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Abstract

            Remote sensing refers to the method of gathering information regarding land, water, or object without actual touch between the sensor and the subject being evaluated. It is most often used to denote the process of data collection using instruments positioned in aircrafts or satellites. It is usually used in surveying, mapping, or monitoring the earth’s environment and resources as well as in exploring other planets.

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            This paper will focus on the basics of remote sensing and spy satellite technology.

Military Remote Sensing At A Glance

Introduction

            Remote sensing is a term that was coined by Ms. Evelyn Pruitt during the middle of the 1950s when she was serving as a geographer/oceanographer for the U.S. Office of Naval Research. She took into consideration the new view from space gathered by the early meteorological satellites which seemed more remote from their vantage points rather than on airplanes that only provided aerial pictures as the tool for recording images of the Earth’s surface (Short, 2008).

The Meaning of Remote Sensing

            Remote sensing refers to the method of gathering information regarding land, water, or object without actual touch between the sensor and the subject being evaluated. It is most often used to denote the process of data collection using instruments positioned in aircrafts or satellites. It is usually used in surveying, mapping, or monitoring the earth’s environment and resources as well as in exploring other planets (Merchant, n.d).

Uses of Remote Sensing

            Environmental remote sensing is utilized by civil, commercial, and military communities. In civil society, the aim of remote sensing is to monitor and predict changes in the world’s climate, weather patterns, natural disasters, land and ocean resource utilization, depletion of the ozone layer, and pollution (Glackin, 2007).

            The commercial purpose of remote sensing is for mapping, precision agriculture, urban planning, communications-equipment siting, selection of roadway route, disaster assessment and emergency response (Glackin, 2007).

            In the military, remote sensing is likewise useful in monitoring and predicting weather since it is related to military operations. Likewise, remote sensing is used in high-resolution imagery (Glackin, 2007).

Kinds of Instruments

            There are two kinds of sensors used in military remote sensing namely infrared and microwave. The former shows images that display variations in the temperature of an area, which is impossible to do with a conventional photography device. Using thermal technology, infrared sensors are used to survey the temperature of bodies of water, search for damaged underground pipielines, and plot geothermal and geologic structures (Merchant, n.d).

            Microwave sensors, on the other hand, emit electromagnetic energy towards objects and record the method of reflecting energy. They function at very long electromagnetic wavelengths and has the capacity to penetrate clouds which comes in handy when cloud cover do not allow imaging using other sensors. By using radar to scan an area and process the data in a computer, scientists can produce radar maps (Merchant, n.d).

History of Military Remote Sensing

            While the pioneering weather satellite, TIROS I, was established in 1960, the field of satellite-based remote sensing only began to take shape during the 1970s. Landsat-1, Skylab, Nimbus-7, and Seasat, which were launched in 1972, 1973, and 1978, respectively, set in motion modern environmental remote sensing (Glackin, 2007).

            During these times, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) opened up fresh possibilities for engineers and scientists to conduct an investigation on new phenomenon and instruments. For instance, the pioneer sensor to locally monitor the density of the upper atmosphere exceeding 80 kilometers was designed and conceived at Aerospace. At present, Aerospace provides support not only to the Defense Department but also to NASA, and NOAA (Glackin, 2007).

            Since 1970, environmental remote sensing grew rapidly. Prior to 1990, there were only six countries that had their own environmental satellites, however, the number has reached four times. Earlier remote sensing systems were used for civil and military purposes at a high cost and complexity. Recently, however, there was a shift to small scale, more commercial involvement, and reduced complexity and cost (Glackin, 2007).

            In the military, remote sensing is used in monitoring and predicting the weather since it provides direct support to military operations. Likewise, the armed forces is setting their sights on high-resolution imagery and in reality has become the leading client for commercial imagery at resolutions of over 1 meter (Short, 2008).

Spy Satellites in the Military

            One of the instruments being used in remote sensing in the military is the spy or reconnaissance satellites. This technology is managed by several countries in order to collect military intelligence or data concerning terrorist activities (Short, 2008)

History of Spy Satellites

            Military surveillance using satellites trace their roots during the olden times. During the time of Napoleon, the French utilized observation balloons to scan their enemies prior to going to battle. Military intelligence played a significant role during the U.S. Civil War (Short, 2008).

At the outbreak of World War I, airplanes and dirigibles crossed enemy lines and their staging areas as a venue for taking aerial images which will provide the necessary intelligence which is vital to the battle plan. This technique extended towards World War II when airplanes were utilized for conducting bombing raids or assessing damage to the target (Short, 2008).

            With the introduction of rockets and eventually satellites, monitoring of ground military and political activities became likely. This was called the Period of Spy Satellites. When man found a way to reach space, satellites have been alternately launched by the United States,  the Soviet Union, and other countries. Aside from reconnaissance missions over various targets for the purpose of military intelligence, satellites have become very useful in providing assistance in other areas aside from simple ground monitoring. Satellites have become very effective in the communications, oceanography, meteorology, Global Positioning System and Early Warning Capabilities. Aside from satellites, manned aircrafts remained a part of intelligence-gathering and recently Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)  (Short, 2008).

            For almost forty years, the military used high resolution technology that was unmatched by non-military remote sensing systems. This was because during that time civilian space agencies or private groups were allowed to design sensors on the satellites they handled. In the 1990s, however, this practice changed when the Russians started to distribute high-resolution imagery on the world market. The United States followed suit by marketing over 800,000 military space pictures to the general public (Short, 2008).

            One of the most famous military reconnaissance satellites is the U-2. This military plane became popular during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when President John F. Kennedy was in the thick of discussion with Soviet Chairman Nikita Kruschev due to the installation of Medium and Long Range nuclear rockets in parts of Cuba (Short, 2008).

During a reconnaissance mission, the U-2 beamed images of facilities that were established prior to the agreement of the Soviet/Cuban block to remove the weapons.

The U-2 was shot down in Soviet airspace during the second term of President Dwight Eisenhower. Its pilot, Gary Powers, was captured and imprisoned for many months (Short, 2008).

            Another reconnaissance plane that came into prominence was the SR-71 Blackbird. In 1987, it flew reconnaissance missions over a military storage base in Nicaragua. Another reconnaissance plane was the C-119 (Short, 2008).

            The first military satellites had photographic cameras with high resolution optics. It utilized a well-designed automatic photo system using a reliable film advance. However, retrieving the film became a major problem. While it could have used the same onboard picture developing technology of the Lunar Orbiter, the designer chose to eject the pictures towards Earth. When the container reaches the upper atmosphere, it will be deployed on a parachute. An airplane would snatch the container and deliver it to its target location (Short, 2008).

            The United States military satellites serving reconnaissance and surveillance purposes is collectively known as Keyhole Series. The first four satellites in this group went by the name Corona. In 1960, they were launched into orbit and adopted the parachute retrieval system for twelve years. Reconnaissance missions involving the group were composed of several satellites (Short, 2008).

            The KH satellites, which launched over 150 successful missions, were composed of film or electro-optical cameras that scan the ground using telescopes. Among its successful missions include photographs of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, Serbian military barracks during the conflict in Bosnia (Short, 2008).

Underscoring the Importance of Satellites and Radars

            In the military, radars or satellites can be beneficial because with the proper wavelength, this technology can see through clouds and can function even at night. The Lacrosse series of satellites operated by the United States had SAR sensors mounted on a platform tied on extended solar arrays. The first Lacrosse satellite was sent to orbit in 1988 (Short, 2008).

            The Soviet Union has their own series of satellite systems. Majority of the pictures beamed by these satellites have been declassified and auctioned on the open market. These satellites, of which Kosmos is the most famous, are no longer owned by the military and are now in civilian hands (Short, 2008).

            These former Soviet and now Russian satellites were like the American radars, they were highly-sophisticated and packed with powerful sensors. The Kosmos 994, for instance, generates its internal power from a small nuclear power source (Short, 2008).

            Aside from the United States and the Soviet Union, there are other countries that are operating their own surveillance programs. Israel has its EROS 1 and 2 satellites which is primarily responsible for military reconnaissance ((Short, 2008).

            Military satellites had a major role in influencing NASA and other space agencies to run their own remote sensing systems. Most recently, in 2006, the United States and other countries expressed concerns over the long-range rocket on the Taepo-Dong facility in North Korea (Short, 2008).

The Major Players

            Over the years, the United States and the former Soviet Union have been at the forefront of establishing military remote sensing technologies. At the end of the Cold War, the two countries have been actively and intensively producing military space systems to provide warnings of impending attacks, communications, reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence, navigation, and weapons guidance. By the turn of 2005, the collective efforts of the United States and the former USSR have launched over 4,850 military satellites, with the rest of the world lagging behind with only 70 to 80 launches (Space Security, 2007).

            The United States has been the acknowledged leader in the arena of military remote sensing since the Cold War. Ninety five percent of its current spending are devoted to developing military satellites. The United States owns 145 functional military satellites which is more than half of all military radars currently in orbit. Russia owns 85 dedicated military and 18 multi-purpose satellites presently in orbit. From all indications, the United States relies heavily on its space capability. According to the 2001 Report of the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization indicated that US dependence on their space capability can make them prone to establishing a “Pearl Harbor” in space. The committee has suggested that the US must put in place improved space control abilities (Space Security, 2007).

            The decreasing cost of space access coupled with the prominence of space technology has paved the way for more states to become involved in the development and deployment of their own military satellites by utilizing launch capabilities and manufacturing services of other states (Space Security, 2007).

            China receives military transmission from its DFH satellite series and has launched a couple of Beidou navigation satellites to guarantee its navigational capacity. Likewise, it maintains three ZY series satellites for surveillance and military reconnaissance purposes. EU states have likewise joined the race to space. France, Germany, Italy, and Spain have joined forces in funding the Helios 1 military remote sensing facility in LEO. They are planning to deploy six low-orbit imagery intelligence systems to take over Helios by 2008 (Space Security, 2007).

The United Kingdom operates a network of three dual-use Skynet 4 communication satellites. France independently manages four demonstrator-class signal intelligence systems. Israel, India, and Japan also have their own military and surveillance satellites. Very soon, Thailand will be launching its first military intelligence and defense satellite (Space Security, 2007).

Design and Development of Military Satellites

            While military satellites perform a different function from other satellites, they share some common attributes with all other satellites (Brown, 2000).

First of all, they have a metal or composite body known as bus. This is responsible for holding all other components providing stability for the spacecraft during launch (Brown, 2000).
Military satellites derive their powers from sunlight captured by the solar cells. When the satellite is covered behind the shadow of the earth, stored batteries provide power to the satellite. Modern designs of military satellites utilize fuel cells. Electricity is always checked. Data and other onboard systems are beamed down to earth in the form of telemetry symbols (Brown, 2000).
Onboard computer is responsible for controlling and monitoring the various systems (Brown, 2000).
All satellites have radio and antenna system. The job of this component is for relaying communication from space to the ground and vice versa. The radio system is likewise used for requesting status  information and for monitoring its condition (Brown, 2000).
All satellites utilize attitude control system so that it would remain on course.
Any information stored on the military satellite remains concealed. The possibility of gathering intelligence through high technology and sophisticated photographic equipments are boundless (Brown, 2000).

Military satellites are run by various applications intended for conveying encrypted information, nuclear tracking, observing the movements of the enemies, providing early warning for missile launches, taking pictures of military-interesting areas (Brown, 2000).

Military satellites utilize various picture-capturing devices such as photo-optic, Electro-optical Infrared, and radar imaging. In a photo-optic satellite, the picture is captured on film. Afterwards, the image is recovered, processed, and evaluated. Upon request of the data, there would be a 1 to 3 minute gap between the time of data request and the time it reaches the ground command for planning combat positions. The disadvantage of this kind of technology is that it does not have the ability to pass through clouds or darkness and cannot detect cover (Clark, 2001).

            With the Electro-optical satellite, photographic images can be fully observed from space, even infra-red. Images received by the satellite can be enhanced and defined further. With infra-red capability, the sensors can spot heat but they do not have the ability to detect vehicles or airplanes on the ground with a cold engine (Clark, 2001).

            In a radar-imaging satellite, high-energy radar impulses are reflected towards the surface of the earth. Radar pulses provides the source of light for imaging even during night time (Clark, 2001).

            Recently, military intelligence have made advances not on the space platform but on the way data is being handled. Today’s military satellites are now designed to accept data in 3D format (Clark, 2001).

            Most designers of military satellites are concerned with ensuring that the electronic power conditioner will satisfy performance and mechanical configuration specifications. Among the major requirements being considered are the cost, size, efficiency, functional performance, and dependability (Brown, 2008).

            Future satellite systems would need more complex software systems and processes to back up and operate the satellites. Thus, the software should be considered especially now that there is an increasing emphasis on cyber warfare (Brown, 2008).

            Initially, military satellites have been designed for dual use—that is to perform both civilian and military application. Systems such as Spot Image of France, Radarsat of Canada, and the newly-established Space Imaging, all perform dual-use of satellite remote sensing (vonKries, n.d).

            However, the dual use practice of satellite remote sensing is beginning to lose ground. No longer are they being used exclusively used for intelligence gathering. When American and Russian spy satellites were declassified, the archives of these systems became available to civilians (vonKries, n.d).

Satellite Telemetry

            Communications is essential to today’s military establishment. Satellites provider direct communications with soldiers in action. Handy mobile terminals can be set up in a matter of hours enabling the attacking troops to remain in contact with their superiors. Military satellites enable soldiers to communicate with the National Command Authorities. The US military maintains multiple geostationary communication satellite networks, which was utilized during Desert Stormn (Pike, 2005).

            The Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS) services the four major branches of the military as well as several government agencies. The Space Architect of the Department of Defense,  established in 1995, performs consolidation of responsibilities for space missions and systems architecture development in a single organization (Pike, 2005).

Future of Military Satellites

            Realizing the huge potential for enhanced capacity and reduced unit cost over existing systems, the US Department of Defense is set to introduce significant improvements in satellite communication within the next 5 to 10 years. Part of the mandate of the Space Architect was to establish a future Military Satellite Communication (MILSATCOM) (Pike, 2005).

            The MILSATCOM plan laid down four major objectives which they hope to accomplish by 2025. Among these objectives are:

Provide appropriate communication to the correct user at the appropriate time
Full integration with Defense Information Systems Network (DISN)
Minimize satellite communications footprints
Be user friendly
Since existing military satellite communications represents ancient technology, there is a need to establish new and more powerful systems. Technological advances have brought about modifications in the manner of resolving military conflicts. Enhancing the ability to relay information as quickly as possible will help streamline military command as well as manage and ensure superior information, allowing for quicker deployment of highly mobile personnel with the capacity to quickly adjust to changing conditions in the field (Elfers & Miller, 2007).

      Under the MILSATCOM project, there are three communications sector that will be established in the military namely the wideband, protected, and narrowband. Under the MILSATCOM, the old Defense Satellite Communication System will be replaced by the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite Program and the Advanced Wideband System. The systems under Wideband will be the Global Broadcast Service and the Advanced Wideband System (Elfers & Miller, 2007).

Protected Communications, on the other hand, will provide the ability to avoid, negate, mitigate, or prevent interruptions, destruction, rejections, unauthorized access, or exploitation of communications by the enemies of the environment (Elfers & Miller, 2007).

      Finally, the Narrowband Communications will involve data which are below 64 kilobits per second will be given more boundary as greater rates of data will become accessible in small terminals (Elfers & Miller, 2007).

Summary

Remote sensing is a term that was coined by Ms. Evelyn Pruitt during the middle of the 1950s when she was serving as a geographer/oceanographer for the U.S. Office of Naval Research. She took into consideration the new view from space gathered by the early meteorological satellites which seemed more remote from their vantage points rather than on airplanes that only provided aerial pictures as the tool for recording images of the Earth’s surface.

            Remote sensing refers to the method of gathering information regarding land, water, or object without actual touch between the sensor and the subject being evaluated. It is most often used to denote the process of data collection using instruments positioned in aircrafts or satellites. It is usually used in surveying, mapping, or monitoring the earth’s environment and resources as well as in exploring other planets

Environmental remote sensing is utilized by civil, commercial, and military communities. In civil society, the aim of remote sensing is to monitor and predict changes in the world’s climate, weather patterns, natural disasters, land and ocean resource utilization, depletion of the ozone layer, and pollution.

            The commercial purpose of remote sensing is for mapping, precision agriculture, urban planning, communications-equipment siting, selection of roadway route, disaster assessment and emergency response.

            In the military, remote sensing is likewise useful in monitoring and predicting weather since it is related to military operations. Likewise, remote sensing is used in high-resolution imagery.

While the pioneering weather satellite, TIROS I, was established in 1960, the field of satellite-based remote sensing only began to take shape during the 1970s. Landsat-1, Skylab, Nimbus-7, and Seasat, which were launched in 1972, 1973, and 1978, respectively, set in motion modern environmental remote sensing.

            Military surveillance using satellites trace their roots during the olden times. During the time of Napoleon, the French utilized observation balloons to scan their enemies prior to going to battle. Military intelligence played a significant role during the U.S. Civil War.

At the outbreak of World War I, airplanes and dirigibles crossed enemy lines and their staging areas as a venue for taking aerial images which will provide the necessary intelligence which is vital to the battle plan. This technique extended towards World War II when airplanes were utilized for conducting bombing raids or assessing damage to the target.

            With the introduction of rockets and eventually satellites, monitoring of ground military and political activities became likely. This was called the Period of Spy Satellites. When man found a way to reach space, satellites have been alternately launched by the United States,  the Soviet Union, and other countries. Aside from reconnaissance missions over various targets for the purpose of military intelligence, satellites have become very useful in providing assistance in other areas aside from simple ground monitoring.

Satellites have become very effective in the communications, oceanography, meteorology, Global Positioning System and Early Warning Capabilities. Aside from satellites, manned aircrafts remained a part of intelligence-gathering and recently Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

            The first military satellites had photographic cameras with high resolution optics. It utilized a well-designed automatic photo system using a reliable film advance. However, retrieving the film became a major problem. While it could have used the same onboard picture developing technology of the Lunar Orbiter, the designer chose to eject the pictures towards Earth. When the container reaches the upper atmosphere, it will be deployed on a parachute. An airplane would snatch the container and deliver it to its target location.

The United States has been the acknowledged leader in the arena of military remote sensing since the Cold War. Ninety five percent of its current spending are devoted to developing military satellites. The United States owns 145 functional military satellites which is more than half of all military radars currently in orbit. Russia owns 85 dedicated military and 18 multi-purpose satellites presently in orbit. From all indications, the United States relies heavily on its space capability. According to the 2001 Report of the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization indicated that US dependence on their space capability can make them prone to establishing a “Pearl Harbor” in space. The committee has suggested that the US must put in place improved space control abilities (Space Security, 2007).

            The decreasing cost of space access coupled with the prominence of space technology has paved the way for more states to become involved in the development and deployment of their own military satellites by utilizing launch capabilities and manufacturing services of other states

            The United States military satellites serving reconnaissance and surveillance purposes is collectively known as Keyhole Series. The first four satellites in this group went by the name Corona. In 1960, they were launched into orbit and adopted the parachute retrieval system for twelve years. Reconnaissance missions involving the group were composed of several satellites.

            Communications is essential to today’s military establishment. Satellites provider direct communications with soldiers in action. Handy mobile terminals can be set up in a matter of hours enabling the attacking troops to remain in contact with their superiors. Military satellites enable soldiers to communicate with the National Command Authorities. The US military maintains multiple geostationary communication satellite networks, which was utilized during Desert Stormn.

            The Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS) services the four major branches of the military as well as several government agencies. The Space Architect of the Department of Defense,  established in 1995, performs consolidation of responsibilities for space missions and systems architecture development in a single organization.

      Under the MILSATCOM project, there are three communications sector that will be established in the military namely the wideband, protected, and narrowband. Under the MILSATCOM, the old Defense Satellite Communication System will be replaced by the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite Program and the Advanced Wideband System. The systems under Wideband will be the Global Broadcast Service and the Advanced Wideband System.

Protected Communications, on the other hand, will provide the ability to avoid, negate, mitigate, or prevent interruptions, destruction, rejections, unauthorized access, or exploitation of communications by the enemies of the environment.

      Finally, the Narrowband Communications will involve data which are below 64 kilobits per second will be given more boundary as greater rates of data will become accessible in small terminals.

Conclusion/Recommendations

            Military surveillance have gone a long way since the time of the U-2 and the SR-71 Blackbird. The Department of Defense, through its Military Satellite Communication project, is looking forward to improving satellite communication capability of the four major branches in order that they would have a tactical advantage against their enemies.

            Since the technology can be highly technical and complicated, it is recommended that essential training must be conducted and that the most qualified be chosen.

References

Brown, P (2008 April 1). Military Satellite R&D: All Eyes on Software. Satellite Today. September 26 2008 from http://www.satellitetoday.com/military/netwarfare/23703.html

Brown, G (2000 May 19).  “How Satellites Work.”.  HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved September 26 2008 from http://science.howstuffworks.com/satellite.htm

Bussarakons , T (2004 May 1). Military satellites pose engineering challenges in DC-DC converter development. RF Design. Retrieved September 26 2008 from http://rfdesign.com/mag/radio_military_satellites_pose/

Clark, E (2001 October 16). Military Reconnaissance Satellites (IMINT). Center for Defense Information. Retrieved September 26 2008 from http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/satellites-pr.cfm

Elfers, G., & Miller, S (2007 November 23). Future U.S. Military Satellite Communication Systems. Aerospace Corporation. Retrieved September 25 2008 from http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/winter2002/08.html

Glackin, D (2007 November 23). Earth Remote Sensing: An Overview. Aerospace Corporation. Retrieved September 23 2008 from http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/summer2004/01.html

Merchant, J(n.d). Remote Sensing Microsoft Encarta Online Encylopedia. Retrieved September 23 2008 from http://www.encarta.msn.com

Pike, J (2005 April 27). Overview. Global Security.Org. Retrieved September 26 2008 from http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/com-overview.htm

Short, N (2008 June 30).The Concept of Remote Sensing. Remote Sensing Tutorial. Retrieved September 23 2008 from http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Intro/Part2_1.html

Short, N (2008 June 30). Military Intelligence Satellites. Remote Sensing Tutorial. Retrieved September 26 2008 from http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Intro/Part2_26e.html

Space Support for Terrestrial Military Operations. Space Security.Org. Retrieved September 25 2008 from http://www.spacesecurity.org

Von Kries, W (n.d). Dual Use of Satellite Remote Sensing. Space4Peace. Retrieved September 26 2008 from http://www.space4peace.org/ethics/dusrs.htm

 

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