter going through high volumes of data so that they can best identify threats and respond accordingly. But what are some other kind of broader applications for AI, particularly in the space domain?

02:32 – 04:31
 The application of AI to the space domain comes into a lot of different areas. Space domain awareness is certainly top of mind, both within Space Operations Command and U.S. Space Command, the broader combatant command.

We hear General John Dickinson talking a lot about the importance of the application of AI to space domain awareness. We’ve heard General Shaw, he’s spoken many times about trying to understand the domain and do intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in the domain and the need for artificial intelligence to support and enable that. And then there are many other areas, many other mission areas within space where we can benefit from the use of artificial intelligence.

We think about missile warning and tracking and using AI to discern and help provide insights on the potential for missiles to be launched, where those missiles are coming from, and if a missile is launched supporting the tracking of those missiles through the atmosphere or through space and where it’s heading. These are really critical applications of AI to the space community and to the warfighters that depend so heavily on the use of space.

We can often talk about the use of AI to optimize the availability of services to those warfighters to users on the ground, for example, in determining and optimizing the availability of satellite communications. There’s many different satellite communications capabilities that are up there. And as we look to integrate more commercial satellite systems into our overall hybrid architecture, this problem is going to become much more important and much more complex because users on the ground are fundamentally looking to have maximum accessibility to their satellite communications.

So we can use AI to optimize the availability of those services to those users and ensure that quality of service is there when and where those users require it. These are all different ways in which artificial intelligence is already being looked at to be applied in the space community and are already being applied in many of our space mission areas.

04:32 – 04:47
Emerging technologies like AI are known for evolving at exponential rates. So how can the Space Force and the DOD at large stay ahead of the innovative curve, so to speak, to leverage the latest and greatest that A.I. technology has to offer?

04:47 – 06:59
This is a really important question, because it is true that artificial intelligence and many of the emerging technologies that are out there today are evolving very quickly, and our ability to use these capabilities more effectively is also evolving very quickly as we come to greater and greater understanding of how to leverage these technologies.

But there is a learning curve and an adoption curve that we have to continue to stay in front of. The best way to do that is to ensure we have active communication, coordination and collaboration with industry, that we have ways to bring industry in on a continuous basis to experiment with the technologies to talk about the problem sets that we’re trying to address and to set up infrastructure and framework so that we can incorporate new advances in artificial intelligence software.

The advancements in AI are really coming out of the commercial industry space. We see so many companies today that are developing new artificial intelligence capabilities. They’re spending a lot of time thinking about different problem sets, where those capabilities can be applied, problems that are not just military problems, but commercial problems as well. And looking at applying their technologies in very dual-use ways.

So maintaining that active collaboration with the commercial industry partners is absolutely critical. And we do this already today in a variety of ways. We do it through our reverse industry days. Those have been very successful. In fact, we had a really invaluable reverse Industry Day last year that was very much focused on AI. There are a lot of industry partners that participated large, medium and small companies.

We had investor community folks that were there and of course the government folks were there and there was just an active dialogue and active conversation about the use of AI and about how I can be applied in a lot of different areas to support military operations in space, to support ground operations, to support business functions that every organization is trying to accelerate and improve their effectiveness and efficiency around.

07:00 – 07:22
In recent years, U.S. adversaries have each begun investing heavily in AI for space-based military capabilities. China has established its Strategic Support Force and Russia its Artificial Intelligence Department within its Ministry of Defense. So how can the Space Force and U.S. Space Command not only develop A.I. technologies to meet these pacing threats, but also to do so responsibly?

07:23 – 09:15
It’s no secret that our staunchest adversaries, China and Russia, are actively investing in artificial intelligence to advance their capabilities, to try to thwart our ability to effectively use AI to protect ourselves. That will certainly continue to drive focus and investment on how we can best apply AI to support our needs. But we also have to recognize that artificial intelligence is essentially algorithms that are fundamentally based on software.

And software, as we know, always has the potential to be compromised. So we’ve got to be able to develop our systems to be protected. We’ve got to be able to develop our systems with the appropriate amount of zero trust technologies that assure that those that are trying to access our systems are authenticated and authorized to have access into those systems and use that software.

But we also have to, in the development of the artificial intelligence algorithms themselves, think about how are we going to verify and validate the trustworthiness of these algorithms? How are we going to assure that the algorithms themselves work in the way that that we intend them to when they’re taking action on large amounts of data? How are we going to assess the quality of the data that the algorithms are leveraging the completeness of that data to assure that the outcomes that come from that AI result aren’t skewed with a certain amount of bias?

How do we ensure that our algorithms stay current and over time don’t start to drift toward some specific skewed outcome because the data that is being fed to them is is limited. These are critical to ensure that when we’re implementing AI, we can trust it and we can continuously assess the viability and efficacy of the results that we’re getting from it.

09:16 – 09:37
And then where does Elara Nova fit into all of this? As a consulting firm in national security space. You’re part of a team of military and space industry experts prepared to bridge this gap and developing solutions for the space domain. How can we learn over prepare industry partners to meet the requirements put forward by the Space Force and US Space Command, particularly as it relates to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence?

09:38 – 10:49
That’s exactly right, Scott. We are a team of military and industry space experts. That’s what Elara Nova is all about. We are an organization that was formed to bring the best expertise to bear from folks that have spent decades of their careers in national security space, from a military standpoint, an intelligence standpoint, a civil space standpoint, and a commercial standpoint in really understanding what the national security challenges are and how space capabilities can best meet those challenges.

We understand what the needs are, but we understand the national security space capabilities that are available today. We understand where there are gaps and where there are problems that still need to be solved. And we have an understanding of how industry can bring solutions and bring advanced technology to help solve those problems and create competitive advantage for the U.S. We really are an organization that looks to act as a bridge to connect the best of industry solutions to our most dire and critical national security space needs.

10:50 – 11:34
If you’re interested in learning more about AI applications for national security space and how it can be used to establish a strategic advantage in the space domain, visit the insights page at www.elaranova.com. This has been an episode of
The Edge Expert Insights on Space Security. As a global consultancy and professional services firm focused on helping businesses and government agencies maximize the strategic advantages of the space domain.

Elara Nova is your source for expertise and guidance in space security. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe to our channel and leave us a rating. This episode was edited and produced by Region Multimedia Services. I’m your host, Scott King, and join us next time at
The Elara Edge.