A secret spaceship for surveillance from space

May 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

A few days ago, the New York Times wrote about a group of amateur astronomers who, during a space observation which was originally intended only for scientific purposes, have identified a flying object which looks like a Space Shuttle, and which might indeed be a space ship used for missions of surveillance from space. Of course, officials from the Pentagon have strongly denied any allegation, but the opposite would have been highly surprising.

Last month, in fact, from the Florida NASA base a launch operation took place, which sent the X-37B unmanned space plane into the air. The aim of its mission, which is scheduled to last approximately 9 months, was never officially disclosed and is shrouded in a cloud of secrecy.

The fact that, according to Pentagon sources, this vehicle is not designed for an offensive purposes (although they conceded that it will be used as a support for jet fighters) only strengthens the speculations that it is something between a Shuttle and a spy satellite.
The first test flight, according to experts, should be aimed at testing some sensors which will be later installed on a new generation of spy satellites.

In spite of the heavy disinformation that surrounds its operation, the amateur astronomers have been able to identify the spacecraft and to track its pattern, which brings it above the same region every 4 days, according to a pattern commonly used by US spy satellites, with an orbit time of around 90 minutes at a 255-mile altitude, just like a normal Space Shuttle.

The ultimate spy camera against terrorist attacks

May 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The greatest fear of the 21st century, more than incurable diseases such as AIDS or cancer, is undoubtedly the fear of falling victim of a terrorist attack, which might strike us at any time, no matter where we are.
For this reason, a large chunk of state budgets of countries that are more exposed to this kind of threat (that is, the Western World countries) is used to finance military expenditures in research of weapons or defense systems, video surveillance or eavesdropping of phone calls and conversations between people who might be suspected in planning or executing a terrorist attack.

An example of this kind comes from the UK-based military research lab located at Porton Down, where an array of systems have been tested, made up of sensors and data processing units, mounted on planes and helicopters, either manned or unmanned.

The aim of this research project is to detect suspicious movements, especially in order to prevent possible attacks from terrorists using IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) that is, homemade bombs, often the most dangerous because they are the most difficult to detect and neutralize.

In order to prevent this kind of attacks, electro-optical cameras used in this research project are designed to identify people in unusual positions, such as for example those that one may have when holding or carrying a weapon, or an explosive device which must be handled with care to prevent it from going off before its time.
Furthermore, it is also possible to identify changes in the terrain profile, which might conceal a bomb, a weapon storage facility or other suspicious activities.

According to the definition given by Andrew Seedhouse, director of the research project at the British Defence Science and Technology Department (DSTL) this system can be considered as the “ultimate CCTV”.

For example, if a homemade bomb goes off, it is possible to track back the data of the minutes or hours preceding the explosion, to be able to track them down later and prevent further attacks, or to use them as a future reference.

If, analyzing the footage taken before a blast, a person in a strange posture is detected, because he is carrying a bomb, whenever in the future another person is found in the same person, this would result in an alert sent by the surveillance system to personnel on the ground, allowing them to intervene in time to prevent a possible attack or, alternatively, to make sure that no malicious intent lies behind this posture.

During a two-week test period which involved flights in and around the research facility, cameras have picked up an amount of data around 4000 terabytes (over 40 million Gb). By using these cameras intensively in high risk areas such as, for example, Iraq or Afghanistan, it would be possible to gather an enormous quantity of data and details, matching information about places, people, vehicles and suspicious behaviors to effectively monitor an entire country.

In short, we are looking to a real Big Brother just like the one that Orwell imagined in 1948, but this time, for a good reason!

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