Space Products & Innovation
Homeland Security, Defense, and Intelligence
A flurry of military and intelligence satellite launches by rival powers this month came as the United States and two dozen partner nations wrapped up the largest global space defense wargame in history.
Russia launched what some leaders have described as a spy satellite for Iran and its own on-orbit snooping satellite Cosmos-2558, which is circling Earth in an orbit conspicuously close to a recently launched U.S. National Reconnaissance Office satellite, a Netherlands researcher confirmed.
Imagery and communications satellites were both used in search and rescue efforts for the Malaysian Airlines MH370 passenger airplane. Imagery of the search areas was provided on sites such as Tomnod in hopes that crowdsourcing imagery analysis would help in locating evidence of where the airplane might have disappeared.
Imagery intelligence is becoming more available to the public, as services such as Allsource Analysis gained attention in the news. In October 2014, the Longmont, Colorado, company wrote a comprehensive summary in which it identified a new kind of North Korean submarine in port during its monitoring of North Korean political prisoner camps.
The search for potentially hazardous NEOs has increased since the incident at Chelyabinsk, and in June 2013, the 10,000th NEO was detected. NASA reactivated the WISE telescope in September to find new NEOs, aiming to discover 150 such objects by the end of the spacecraft’s life cycle.
A meteor explosion over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February brought the danger of near Earth asteroids to the forefront of planetary defense. The asteroid was undetected until it entered Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in 1,200 people injured and millions of dollars in damages after exploding more than 32 kilometers (20 miles) above the Earth’s surface.
Ships are required to transmit information regarding their location through the Automatic Identification System (AIS), but this data can be falsified and the requirement is not universally enforced. Supplementing AIS data with visual satellite imagery can help security and intelligence officials more accurately track ship movements.
National security has been a primary focus of government space activities for as long as the ability to build and operate satellites and other spacecraft has existed. Satellites can be used to generate detailed reconnaissance imagery and support communications with troops as they travel to distant and remote regions.
Russia is working to use remote sensing data from satellites to identify narcotic plants as they are being cultivated. Researchers hope to distinguish between particular plant species by subtle differences in the way they reflect light.