Apparently Korea has lost contact with their Arirang 1 satellite which has been in orbit since 1999. Communications were lost one week ago (Dec 30) and they have been unable to reconnect. As is usual with aerospace engineering, the satellite was intended for a short life cycle (3 years) but had apparently been functioning for 8 years until the loss of communication. With a resolution of 6.5 meters, Arirang 1 was superseded in resolution by Arirang 2 which was launched in 2006 with a resolution of 1 meter. The article linked below suggests that Korea will consider the satellite lost if communications are not reconnected soon.
Although the National Applications Office, which we talked about a couple of months ago, has been put on hold for the time being, there are still lots of issues related to the domestic use of spy satellite imagery. In an article titled Domestic Spying, Inc, Tim Shorrock of CorpWatch (a watchdog group that focuses on investigating corporate corruption and fraud) discusses some of the issues related to the issue of domestic spying and geospatial intelligence, especially the heavy reliance on contractors. He discusses the work done by leading contractors such as BAE Systems and Harris, illustrated through their presentations and exhibits at GEOINT 2007. While Shorrock’s message is cautionary, and focuses on the need to ensure that there is appropriate oversight of the work to be done for agencies like the NGA and the proposed National Applications Office, the article is still an interesting read and raises some relevant issues in geospatial intelligence that we should all be aware of.
At the 4th meeting of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) that was just held in Cape Town, South Africa, China and Brazil issued a joint statement announcing a plan to provide Africa with free satellite imagery. Ground stations within the African continent will be set up to receive the data from the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) Program. The first station, in South Africa, will begin receiving imagery shortly, with others to begin operating in 2008. Researchers and scholars in many countries have relied on Landsat and other US satellites for environmental remote sensing data in the past, but this project shows that increasingly other countries and regions are stepping up and working to continue to provide the data that is needed to understand the impacts of climate issues and even shorter-terms events like natural disasters on the environment.
The European Space Agency’s comet satellite completed it’s second swing around Earth on the 13th of this month. The swing is necessary to gain speed for it’s deep space mission. Along the way, the satellite pointed it’s cameras at the Earth to capture a few snapshots. Most of them center on Antarctica.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has released a video today showing visually the ice loss in the Arctic Sea from 1979-2007. The video is pretty impressive showing the degree of loss over the last 30 years or so. The video is linked on the right hand side along with some flat photo images.
On Thursday, NASA posted a nice short article on their Landsat mission website summarizing the planning for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission. The planned launch is July 2011, and Ball Aerospace and Technology won the contract this summer to build the Operational Land Imager instrument which will be the primary sensor for LCDM.
With Landsat 5 experiencing more problems, it’s even more critical for the remote sensing research community that the new instrument gets built and launched successfully.
I have been trying to catch up on everything that’s been going on while I spent a week writing my PhD comps, and I ran across a short article about India’s Dept of Science and Technology looking to deploy a system for collecting real-time data on standing crops, which they’ve already been testing . Although this is old-hat in remote sensing, the improvements to satellite return visit times to under a day in some cases mean that you can get fresh data for daily monitoring of biomass. The Indian plan is to use a combination of data from both their own and foreign satellites, especially making use of public domain data. The interesting thing about this project is that the hope is to use the data and analyses at a variety of decision-making levels, from the central and regional governments all the way down to the local farmers’ level.
MSNBC reported that the National Applications Office, set to open its doors on Monday, Oct. 1st, has been put on hold so that legal and privacy issues raised by some members of Congress about the domestic use of spy satellites. There is currently no timetable as to when, or if, the program will be launched.
This story has been all over the traditional news – the US is opening up domestic use of spy satellites. The news is rather troubling for privacy concerns. As the article points out, the US is certainly moving into complicated and murky legal waters, as there are specific bans on military use in the domestic arena. While there has certainly been a lot of concern about private companies documenting information, I have to wonder if there will be a greater outcry when it’s tax dollars being used instead of private dollars. I also wonder if this will press to improve our remote sensing capabilities, much like what was mentioned in the FLIIWG working group Sue blogged yesterday.
I can’t imagine this will be the last we hear on this specific issue.
One of our readers, Michelle, emailed me a press release announcing the release of the US National Land Imaging Program plan, which is the result of the work done by Future of Land Imaging Interagency Working Group (FLIIWG). The plan is contained within a 120-page report, which is available here, and offers a set of policy recommendations, most importantly the creation of a National Land Imaging Program under the direction of the Department of the Interior. The actual plan itself is detailed in the first 8 pages of the document, with the remainder devoted to Appendices and related documents. I think one of the more interesting points in the policy report is the statement that, despite its amazing success, the Landsat program “has never been considered a truly operational capability. All Landsat satellites have been justified, built, and flown as experimental, scientific research systems with no assurance of the long-term continuity of the data.”
For those not already familiar with the issues related to US medium-resolution remote sensing programs, the supporting documents contained in the appendices and exhibits really give a good background about the history of satellite programs like Landsat.