Showing posts with label falling german satellite enters atmosphere. Show all posts
Showing posts with label falling german satellite enters atmosphere. Show all posts

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hackers plan space satellites to combat censorship

space satellite
Space Satellites
Computer hackers plan to take the internet beyond the reach of censors by putting their own communication satellites into orbit.

The scheme was outlined at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin.

The project's organisers said the Hackerspace Global Grid will also involve developing a grid of ground stations to track and communicate with the satellites.

Longer term they hope to help put an amateur astronaut on the moon.

Hobbyists have already put a few small satellites into orbit - usually only for brief periods of time - but tracking the devices has proved difficult for low-budget projects.

The hacker activist Nick Farr first put out calls for people to contribute to the project in August. He said that the increasing threat of internet censorship had motivated the project.

"The first goal is an uncensorable internet in space. Let's take the internet out of the control of terrestrial entities," Mr Farr said.

Beyond balloons

He cited the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in the United States as an example of the kind of threat facing online freedom. If passed, the act would allow for some sites to be blocked on copyright grounds.

Whereas past space missions have almost all been the preserve of national agencies and large companies, amateur enthusiasts have in recent years sent a few payloads into orbit.

These devices have mostly been sent up using balloons and are tricky to pinpoint precisely from the ground.

According to Armin Bauer, a 26-year-old enthusiast from Stuttgart who is working on the Hackerspace Global Grid, this is largely due to lack of funding.

"Professionals can track satellites from ground stations, but usually they don't have to because, if you pay a large sum [to send the satellite up on a rocket], they put it in an exact place," Mr Bauer said.

In the long run, a wider hacker aerospace project aims to put an amateur astronaut onto the moon within the next 23 years.

"It is very ambitious so we said let's try something smaller first," Mr Bauer added.
Ground network

The Berlin conference was the latest meeting held by the Chaos Computer Club, a decades-old German hacker group that has proven influential not only for those interested in exploiting or improving computer security, but also for people who enjoy tinkering with hardware and software.

When Mr Farr called for contributions to Hackerspace, Mr Bauer and others decided to concentrate on the communications infrastructure aspect of the scheme.

He and his teammates are working on their part of the project together with Constellation, an existing German aerospace research initiative that mostly consists of interlinked student projects.

In the open-source spirit of Hackerspace, Mr Bauer and some friends came up with the idea of a distributed network of low-cost ground stations that can be bought or built by individuals.

Used together in a global network, these stations would be able to pinpoint satellites at any given time, while also making it easier and more reliable for fast-moving satellites to send data back to earth.

"It's kind of a reverse GPS," Mr Bauer said.

"GPS uses satellites to calculate where we are, and this tells us where the satellites are. We would use GPS co-ordinates but also improve on them by using fixed sites in precisely-known locations."

Mr Bauer said the team would have three prototype ground stations in place in the first half of 2012, and hoped to give away some working models at the next Chaos Communication Congress in a year's time.

They would also sell the devices on a non-profit basis.

"We're aiming for 100 euros (£84) per ground station. That is the amount people tell us they would be willing to spend," Mr Bauer added.


Experts say the satellite project is feasible, but could be restricted by technical limitations.

"Low earth orbit satellites such as have been launched by amateurs so far, do not stay in a single place but rather orbit, typically every 90 minutes," said Prof Alan Woodward from the computing department at the University of Surrey.

"That's not to say they can't be used for communications but obviously only for the relatively brief periods that they are in your view. It's difficult to see how such satellites could be used as a viable communications grid other than in bursts, even if there were a significant number in your constellation."

This problem could be avoided if the hackers managed to put their satellites into geostationary orbits above the equator. This would allow them to match the earth's movement and appear to be motionless when viewed from the ground. However, this would pose a different problem.

"It means that they are so far from earth that there is an appreciable delay on any signal, which can interfere with certain Internet applications," Prof Woodward said.

"There is also an interesting legal dimension in that outer space is not governed by the countries over which it floats. So, theoretically it could be a place for illegal communication to thrive. However, the corollary is that any country could take the law into their own hands and disable the satellites."
Need for knowledge

Apart from the ground station scheme, other aspects of the Hackerspace project that are being worked on include the development of new electronics that can survive in space, and the launch vehicles that can get them there in the first place.

According to Mr Farr, the "only motive" of the Hackerspace Global Grid is knowledge.

He said many participants are frustrated that no person has been sent past low Earth orbit since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

"This [hacker] community can put humanity back in space in a meaningful way," Farr said.

"The goal is to get back to where we were in the 1970s. Hackers find it offensive that we've had the technology since before many of us were born and we haven't gone back."

Asked whether some might see negative security implications in the idea of establishing a hacker presence in space, Farr said the only downside would be that "people might not be able to censor your internet".

"Hackers are about open information," Farr added. "We believe communication is a human right."

News by BBC

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Motorola wins German patent case ruling vs Apple

(Reuters) - Motorola Mobility won a preliminary injunction against Apple Inc in Germany, which could bar the sales of iPhones and iPads in the country.

A regional German court in Mannheim ruled on Friday that Apple Sales International -- European sales subsidiary of Apple in Cork, Ireland -- must stop selling or distributing mobile devices that infringe certain Motorola patents.

The ruling, which relates to cellular communications patents, could bar the sales of all Apple products that use the patents such as iPhone 4 and iPad 3G, Germany-based patent expert Florian Mueller said.

"The ruling targets Apple's European sales organization but relates only to that entity's sale to German customers," Mueller added.

Motorola Mobility said it has been negotiating with Apple and offering the company "reasonable licensing terms and conditions since 2007."

Motorola Mobility "will continue our efforts to resolve our global patent dispute as soon as practicable," it said in a statement.

To enforce the injunction, Motorola Mobility has to pay about 100 million euros ($133.8 million) as bond.

Apple, which has other patent infringement cases pending in Germany, said it plans to appeal.

"We are going to appeal the court ruling right away," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. "Holiday shoppers in Germany should have no problem finding the iPad and iPhone they want."

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Falling German satellite enters atmosphere.

scientific satellite
BERLIN (AP) — A defunct satellite entered the atmosphere early Sunday and pieces of it were expected to crash into the earth, the German Aerospace Center said.

There was no immediate solid evidence to determine above which continent or country the ROSAT scientific research satellite entered the atmosphere, agency spokesman Andreas Schuetz said.

Most parts of the minivan-sized satellite were expected to burn up during re-entry, but up to 30 fragments weighing 1.87 tons (1.7 metric tons) could crash into Earth at speeds up to 280 mph (450 kph).

Scientists were no longer able to communicate with the dead satellite and it must have traveled about 12,500 miles (20,000 kilometers) in the last 30 minutes before entering the atmosphere, Schuetz said.

Experts were waiting for "observations from around the world," he added.

Scientists said hours before the re-entry into the atmosphere that the satellite was not expected to hit over Europe, Africa or Australia. According to a precalculated path it could have been above Asia, possibly China, at the time of its re-entry, but Schuetz said he could not confirm whether the satellite actually entered above that area.

The 2.69-ton (2.4 metric ton) scientific ROSAT satellite was launched in 1990 and retired in 1999 after being used for research on black holes and neutron stars and performing the first all-sky survey of X-ray sources with an imaging telescope.

The largest single fragment of ROSAT that could hit into the earth is the telescope's heat-resistant mirror.

During its mission, the satellite orbited about 370 miles (600 kilometers) above the Earth's surface, but since its decommissioning it has lost altitude, circling at a distance of only 205 miles (330 kilometers) above ground in June for example, the agency said.

Even in the last days, the satellite still circled the planet every 90 minutes, making it hard to predict where on Earth it would eventually come down.

A dead NASA satellite fell into the southern Pacific Ocean last month, causing no damage, despite fears it would hit a populated area and cause damage or kill people.

Experts believe about two dozen metal pieces from the bus-sized satellite fell over a 500-mile (800 kilometer) span of uninhabited portion of the world.

The NASA climate research satellite entered Earth's atmosphere generally above American Samoa. But falling debris as it broke apart did not start hitting the water for another 300 miles (480 kilometers) to the northeast, southwest of Christmas Island.

Earlier, scientists had said it was possible some pieces could have reached northwestern Canada.

The German space agency puts the odds of somebody somewhere on Earth being hurt by its satellite at 1-in-2,000 — a slightly higher level of risk than was calculated for the NASA satellite. But any one individual's odds of being struck are 1-in-14 trillion, given there are 7 billion people on the planet.
The German space agency on ROSAT: