October 16, 2021

SpaceX appears to encrypt Falcon 9’s telemetry after intercepting radio amateurs

SpaceX seems to have started using encryption to make the telemetry and video feed of the Falcon 9 no longer transparent to third parties. The move follows media attention for radio amateurs who intercepted the telemetry.

Falcon 9 signal

On Reddit, derekcz reports that the video broadcast of the Falcon 9 missile contains only noise , a sign that the stream is encrypted. For several weeks, Derekcz and user Xerbot were able to decode the rocket’s video stream and publish images. The radio amateurs also managed to intercept telemetry and convert it into plain text.

They used software-defined radio using a HackRF module and a satellite dish to intercept the downlink at 2232.5MHz. For the demodulation they used GNU Radio. SpaceX has given no reason for the decision to encrypt the stream. Derekcz points out that SpaceX has been sending the data unencrypted for more than a decade. He therefore does not think that the decoding by radio amateurs is the basis for the decision, but rather the publicity and incorrect reporting about it.

Falcon 9 video

He previously reported that it was not sensitive data from the Falcon 9 and that the Starship’s telemetry was already encrypted.