Posts Tagged ‘satellite’

German TanDEM-X satellite seeks 3D view of Earth (BBC)

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

_48126100_00_tandem-x_dem_h_henmodell

[Editor's note: Second of a pair of new satellites, now operational, will build higher resolution (with more vertical precision) view of Earth than prior SRTM efforts (90m free, 30m restricted). Graphic shows the same area in different DEM (DTM) resolutions. The 12 meter pixel size of the new commercial project is global, but inconsistent with the 10 meter DEMs available in the United States. Thanks Thierry_G!]

Republished from the BBC.

The TanDEM-X satellite has blasted into orbit on a mission to acquire the most precise 3D map of the Earth’s surface. The German radar spacecraft will fly in formation with an identical platform called TerraSAR-X launched in 2007. Together, the pair will measure the variation in height across the globe to an accuracy of better than two metres. Their digital elevation model will have myriad uses, from helping military jets fly ultra low to showing relief workers where an earthquake’s damage is worst.

“Our aim is to generate a model at a resolution and a quality that doesn’t exist today,” explained Dr Vark Helfritz, from satellite image-processing company Infoterra GmbH. “This will be a truly seamless global product – not a patchwork of datasets that have been fitted together,” he told BBC News. TanDEM-X was carried into space atop a converted intercontinental ballistic missile from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Continue reading at the BBC . . .

The Internet’s Undersea World (Guardian)

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

[Editor's note: Wireless is all the buzz but good old copper and fiber-optic cables link most of us together, as this graphic from last year's Guardian newspaper shows.]

Republished from the Guardian newspaper (UK).

The vast majority of the world’s communications are not carried by satellites but an altogether older technology: cables under the earth’s oceans. As a ship accidently wipes out Asia’s net access [in 2008-ed], this map showss how we rely on collections of wires of less than 10 cm diameter to link us all together.

View larger JPG version (hi-res pdf).

seacablehi

Collision Aftermath (Wash Post)

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

[Editor's note: Last week's collision of two satellites added to a growing list of "junk" polluting the envelope around our planet with the flotsam and jetsam of our satellite-dependent civilization. The rubbish is increasingly a hazard for human spaceflight and has put important equipment such as the Hubble Space Telescope and communications satellites at risk of being struck by an object moving at hypervelocity. This graphic from Patterson Clark shows where the collision occurred in relation to important platforms.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Originally published: 13 February 2009.
Graphic by Patterson Clark.

Two satellites smashed together Tuesday, creating a spreading cloud of space junk that slightly increases the chance that other spacecraft could be damaged by the debris.

Related article from Wired: Lost in Space: 8 Weird Pieces of Space Junk


SOURCES: NASA; Union of Concerned Scientists; staff reports

Related article: Satellite Collision Adds to ‘Space Junk’ Problem

By Joel Achenbach

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 14, 2009; Page A03

Satellite 33442 orbits Earth every 91 minutes, circling at an inclination of 56.1 degrees to the equator and gradually slowing down, destined to fall into the atmosphere in late spring or summer and burn up. Aficionados of satellites know that 33442 is a tool bag. A spacewalking astronaut let it slip last year, adding one more tiny, artificial moon to the junk in low Earth orbit.

The military has a running catalog of more than 19,000 pieces of orbital debris. This week, the census of space schmutz suddenly jumped by 600 — the initial estimate of the number of fragments from Tuesday’s stunning collision of two satellites high above Siberia.

Space is now polluted with the flotsam and jetsam of a satellite-dependent civilization. The rubbish is increasingly a hazard for human spaceflight and has put important equipment such as the Hubble Space Telescope and communications satellites at risk of being struck by an object moving at hypervelocity.

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Google Earth helps yet worries government (USA Today)

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

[Editor's note: I was able to attend the reception for GeoEye-1 at the fabulous Newseum last week in Washington, DC. The imagery from this new satellite is truly awesome. Look for it soon in The Washington Post, and in Google Earth.]

Republished from USA Today, Nov. 6, 2008. By Peter Eisler.

WASHINGTON — The secretive National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is rushing to get the latest, high-definition satellite photos of Afghanistan into the hands of U.S. ground troops as they ramp up operations in the country’s tangled terrain.

The NGA analysts aren’t tapping the government’s huge network of highly classified spy satellites; they’re getting the pictures from commercial vendors. That’s the same stuff pretty much anyone can get, either through free, online programs, such as Google Earth, or by buying it from the same companies supplying Uncle Sam.

It’s a remarkable turn, given the warnings that security experts in the USA and worldwide raised a few years ago about giving the entire planet — terrorists and rogue states included — access to high-resolution satellite photos once available only to superpowers.

Last month, the most powerful commercial satellite in history sent its first pictures back to Earth, and another with similar capabilities is set for launch in mid-2009. The imagery provided by those and other commercial satellites has transformed global security in fundamental ways, forcing even the most powerful nations to hide facilities and activities that are visible not only to rival nations, but even to their own citizens.

Although no one disputes that commercial imagery poses threats, it has been embraced in ways few predicted.

“It’s created a lot of opportunities to do things we couldn’t do with (classified) imagery,” says Jack Hild, a deputy director at NGA, which provides imagery and mapping for defense and homeland security operations.

Pictures from government satellites are better than commercial photos, but how much better is a secret. Only people with security clearances generally are allowed to see them. Using commercial products, intelligence agencies can provide imagery for combat troops, which wasn’t possible before because of the risk of it reaching enemy hands and even international coalition partners.

Federal agencies use commercial imagery to guide emergency response and inform the public during natural disasters, such as this year’s Hurricane Ike. It’s also used by government scientists to monitor glacial melting and drought effects in the Farm Belt.

When commercial satellite photos first hit the market, “the gut reaction was, ‘We can’t allow this imagery to be out there because someone might do us harm with it,’ ” Hild says. “Are there still bad things that people can do with commercial imagery? Absolutely … but we think the benefits far outweigh the risks.”

Other nations share the sentiment. U.S. and foreign government contracts provide critical income for commercial imagery companies, such as Digital Globe and GeoEye — both of which supply photos for Google Earth.

“Most of our revenue (is) from governments,” says Mark Brender, vice president of GeoEye, which got half its 2007 revenue from the U.S. government and 35% from foreign governments. “They have a core competency in understanding how to use this technology — and a national security imperative to do so.”

In August 2006, the Islamic Army in Iraq circulated an instructional video on how to aim rockets at U.S. military sites using Google Earth.

Posted on a jihadist website, the video showed a computer using the program to zoom in for close-up views of buildings at Iraq’s Rasheed Airport, according to an unclassified U.S. intelligence report obtained by USA TODAY. The segment ended with the caption, “Islamic Army in Iraq/The Military Engineering Unit — Preparations for Rocket Attack.”

The video appeared to fulfill the dire predictions raised by security experts in the USA and across the globe when Google began offering free Internet access to worldwide satellite imagery in 2005. Officials in countries as diverse as Australia, India, Israel and the Netherlands complained publicly that it would be a boon to terrorists and hostile states, especially since the pictures often provide a site’s map coordinates.

Indeed, some terrorist attacks have been planned with the help of Google Earth, including an event in 2006 in which terrorists used car bombs in an unsuccessful effort to destroy oil facilities in Yemen, according to Yemeni press reports. Images from Google Earth and other commercial sources have been found in safe houses used by al-Qaeda and other terror groups, according to the Pentagon.

Many security experts say commercial imagery does little to enhance the capabilities of such organizations.

“You can get the same (scouting) information just by walking around” with a map and a GPS device, says John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a research organization specializing in defense and intelligence policy. The imagery “may give someone precise coordinates (for a target), but they need precise weapons … and their ability to target discrete parts of a particular site is pretty limited. People who think this gives you magical powers watch too many Tom Clancy movies.”

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Satellite-Surveillance Program to Begin Despite Privacy Concerns (WSJ)

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Republished from the Wall Street Journal, Oct. 1st, 2008. By SIOBHAN GORMAN. Thanks Laris!

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security will proceed with the first phase of a controversial satellite-surveillance program, even though an independent review found the department hasn’t yet ensured the program will comply with privacy laws.

Congress provided partial funding for the program in a little-debated $634 billion spending measure that will fund the government until early March. For the past year, the Bush administration had been fighting Democratic lawmakers over the spy program, known as the National Applications Office.

The program is designed to provide federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery — but no eavesdropping — to assist with emergency response and other domestic-security needs, such as identifying where ports or border areas are vulnerable to terrorism.

Since the department proposed the program a year ago, several Democratic lawmakers have said that turning the spy lens on America could violate Americans’ privacy and civil liberties unless adequate safeguards were required.

A new 60-page Government Accountability Office report said the department “lacks assurance that NAO operations will comply with applicable laws and privacy and civil liberties standards,” according to a person familiar with the document. The report, which is unclassified but considered sensitive, hasn’t been publicly released, but was described and quoted by several people who have read it.

The report cites gaps in privacy safeguards. The department, it found, lacks controls to prevent improper use of domestic-intelligence data by other agencies and provided insufficient assurance that requests for classified information will be fully reviewed to ensure it can be legally provided.

A senior homeland-security official took issue with the GAO’s broad conclusion, saying the department has worked hard to include many layers of privacy protection. Program activities have “an unprecedented amount of legal review,” he said, adding that the GAO is seeking a level of proof that can’t be demonstrated until the program is launched.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said department officials concluded that the program “complies with all existing laws” because the GAO report didn’t say the program doesn’t.

Addressing the gaps the agency cited, Ms. Keehner said current laws already govern the use of intelligence data and the department has an additional procedure to monitor its use. The department will also work with other intelligence agencies to “ensure that legal reviews and protection of classified information will be effective,” she said.

In response to the GAO report, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi and other Democrats asked Congress to freeze the money for the program until after the November election so the next administration could examine it.

But the bill Congress approved, which President George W. Bush signed into law Tuesday, allows the department to launch a limited version, focused only on emergency response and scientific needs. The department must meet additional requirements before it can expand operations to include homeland-security and law-enforcement surveillance.

The restrictions were “the most we could have required without a complete prohibition,” said Darek Newby, an aide to Democratic Rep. David Price of North Carolina, who heads the House homeland-security spending panel.

But California Rep. Jane Harman, who heads a homeland-security subcommittee on intelligence, said that even limited funding allows the department to launch the program, providing a platform to expand its surveillance whether or not privacy requirements are met.

“Having learned my lesson” with the National Security Agency’s warrantless-surveillance program, she said, “I don’t want to go there again unless and until the legal framework for the entire program is entirely spelled out.”

Rep. Thompson vowed to fight expansion of the program until privacy issues are further addressed.

Write to Siobhan Gorman at siobhan.gorman@wsj.com

Live Maps in China: An Interview with Vincent Tao (O’Reilly)

Monday, August 18th, 2008

 

[Editor's note: Somehow I missed this December announcement for Microsoft's new street map service for China. The entire interface is in Chinese characters but the functionality is the same as the English version. Zoom into Beijing and check out all the Olympic sites or plan your next visit by launching the ditu "world" map via Microsoft Local Live maps (view). This street map geometry is much more complete than the normal Local Live map site (view). Thanks Yifang!]

Republished from O’Reilly Radar on Dec. 13th 2007.

Earlier today [December] Microsoft’s Live Maps launched in China (Radar post). Dr. Vincent Tao, founder of Microsoft-acquisition GeoTango and now Senior Director in the Virtual Earth org, led the project. I sent over some questions about the release (114 cities), future plans (an API) and Chinese data policy (strict). Vincent kindly responded.

See the full text of the interview below: 
vincent tao
Can you tell us about coverage? What exactly launched today? What’s the difference in the platform between VE China and VE everywhere else? 

[VT] The China release demonstrates our success in deploying our first VE data center remotely. We now have an in-country data center offering the better system performance and greater user experiences. This distributed mapping architecture allows us to grow the international markets in a scalable way. In this first release, VE China covers both tier-1 and tier-2 total 114 cities with very rich local contents (millions of POI/YP). In addition to most VE features in USA, China release offers the public transit feature for bus and train commuters. We understand that this is the most demanding feature for China users when concerning maps. We cannot afford not having this feature even for v1 release. 

Getting access to Chinese geo data is notoriously hard. Who are you getting the data from? Is it handled via a joint-venture? Where are your servers located? 
[VT] Our road map data is coming from AutoNavi, a Chinese leading data provider for on-line and navigation maps. We have a distributed system architecture but our mapping data is served from our MSN JV company. 

China is the only country mapped. Is there a reason that US or UK streets aren’t available? 
[VT] I guess that you are referring to ditu.live.com site. The release is focused on Chinese speaking users. We are working the design of multi-language mapping system. 

Who are your local competitors? 
[VT] There are no serious local competitors out there in the mapping vertical, though Baidu and Google have some good presence in the market given its strong market share in web search. 

There’s been recent issues with the Chinese government redirecting traffic from Microsoft and Google to Baidu. Do you have any concerns about being blocked by the government? 
[VT] We have worked closely with the Chinese authorities from day one when building our VE services for China. We follow the government regulations carefully and also proactively exchange our ideas on some of their data policy issues.

What’s coming in the future? Will there be an API? Will there be aerial or satellite imagery? Why is there satellite imagery of China in the US version and not in the Chinese version? 
[VT] We have our roadmap for China VE services both in B2C and B2B. Our VE API will be available for enterprise and mashup users in a not too distant future. We are looking into the image solutions. So far there are some issues, not technical, about on-line image publishing in China. 

Was the data allowed to leave China? What other restrictions were placed on the data and its use? 
[vt] The map data is not allowed to leave the border. Some other countries also have the same regulations (Korea for example). In China, maps can only be provided by the licensed map data providers. Also the on-line publishing maps need to go through a ‘encryption’ process whereby map coordinates are transformed to an unknown coordinate system (not in Lat/Long). This is mainly for the national security reason as far as I know.

What are the issues surrounding showing images? Why would they be more concerned about their own population seeing them? Is http://maps.live.com blocked in China? 
[vt] The same reason as above. In general, mapping is a highly regulated area in China and so on-line mapping services. Given the incredible opportunity in China commercial mapping market and the coming Olympic event, the China mapping agency is actively developing and examining their data policy and regulations. I was using maps.live.com when I was travelling China. Our site is running just fine.

Today, we have two good news: China Virtual Earth release and MultiMap acquisition. We are on our way to our international roadmap!