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UK Plans Space Based Radar System

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the pings-in-space dept.

Space 70

First time accepted submitter peepster84 writes "The UK government is to kick-start an innovative project to fly radar satellites around the Earth, with an initial investment of £21m. NovaSar-S would have a number of viewing modes that could enable it to perform a wide range of roles, from flood monitoring and land cover management to disaster mapping and maritime enforcement — notably ship tracking and oil spill detection."

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Space-based anti piracy tracking (2, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223614)

This may be the answer to the Somalia pirate problem - space-based tracking.

Now adding a moderately powerful laser, say 10KW or so...

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (2, Funny)

peterindistantland (1487953) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223660)

Can they track and destroy software pirates from space?

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1, Funny)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223700)

Oh, you bet MAFIAA will be credited somewhere as a 'sponsor' on these things..

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#38225322)

Can they track and destroy software pirates from space?

If they are from Somalia.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38227392)

Seems to me the RIAA is usually pretty spaced out on cocaine. So yes.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223920)

Ignoring the issues of powering such laser, how do you plant to pierce the atmosphere and retain enough of the energy in the beam to do more then make people wonder "what's this weird light show?"

Also, if you think that space tracking from satellite would solve Somalia's piracy issues, you think it wouldn't have been done already? We have absolutely ridiculous spy satellite capacity, and that was one place where essentially every major nation in the world wanted for the problem to end.

The real issue is that there is no way to tell a "pirate ship" from thousands of fishing vessels in the waters until you step aboard and check it for weapons.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224214)

Actually stepping on board and finding weapons does not make it a pirate ship; they actually need to wait around for the vessel to do something hostile before it can be called a pirate ship.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (3, Informative)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224412)

Considering that it's illegal to have weapons on a civilian vessel, yes it does actually. That's why when they inspect a vessel and find weapons, they usually confiscate weapons, rather then wait for an attack.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224688)

You think they'd want guns to defend against pirates.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38224740)

That depends on the nation under which the ship is flagged (and possibly the crew's nationalit[y|ies]). The UK was recently considering whether we should allow specific vessels flagged as British, to carry small arms when travelling through Somali waters specifically to defend against pirates, but I don't think a decision has happened yet (or it's been quietly dropped).

Where is it illegal? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224764)

I'm just curious. Where is it illegal to have weapons on a civil vessel? Most blue water cruisers have something to deal with possible shark attacks, and they have distress flares which are rather effective short range weapons. The usual argument against arming civil vessels is that it would create an arms race with the pirates; the second one is that the bad guys are much more likely to be good at using them than ordinary mariners.

Historical note: In Moby-Dick the Quaker-owned whaler Pequod has a whole gun rack. When chased by pirates the captain attempts, successfully, to outrun them - but it is pretty clear that in the worst case those guns would simply get handed out to the people on board best equipped to use them.

Re:Where is it illegal? (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224884)

I'm just curious. Where is it illegal to have weapons on a civil vessel?

For example Egypt. Which means you can't have armed guards on vessels going through the Suez canal. Which makes things more difficult. I guess the armed guards would have to rendezvous with ships after they've been through Suez and left Egyptian territorial waters.

By the way, I don't think the fact that safety equipment could be used in extremis, at very short range as a firearm, is a reason to sanction real firearms. Better to do rational pros/cons analysis of the policy than fall into something with a thin-end-of-the-wedge argument.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224896)

It is *not* illegal to have weapons on civilian vessels. You have to declare them when you come into port in most countries where they may be taken and put under lock and key till you leave. But otherwise you are permitted to have some pretty serious personal firepower.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38225348)

Most ports will simply not allow you to dock if you have weapons, unless you're a military vessel with a permit. Also, if you're not a military ship, and have weapons, you will not be able to enter Suez, which cuts down the potential reasons for sailing near Somalia quite a bit.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235802)

This is still incorrect. Even private vessels are allowed serious personal arsenals. I can't find the reference right now, but even in little ol NZ they size of some of these weapon caches make it to the media. It is clearly legal. Most ports simply do let you dock.

Owning a gun does not make you military. Having a gun on a boat does not make it a navy.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236450)

There is a reason why NZ is a small country literally "on the edge of the world" in more then one sense. NZ is one of the very few exceptions here.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38259194)

No its not. We don't have any pirates anywhere near us. At least Australia and the US has similar or the same rules.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38225650)

Really? One of the Danish shipping companies (Maersk I believe) recently started having armed guards aboard their ships; guess we are building our own little pirate fleet?

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38228530)

Legality of weapons aboard vessels varies for different countries. This applies both to the nation of registry, and the nation's territorial waters. Some nations will confiscate your boat if a weapon is found; some will require you to give them your weapons for 'safekeeping' while you are in the country (and often lose them while they are in 'safekeeping'), some don't ask, some don't care. When in international waters only the nation of registry matters - AFAIK there is no international law regarding arming of boats in international waters. IANAL, etc.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224824)

The real issue is that there is no way to tell a "pirate ship" from thousands of fishing vessels in the waters until you step aboard and check it for weapons.

I bet if the position of each one was constantly tracked, and their positions, tracks and speeds were subjected to some analysis, then the pirates would look different. The fishermen will be going at an economical pace from fishing opportunity to fishing opportunity. The pirates will probably be heading more for shipping lanes, hanging about, going in for closer looks at ships etc.

Of course if this tactic is ever used, then they'd want to keep it secret. Don't want those pirates to become too good at pretending to be fishermen.

Incidentally the reason I thought of it is a recent TV science program which showed research on tracking mobile phones in a city, and how people show themselves to belong to various groups that visit the same groups of locations, and how different groups were at risk from different diseases. Thus analysis of mobile phone location data can suggest risk of diabetes, heart disease etc. (A Brave New World, Kathy Sykes)

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

Custard Horse (1527495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38225426)

I guess it could be used as a laser designator to paint the target for a bomb strike. I would imagine that such capability might be somewhat offputting to a pirate.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38232740)

Not really. First of all, they wouldn't know of being targeted, and second, there's absolutely no problem in using a normal radar detection on these ships. These aren't military or stealthy - they're bare bones basic fishing boats.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38233310)

50KW Free-electron-laser says, "lol, wut atmosphere?"

I think the only reason why we're not seeing much talk of stuff like this is that there are treaties against weaponizing space.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223928)

This may be the answer to the Somalia pirate problem - space-based tracking. Now adding a moderately powerful laser, say 10KW or so...

Actually just route commercial ships away from suspected pirates. Much like convoys were routed away from enemy submarines during WW2 when Ultra was up and running and decoding communications to and from the subs.

Yeah, not nearly as fun as lasers.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#38225770)

This may be the answer to the Somalia pirate problem - space-based tracking.
Now adding a moderately powerful laser, say 10KW or so...

Actually just route commercial ships away from suspected pirates. Much like convoys were routed away from enemy submarines during WW2 when Ultra was up and running and decoding communications to and from the subs.

Yeah, not nearly as fun as lasers.

If you see a Zodiac well offshore, then shine a low power laser from a drone. Let them know they have been spotted and further effort is of no use.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38228734)

Actually just route commercial ships away from suspected pirates. Much like convoys were routed away from enemy submarines during WW2 when Ultra was up and running and decoding communications to and from the subs.

That worked for a while. Today the Somali mother ships are operating in essentially the entire northeastern Indian Ocean, from near the coast of India to the entry to the Suez Canal and 1000 miles south along the African coast. The alternative to the Suez Canal is the Cape of Good Hope, which adds perhaps $100,000 to the cost of fuel and lost time, and can be a very dangerous piece of ocean. It more than doubles the length of the trip from India to Europe. Also, almost the entire oil production of the Gulf nations from Saudi Arabia to Iran is within the present range of the pirate motherships, so those oil ships are under threat from the time they leave the dock.

This is less of a problem in the other piracy 'hot spot', the Straits of Malacca, but there are still very few good alternative deep-water routes through that area.

Perhaps the saddest thing about all this is that the Somali pirates are now funded and directed by the international crime cartels - some based in Europe (and IMHO probably Russia), who are making most of the money.

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (2)

loustic (1577303) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224188)

How long before the satellites are able to send speeding ticket directly to your home? Initial investment of £21m ... huge profits !

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38226270)

"Ion. Cannon. Ready." http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KillSat

Re:Space-based anti piracy tracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38226574)

C'mon, how is the shark going to survive in space?? Think your thoughts thru.

wheres the fricken sharks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38230452)

wheres the fricken sharks with laser beams

Microwave Scanners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223634)

Why those new near infrared scanners can see through to your underpants! :0)

Re:Microwave Scanners (1, Funny)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223708)

Good thing you have nothing to hide!

Re:Microwave Scanners (0)

TxRv (1662461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223854)

except my genitals. I do wear trousers for a reason.

Re:Microwave Scanners (0)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223890)

*whoosh*

Re:Microwave Scanners (0)

TxRv (1662461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224410)

Idon't think that word means what you think it means.

Re:Microwave Scanners (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225172)

The joke was a play on the usual "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" response which indicated that OP has nothing in the genital department worth hiding. Your comment added nothing - the genitals were already implied far more subtly by GP and, as such, the whoosh was entirely justified.

Re:Microwave Scanners (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223984)

why you want to hide them? :D

Re:Microwave Scanners (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38224098)

He don't, the rest of the society...

Is it allowed? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223670)

I thought one of the military treaties signed by US, NATO, Russia, etc prohibits satellite based radar because there is no way to hide stealth planes from that point of view?

Re:Is it allowed? (5, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223734)

The US, Japan, Canada, EU, Germany and Russia all have or had satellite based radar systems some with very high resolution.

Re:Is it allowed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38226334)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RISAT

India has them too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TecSAR

Israel has them too.

But I guess the British are like apple.

Re:Is it allowed? (3, Informative)

dumfrac (595394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223742)

There are quite a few space-borne radars. For example, TerraSAR-X, Radarsat-2.

Re:Is it allowed? (1)

decsnake (6658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224914)

and TRMM and someday GPM. I think the unique angle here, other than cost, is using radar for earth resources sensing. IIRC most ER spacecraft (landsat, EO-1 etc) carry passive instruments.

Re:Is it allowed? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38226836)

No, the treaty bans space based military action. Not that anyone is following that treaty...

I'd rather see a Space-based Gaydar System (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223754)

Anyone could view the live results on a website and instantly know where all the good parties are.

Please mod me up (-1, Troll)

cheeks5965 (1682996) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223866)

My karma is terrible. Please mod me up so I have better karma!

modb down (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223874)

corpse turned over may weel re8ain the above is far to underscore

Heard this before. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223910)

Dale Brown, Silver Tower, 1988.

Will we get a military space station with a cool laser, too?

Re:Heard this before. (3, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224032)

They had Skynet in 1969, but the GCHQ got most of its bandwidth :)
The classic 1980's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zircon_(satellite) [wikipedia.org] shows what "initial investment of £21m" can really mean.
The New Statesman trial showed what happened when the UK lost close to 1 billion pounds into 1980's UK "satellite" tech.
In the end they used US tech for 500 million pounds.
So with any UK space effort watch the cash flow :)

Good budget planning (1)

ygslash (893445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224018)

with an initial investment of £21m

Yeah, right.

Re:Good budget planning (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 2 years ago | (#38225072)

Why the skepticism? I bet it cost £21m to come up with the name 'NovaSar-S'.

(Nova = new, SAR = Synthetic Aperture Radar, S for satellite, maybe?)

Re:Good budget planning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225488)

S = S-band radio waves (~10cm)

I TOLD you! (2, Funny)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224482)

And you all laughed. Now who's laughing at my tin foil hat? Huh?

Re:I TOLD you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225236)

And you all laughed. Now who's laughing at my tin foil hat? Huh?

They are laughing because you still believe that your tin foil hat works.

Re:I TOLD you! (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38228830)

It does work. It makes it easier for radar to see him. ;)

Re:I TOLD you! (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#38229386)

It does work. It makes it easier for radar to see him. ;)

Gee, this hat looks like a corner reflector.

Re:I TOLD you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38232636)

Modern tin foil hats are of a very angular design, like the F117, get with it guys...

How to build a Satellite (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224732)

If you're interestes and able to watch it - On the BBC they've just shown a programme about satellites being made by Astrium. I'm glad to say we still have the skills in the UK to get this project done.
// As an aside I'm happy for tax money to go towards make work project to keep those skill alive; but I'd rather the tax was used for travel infrastructure. //
But that's not the point. Watch the show. It's interesting.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00lysc9 [bbc.co.uk]

Re:How to build a Satellite (1)

decsnake (6658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224928)

Surry has a long history of building successful low cost spacecraft, going back into the '80s at least. Maybe farther. Google UOSAT-1

Re:How to build a Satellite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225270)

Surry has a long history of building successful low cost spacecraft, going back into the '80s at least. Maybe farther. Google UOSAT-1

Wrong .... but Surrey has

Moneys?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38224846)

The official lie is that the UK doesn't have enough money to buy basic things like healthcare or education. How on earth does the government plan to get the money to fund a pointless satellite project?

Re:Moneys?? (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38229564)

£21m? Just clean the queen's couch for that little pittance...

Envisat (1)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224858)

Why bother ? The UK already contributes to ESA, which has Envisat [esa.int]

Not exactly new (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38225440)

The US and the Soviet Union / Russia has been flying these satellites since the 1970's, both scientific (starting with Seasat [wikipedia.org] ) and military.

Re:Not exactly new (1)

phyr (586855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38226814)

What's new here is that they are trying to get a constellation up very cheap (20M) and expect to get a 50:1 return on investment.
The sensors themselves aren't that impressive and low resolution when compared to RADARSAT-2, TerraSAR-X and CosmoSkymed.

Let's hope they fund some new work into the GPL SAR Toolbox NEST http://www.array.ca/nest [array.ca]

Re:Not exactly new (1)

vandamme (1893204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38245840)

I've bought a number of scanning missions on Radarsat-1 and they weren't that expensive, a couple hundred loonies for a couple minutes (hundreds of square miles). And better resolution because it's at C band (5.2 GHz). So I dunno where they get the 50:1 return. It takes some maintenance too.

Can it give speeding tickets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38227922)

That would help it pay it's way.

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