December 31, 2007

Satellite Image, Source for Terrestrial Information, Threat to National Security

Satellite Image, Source for Terrestrial Information, Threat to National Security

An invited talk in MANIT Training Programme On Information Security, December 10 -14, 2007, at Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Bhopal by R C Chakraborty, Visiting Prof. JIET, Guna & Former Dir. DTRL & ISSA (DRDO). The Highlights of the talk / presentation are as follows.

(a) Remote sensing, Communication, and Global positioning systems – Remote sensing satellites, Communication satellites, and the Global Positioning System (GPS) together have immense strategic value. These systems are driving the commercial engine of the new information-based economy. Use of Remote sensing imageries, range from military (reconnaissance, mapping, damage assessment), commercial (farming, mining, real estate), humanitarian (human rights abuses) and environmental catastrophe. Similarly, Satellite communications, have connected businesses located on opposite sides of the globe, increased capacity and speed of command and control links on battlefield. Finally, the Global positioning systems have significantly enhanced precision targeting and troop coordination, improved airline safety, tracking of vehicles and many more. Satellite systems have dual use – both civil and military. The governments and businesses around the world recognize the immense value, the satellite applications can offer them. The satellite industry traditionally dominated by programs run with government funding are now controlled by commercial interests. Even military for their operational necessity have now been looking for ways to save money by absorbing private sector capabilities rather than preferring expensive classified systems. The proliferation of satellite technology is largely because of commercial interests. The industry associations estimated, that the global commercial satellite service revenues will be triple by 2009. One good reason is that satellite images are most preferred source for terrestrial information. (Ref. Commercial Space and United States National Security, ).

(b) Concept of Remote Sensing – Remote Sensing is a technology by which characteristics of the objects of interest can be identified, measured and analyzed without direct contact. Remote sensing systems include : Source which is electro-magnetic radiation, reflected or emitted from an object is the source of remote sensing data;  Sensor which is camera or scanner to detect the electro-magnetic radiation reflected or emitted from an object;  Platform which aircraft or satellite, carries remote sensor; and Output which is data usually an image. The data are processed by computer and interpreted by humans, and finally used in agriculture, land use, forestry, geology, hydrology, oceanography, meteorology, environment, and more.

(c) Satellite Image of desired Resolutions – Different spatial resolutions are required for detection, location, identification of objects on earth surface. Satellite images are of spatial resolutions as 1, 10, 30 and 80 meter. Using 1 m resolution, you can Identify and Map, manhole covers, automobiles, bus shelters, highway lanes, sidewalks, utility equipment, fence lines, and free-standing trees and bushes. Using 10 m  resolution, you can Locate and Map, buildings, yards, roads, property boundaries, athletic fields, farm fields, and side streets. Using 20/30 m resolution, you can Locate airports, city centers, suburbs, shopping malls, sports complexes, large factories, forest stands, and large farm fields. Using 80 m resolution, you can Map regional geological structure and assess health of vegetation in a large region. Using 1 km resolution, you can assess vegetative indices for states and entire countries and track events like insect infestation, drought and desertification.

(d) Covert Military Line up in 1950s – From mid 1940 to early 1990 was the period of tension, competition and conflict known as cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Few events occurred between 1950 and 1960. In early 1950, U.S thought of an Spy plane U-2 to photograph a particular location. In 1955, U.S. offered to Soviet Union an “Open Skies” policy, allowing mutual territorial surveillance which was not agreed by the later. In 1956, U.S. stated U-2 fly-over program, secretly gathered data on Soviet missile capabilities. In October 1957, Sputnik the first satellite was successfully launched by Soviet Union. On May 1, 1960 the spy plane U-2 shot down over the Soviet Union and U.S. denied it true purpose. In August 1960, U.S. secretly developed Discoverer XIV, a   spy satellite and recovered its first film capsule.

(e) Freedom of International Space – Soon after Sputnik was launched in 1957, the U.S. perceived, that the Soviet Union unintentionally established the concept of freedom of international space. U.S. talked about peaceful uses of space for the benefit of mankind, while pursuing military applications. U.S. launched of first scientific experiment satellite Vanguard-1, on March 17, 1958, into orbit around the earth as part International Geophysical Year (July 1, 1957 to Dec. 31, 1958). Secondly, U.S. campaigned for Reconnaissance satellites, necessary for gathering reliable information about military developments behind the iron curtain, to negotiate arms control and to retain defense sufficiency in the absence of agreements. This is likely only if usage of imaging satellites are legitimatized. Thus U.S. became the champion of openness, international cooperation, and the rule of law in space.

(f) The Roots Of Remote Sensing Satellites – Viewing earth from space has three main facets, image resolution, satellite’s revisit days, and sensor’s spectral coverage. The image resolution largely decides its military utility. The commercial potential of satellites imageries were envisaged long ago. NASA launched the civilian remote sensing satellite Landsat in 1972, that provided images of 80 m resolution of earth to the non-governmental sector. But U.S. soon lost its superpower monopoly, because of economic competitiveness. A more capable French Imaging competitor launched remote sensing satellite SPOT-1 in Feb. 1986, followed by SPOT-2 in Jan. 1990 that provided images of 10 m resolution. The competition became more while India launched IRS-1A in 1988 and IRS-1B in 1991 which provided images of 36 m resolutions, followed by IRS-1C and IRS-1D launched in 1995 and 1997, which provided images of 5.8 m resolution. The result was, in the year 1992, U.S. declared new initiative, known as Land Remote Sensing Act of 1992.

(g) Land Remote Sensing Act of 1992 – This act enabled U.S. to maintain its leadership in land remote sensing by providing data continuity for the Landsat program. U.S. established a new national Land Remote Sensing Policy, implementing commercialization in favor of long-term, and protective development of remote sensing industry under the guidance of the DoD and NASA. (Ref Land Remote Sensing Policy

(h) Commercial Earth Surface Imaging satellites – To acquire images of earth from space, many satellites were launched starting from the year 1972, owned by countries, U.S., France, India, Israel.  These satellites are :  Landsat , SPOT and Pleiades, IRS & Cartosat, IKONOS, OrbView & GeoEye, EarlyBird, QuickBird, WorldView, EROS.

  • Landsat 1 , 2 , 3, 4 , 5 , 6, 7 :   These seven satellites were launched in last 27 years, starting from the year 1972. Landsat-7 offers 15 m resolution. The orbit and Imaging characteristics, mostly same for all satellites, but image resolutions constantly improved from 80 to 15 m. These satellites archived millions of scenes of U.S. and world over, a unique resource for global change research and applications in agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, regional planning, surveillance, education and national security.
  • SPOT 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Pleiades-1, 2 :   These seven satellites were launched in last 16 years, starting from 1986. SPOT-5 offers 2.5 m resolution. The Pleiades is France’s high-resolution imaging satellite offer images of 0.7 m resolution. The program, is supervised by CNES, the France Space Agency. Pleiades is part of European Earth Remote Sensing program. The orbit and Imaging characteristics, mostly same for all satellites, but image resolutions constantly improved from 10 to 2.5 m. These satellites provided global coverage as well daily observation accessibility to any point on Earth. Thus, images are of dual use, civil and military, and applications in Land use, agriculture, forestry, geology, cartography, regional planning.
  • IRS 1A , 1B, P2, 1C, 1D, P6, P5, Cartosat-2 :   These eight satellites were launched in last 19 years, starting from the year 1988. Cartosat-2 offers < 1 m resolution. The orbit and Imaging characteristics, mostly same for all satellites, but image resolutions constantly improved to from 36 to < 1 m. These satellites provided global coverage as well daily observation accessibility to any point on Earth. Thus images are of dual use, civil and military, and applications in crop land yield estimation, survey of forest resources, urban mapping, flood mapping, wasteland mapping, drought monitoring and assessment.
  • Ikonos, OrbView , GeoEye :   Lockheed Martin in 1991 started a remote sensing Imaging satellite project CRSS. The objective is to offer commercial high-resolution (1 m PAN and 4 m MSS) images in near real-time and offline. The images are of military use and applications for national security, military mapping, air and marine transportation. GeoEye-1 offers 0.41 m resolution.
  • EarlyBird, QuickBird, WorldView :   In 1992 the WorldView Imaging Corporation was formed as a commercial business enterprise with the idea of converting space-based weapons system technology into a viable earth-observation system.  WorldView-1 offers 0.45 m resolution. The applications include highly detailed imagery for precise map creation, precise change detection and in-depth image analysis, mapping at unprecedented resolutions in multi-spectral imagery, and opens door to creation of numerous new products. By 2008, DigitalGlob’s constellation of satellites would enable commercial and government customers around the globe to access geospatial information products from a single source. WorldView-1 alone is capable of collecting up to 500,000 square kilometers per day of 0.5 m resolution imagery.
  • EROS-A, EROS-B, EROS-C :   These are Earth Resources Observation Satellites, a series of commercial earth observation satellites, designed and manufactured by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). The optical payload is supplied by, Elbit Systems Ltd, one of Israel’s largest defense electronics manufacturers and integrators. The space borne remote sensing technology for the EROS family was approved by the government of Israel in Oct. 1996. The satellites are owned and operated by ImageSat International (ImageSat), another Israeli company. EROS-2 offers 0.45 m resolution imagery.
  • Other Commercial Earth Surface Imaging satellites :  USA, France, India, and Israel have highly efficient commercial Earth remote sensing programs. They offer image resolution 1 meter and less. More importantly, they regularly supplement the space segment with new satellite and hold the positions as the primary suppliers of space data. Many other countries, Korea, Russia, Italy, U.K., JAPAN, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Thailand also have high resolution satellites. The launch, orbit and imaging characteristics of these satellites are typical of their own. These satellites have resolutions 2.5 to 1 m, comparatively less and thus the applications for which they are used.

(i) Applications of Very High Resolution Imaging Satellites –  The images acquired by many commercial civilian remote sensing satellites are capable in detection, identification and recognition objects of military interest like, bridges, radar, supply dumps, troop units, airfield facilities, rockets and artillery, aircraft, command & control HQ., missiles (ssm/sam), surface ships, nuclear weapons components, vehicles, minefields (land), ports and harbors, coasts and landing beaches, railroad yards and shops, roads, urban areas, terrain, submarines (surfaced). Targeting is closely related to the ability to detect and precisely identify the given object and/or their location.

(j) Commercial Satellite Imagery Companies –  Viewing Earth from space have become necessary for every country. Therefore, the world market of Geo-data and Space imagery have grown and would continue to grow towards Globalization of Terrestrial Information.  The U.S, Israel, India, and France, hold the world market for satellite based earth imagery. They run highly efficient operational earth remote sensing programs. They regularly supplement the space segment with new satellite and become primary suppliers of earth imagery.

(k) National Security and International Regulations –   Space-based remote sensing consists, collecting data regarding the surface of the earth via satellite. The information gathered from such data can be used in many applications. The commercial availability of high-resolution imagery presents great benefit to civilian sector and a deep concern for national security. Such paradox is true every where, it is true even for military users. The International Regulations related to National Security are illustrated in :

(l) Concern about National Security –   The views reported in the world wide web about security related challenges and threat because high resolution images are available commercially or even freely in public domain. Views expressed,   ( ),  ( ).

Conclusion.   Providing satellite imageries, we are bring a revolution in ‘Globalization of Terrestrial Information’ about the world we live in.

For complete lecture slides move on to Website URL :


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