A Message from Deep Space

Chad Pillai
5 min readFeb 26, 2022

Katy stared at the computer monitor in stunned silence. The message displayed was monumental, something that would forever change humanity.

A month ago, she was selected as the director of a joint U.S. Cyber and Space Command surveillance team tasked with analyzing Chinese space-based communications satellites utilizing quantum computing codes. The Chinese have made significant advances in quantum computing and artificial intelligence in the past ten years. There were fears in the U.S. national security enterprise that the Chinese would obtain technical dominance. The U.S. government poured billions into research and development by partnering with established tech giants like Google and new start-up ventures to avert this reality. The investments paid off, and the U.S. developed a quantum-based artificially intelligent supercomputer that could process trillions of mathematical variables in split seconds. The supercomputer was called ESF, an acronym for Elizabeth Smith Friedman, America’s most successful female codebreaker in WWII. Everyone involved in ESF’s development hoped it would help crack China’s quantum codes and provide sufficient warning to U.S. space-based assets monitoring as tensions mounted near the Taiwan straits. However, little did ESF’s developers know that the supercomputer would crack far more consequential codes.

Book on Elizabeth Smith Friedman

A week ago, Katy’s team received a message from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that their deep-space satellites linked to their supercomputers appeared to be hacked and picked up unusual signals. NASA wanted to know if Katy’s team could aid in determining if China was the cause of the disturbance since both the U.S. and China had ramped up their military, commercial, and scientific space programs. The commercial space programs represented trillions in potential profits as efforts to colonize the moon and Mars accelerated. Both offered substantial military potential to whoever controlled the new “Commanding Heights” of the space-based economy. To achieve dominance, the Chinese invested heavily to allow their military space program to disrupt, degrade, or destroy U.S. space-based assets. Their quantum space-based communications satellites were critical in their strategy. NASA’s deep-space satellites were not an obvious target; however, they did offer plausible deniability for the Chinese to test their space-based cyber…

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Chad Pillai

Military Officer, World Traveler, Novice Storyteller