Page 1

A Guide to

Satellite Surveillance

Volume 1


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Contents Introduction

4

High -Resolution Imaging Satellites

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Commercial Satellites

19

MH370 Flight Disappearance

38

State-owned Satellites

121

MH17 Flight Crash

138

Great East Japan Earthquake

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4


Google Maps, among other digital navigation services, has become the de facto referential map of the world - a form of universal digital atlas. Without having any official, legal or political authority, it has gained a role as unofficial arbiter in the international community. The way Google draws virtual borders sometimes provokes conflicts over the real territories, such as the infamous border dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in 2010.1 Layers of digital interfaces and realtime data updates reinforce the seeming objectivity of Google Maps. The idea that any map is subjective and constitutes someone's personal truth is not new, although digital maps have become such a natural part of daily activities that we tend to forget that what we see on them has been defined and constructed by a private American corporation. And what truly makes us see Google Maps and Google Earth as truthful representation of reality is satellite imagery.


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The evidential nature of images produced by a camera floating in outer space has a mesmerizing effect on viewers. In the era when everything seems to be postproduced, the idea of machines satellite sensors - depicting what they independently see is very appealing. The rough, pixelated image quality becomes a reality special effect and guarantees the authenticity of the image. 2 Google Earth presents a mosaic of archived aerial and satellite images from different dates and sources, based on a variety of resolutions and motivations. Until recently, Google generated no satellite images of its own: most of them were acquired from commercial satellite operators. Whenever a government or a person tasks the satellite to take pictures, those images likely eventually end up in Google Maps. Today, by zooming with a digital interface, anyone can fulfill their voyeuristic desires, from governments to large companies, from neighbors to terrorists. Optical satellites were originally designed in 1960's for military purposes such as reconnaissance or ballistics. And not until the 90's, with global privatization and commercialization of imaging

satellites, were satellite images accessible to the general public. Today commercial companies and start-ups are putting numerous satellite constellations in orbit. Very high-resolution images from almost anywhere in the world are sold for a relatively affordable price of 5001000 euro. Companies vigorously compete for the highest resolution capabilities, driving each other into a new space race - the so-called "Space Renaissance". Small start-ups are starting to deploy small, cheaper satellites in order to provide more democratic access to images. Satellite imagery touches our daily life mostly through mass media. In times of crisis, commercial satellites align their orbits to cover areas of interest in hope of selling these images to someone who's interested in the events below. Satellites are the new paparazzi, photography agencies and stock image providers. What makes them so valuable for aerial surveillance and separates them from drones and warplanes is absence of regulations over where they can pass, or what territories they can photograph. Countries have a monopoly on sovereignty in the air, but not in space. Due to the


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Outer Space Treaty from the 70's, a satellite can take images of anywhere in the world, and no country will have rights for it. 3 As no geopolitical jurisdictions apply to it, space attracts both spy agencies and human rights activists. Anyone with a computer is potentially able to observe the regions of war, or actions of the US military. Commercial satellites are often privately funded and sell images to anyone regardless of their intentions and motivations. Nevertheless, during the two decades, states have been exercising their power and indirectly imposing control over the imagery that reaches the public. In the United States only, the government has been restricting dissemination of satellite imagery by denying commercial licenses to companies, reserving a right for "shutter control", or buying out all the output from a satellite from a certain period of time. Israel managed to make agreements with some other countries that would forbid their satellites to take highresolution images of Israeli territory. Hence private commercial satellites, however autonomous they appear, are still deeply dependent on the military interests of states. Just like the images of Israel appear pixelated, the tessellation of Google Earth images comprises various political agendas and interferences. Google itself, while not subject to direct censorship, may be (diplomatically)

aligned with the interests of the U.S. government and simply not update imagery of sensitive areas.4 But hiding the images form public view is not the only way to influence media coverage. The seeming objectivity of satellite imagery opens extraordinary possibilities for interpretation and exploitation. Most people are not able to read such images without provided analysis and annotation: the way these images are framed in media defines their meaning -­­and their political effect.


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Countries ha monopoly on s in the air space.


ave a sovereignty r, but not in

Unlike drones or planes, satellites can take images of anywhere in the world, and no country will have rights for it.


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The iconic example of such manipulation is Colin Powells use of satellite surveillance imagery during the UN Security Council debate in 2003.4 During his speech Powell alleged that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, presenting a few black & white satellite images as evidence to support his claims. Leading to the invasion of Iraq, the images were artfully interpreted and later proven to be fake. A more actual example of satellites taking the role of witness is the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 and the forensic investigation of its circumstances. The Russian Ministry of Defense published satellite images, showing the BUK missile launcher on the Ukrainian side of the front. The images reportedly became a target of criticism by independent analysts and the citizen journalist collective Bellingcat. By overlaying the images over available Google Earth imagery, calculating positions of satellites at the moment the image was taken, and analyzing the directions of shadows and levels of vegetation, the journalists identified that the published images were taken months before the claimed date and were used to fabricate evidence. By now there are approximately 3000 satellites in orbit, about 1000 of those still operating. About 15 of them capture very high-resolution images. But despite omnipresence in media and influence on the political and social events, the satellites themselves remain mysterious and unknown objects. Invisible in the sky, they are surrounded by mythical aura reinforced by their highly technical and science fictional nature, and the history of espionage. In order to truly understand a map, we need to look at who made it - and why. "Post-representational cartography", a movement in contemporary cartography, argues that any map should be studied in the context of its production. I believe that same applies to an image.


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Today, new relationships between physical and virtual territories emerge, demanding a new kind of literacy. By studying satellites in the context of mass media, political events, power relations, ownership, and online rumors and speculations, we may achieve a more critical understanding of hidden ideologies within digital images, interfaces and maps - and be ­­ more cautious of what we see. So why don't we start by getting to know satellites by names?

1 Swaine, Jon "Google maps error sparks invasion of Costa Rica by Nicaragua”, The Telegraph, 8 Nov. 2010. 2 Lovink, Geert “Response to the Photography’s Omnipresence”, Foam Magazine, Issue #41 The Messenger, 2015.

3 "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies". United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Web. 1 May 2016.

4 “Full text of Colin Powell's speech: US secretary of state's address to the United Nations security council”, The Guardian, 5 Feb. 2003.


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The first Russian spy satellites, Zenit series. 1960's.


Image published by Russian Ministry of Defense, presumably showing the BUK missile launcher on the Ukrainian side of the front.

One of the slides from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's PowerPoint presentation on Iraq to the UN. 5 Feb. 2003.


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High-Resolution Imaging Satellites

Digital Globe USA

TERRA BELLA USA

PlÉiades France

ISS

Urthecast Canada

Spot France

kazeosat Kazakhstan

EROS Israel

China/UK

Alos Japan

CARTOSAT India

operational decommissioned scheduled for launch

TripleSat

Size <1m

1-4m

>4m


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Plate 1.

Kompsat Korea

Flock USA

GOKTURK Turkey

JILIN China

Formosat 2

DubaiSat UAE

Teleos-1

RESURS

VNREDSat-1

Russia

GAOFEN China

Based on the position of satellites on 1 April 2016 11:40:09


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DigitalGlobe Constellation

QuickBird 2001 - 2015 Res. 0.65m

WorldV

2009 Res. 0.46m

GeoEye-1 2008 Res. 0.41m

operational decommissioned

Size <1m

1-4m

>4m


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Plate 2.

WorldView-1 2007 Res. 0.5m

Ikonos 1999 - 2015 Res. 0.82m

WorldView-3 2014 Res. 0.31m

View-2

m

Based on the position of satellites on 1 April 2016 11:40:09


Facts

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Digital Globe is the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest satellite imagery corporation, based in Colorado and worth about $3 billion on the market.1 Today it provides commercial imagery of the highest resolution. Most of its business, and 60 percent of its revenue, comes from the U.S. Department of Defense and the intelligence agencies of various governments. It is also the main supplier of images for Google Earth and Google Maps. Founded as early as 1992, it was the first private company to enter the satellite imagery business, and put the first commercial remote sensing satellite into orbit. 2 1 Meyer, Robinson. "Silicon Valleys New Spy Satellites." The Atlantic, 7 Jan. 2014.

2 "Digital Globe." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 Jan. 2015.

Digital Globe


Myths

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Digital Globe, initially WorldView Imaging Corporation, was founded in January 1992 in California. The same year the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act permitted private companies to sell satellite imagery for the first time in history. As Digital Globe operates the most expensive and technically advanced satellites, its clients also represent the biggest of the big: governments and mapping services.1 Satellites of the DigitalGlobe constellation do not collect steady streams of images: they only take pictures when somebody tasks them to do so. DigitalGlobe is allowed to later resell acquired images to other customers, including the information about longitude, latitude and the date, but not to disclose the identity of the first customer. 2 Most of the imagery that we see today on Google Maps was likely ordered by someone else â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a government, a company or an individual â&#x20AC;&#x201D; leaving us to guess who wanted those images in the first place, and why. Checkbook Shutter Control In 2001, the Pentagon spent millions of dollars to prevent western media from The first image from IKONOS. Jefferson seeing highly accurate satellite pictures memorial, September 30, 1999. of the effects of bombing in Afghanistan. The images taken by the Ikonos-2 satellite had extraordinary resolution, making it possible to view lines of terrorist trainees in Jalalabad or bodies lying on the ground after bombing attacks. Under American law, the US government is able to legally perform a "shutter control" over civilian satellites to prevent enemies from seeing sensitive imagery, but no such order was given this time. To work around it, the Pentagon simply bought exclusive rights to all Ikonos satellite pictures of Afghanistan â&#x20AC;&#x201D; exercising their commercial power, or so-called "checkbook shutter control". 3


Digital Globe

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Ikonos from Greek “eikōn” — image

Launched in September 1999, Ikonos-2 was the first satellite in history to make high-resolution satellite imagery available to civilian users, leading the New York Times to describe it as the world's first private spy camera and a geopolitical milestone. It was equipped with an imager designed by Kodak, and was capable of providing black & white imagery at 80 cm ground resolution and color imagery at 4 m resolution. Ikonos could revisit every point on Earth every one to three days. Archive imagery from Ikonos is still available for purchase.

Figure 1.

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Figure 2.

Kurgan, Laura. "Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics." New York: Zone Books, 2013.


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MH370 Flight Disappearance

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Nine hours since the Malaysian flight has mysteriously disappeared from radar screens. Satellites are scanning the ocean in a search for airplane debris. On March 8 commercial companies such as DigitalGlobe repositioned their satellites to gather more visual information. State-owned satellites, including the Emirati DubaiSat, Taiwaneese Formosat and Russian Resurs-P, also played a crucial role in the search.

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W


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Map 1.

SkySat 2 Resurs P1

Dove 2 Teleos

WorldView 2 DubaiSat 2

Formosat 3A Formosat 2

Flock 1C-9 Gaofen 9

Cartosat 2A

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PlĂŠiades A 0.5m

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Waco, Texas 2013


PlĂŠiades B 0.5m

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Airplane Graveyard Tucson, Arizona 2011


EROS

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EROS A EROS-A is a dual-use imaging satellite. It was launched in December 2000, and its design is based on the Israeli military reconnaissance satellite Ofeq 3. EROS-A is capable of capturing black and white imagery with resolution of 1.8 meters. Customers can temporarily control the satellite when it passes over the areas of interest. This is used to protect the client privacy without the operator knowing what's being looked at. However, the option is not available above Israeli territory.

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Figure 21.

"EROS (Satellite)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 Dec. 2014


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The Flock

non-military buyers for Earth imagery are banks and large financial firms, while farmers in the developing world could use satellite imagery of their farms, but currently can’t afford it. The flocks of small satellites can make satellite imagery more accessible and democratic. 2 The Cloud of Earth information When satellites capture every spot on the globe at least once a day, they form an incredibly valuable archive and resource for data mining. PlanetLabs and TerraBella are companies currently leading the small-satellite business. Apart from satellite imagery, both of the companies aim to provide “Earth information platforms” that bring together different data about the planet. Both companies offer API’s for various applications, creating a so-called "cloud service for Earth". 3 Planet Labs works with firms that use machine-learning algorithms to watch crops and land changes. It is also developing software that will let users analyze changes in different imagery: seeing roads, towns, and houses that weren’t there a week, month, or year before. For many decades, this basic technique Screenshot of PlanetLabs website. May 2016 was only available to intelligence agencies, and it required hours of expert analysis. Soon it might become accessible for anyone who owns a computer. Monitoring Refugee Camps Even though Flock satellites are not very high-resolution satellites, one can still distinguish car and truck-sized objects in their photos. PlanetLabs provides imagery of newsworthy areas, like the Syria-Turkey border, to a variety of media, including the New York Times. Planet Lab’s satellite image from December 2015 shows more than 1,450 tents at the biggest refugee camp in Jordan, Rukban. The Flock captured Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan in February


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2016, and published images of France’s Calais ‘Jungle’ camp in March 2016, demonstrating how the authorities had been removing residents from their shelters. 4

Refugee camp. Calais, France, 2 Mar. 2016.

1 Betancourt, Mark. "Rise of the CubeSats." Air & Space Magazine, 20 Jan. 2016. 2 Meyer, Robinson "Silicon Valley's New Spy Satellites." The Atlantic, 7 Jan. 2014.

3 Meyer, Robinson. "A New 50-Trillion-Pixel Image of Earth, Every Day." The Atlantic, 9 Mar. 2016.

4 Wallace, Tim. "Syria’s Treacherous Borderlands." The New York Times, 16 Dec. 2015.


UrtheCast

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Deimos-2 Deimos-2 is the first Spanish very highresolution satellite. It provides pan-sharpened imagery with a 12 km swath and a resolution of 75 cm per pixel, which makes it the highestresolution fully private satellite in Europe. Equipped with latest technology, it was launched in 2014 and joined the UrtheCast constellation in 2015. It is expected to orbit the earth for the next 10 years.

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Figure 35.

"Satellites." Deimos Imaging. Web. 08 May 2016.


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Design & Research Anastasia Kubrak Editing Joseph Doyle Special thanks Stefan Geens (Ogle Earth) Ray Purdy (Air & Space Evidence) Printing Raddraaier Binding Hennink Design Academy Eindhoven 2016

All photographs is the copyright property of the photographers and/or they estates. Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders. Any copyright holders we have been unable to reach or to whom inaccurate acknowledgement has been made are invited to contact the author at anastasia.kubrak@hotmail.com All rights reserved.


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A Guide to Satellite Surveillance (Preview)  

Satellite imagery plays a critical role in mass media, production of news and framing of political events. But despite the omnipresence of s...

A Guide to Satellite Surveillance (Preview)  

Satellite imagery plays a critical role in mass media, production of news and framing of political events. But despite the omnipresence of s...

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