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U.S. Withholding Satellite Data 274

Posted by timothy
from the derives-from-a-mandate-from-the-masses dept.
plover writes "Because of Congressional legislation passed quietly in 2003, the Air Force Space Command will no longer distribute space surveillance data via NASA. There was supposed a three year transitional period where the data was to be made available via a NASA web site, but earlier this month their transitional server went down hard, and NASA has decided to not rebuild it. (It was scheduled to be shut down on 31 March 2005 anyway.) The only way to obtain satellite data now is by signing up with the official Space-Track website. Part of the agreement to obtaining data from their site is that you agree to not redistribute their data. Of course, amateurs are still free to redistribute their observations, including those of classified satellites."
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U.S. Withholding Satellite Data

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  • Homeland Security? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mOoZik (698544) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:34AM (#11742493) Homepage
    What reasons are cited for this development? Security?

    • Bush didn't want any satellite photos of him smoking a joint [reuters.com].
    • Yeah, there was some "Chatter" that OBL was aiming to take down a couple of spy satellites with a modified ICBM, so they took the information offline, forcing him back to "Plan B": firing that sucker at the US's Eastern Seaboard, where the vaunted US Missile Defense will interceive it with technology that Really Works(TM).

      In a related development, Lockheed-Martin announced today it's new SatTrac(TM) feature, where your company can receive daily updates on the orbital patterns of nearly 1500 earth satellite
    • The sight of the Goa'uld mothership would panic the normal population.

      Oh sorry you said Air Force Space Command?

    • by will_die (586523)
      Nothing about secuirty at all.
      A server that was going down at the end of next month is crashing and they are not going to rebuilt it.
      No loss of data, no loss of anything unless you were also going to loose it next month.
      BTW satellite positions (past and present), along with military ships, and surfaced subs is all unclassified. Granted they would prefer it is not widely known, but if you broadcast it not much they can or will do about it.
    • We don't have the money to keep photoshopping them out of the pictures. Those pesky aliens keeps showing up all the time.
  • Quietly passed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michaelhood (667393) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:35AM (#11742495)
    Why isn't there some sort of community political watchdog site that informs us when things are "quietly passed"? Tell us about everything that's in the works, let us decide what we do and don't like.
    • Re:Quietly passed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SFalcon (809084) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:42AM (#11742527)
      The congressmen passing these bills barely skim the 1000+ page documents. You expect a non-paid volunteer to skim through each one? Count me out.
      • Re:Quietly passed (Score:4, Insightful)

        by luvirini (753157) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:45AM (#11742538)
        That is definitely part of the problem. There are simply too many laws with too many things in each law. Usually laws also contain provisions that have nothing to do with the man law.

        Unfortunately until enough people throw away the atitude of "well, politics are supposed to be corrupt" I do not see much change.

        • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:06AM (#11742755) Journal
          That is definitely part of the problem. There are simply too many laws with too many things in each law

          There should be three houses of Congress; The Senate, the House of Representatives and the Board of Editors. The third house would be comprised of disenfranchised magazine editors whose sole and entire purpose was to repeal legislation the other two houses dreamed up.

          • Re:Quietly passed (Score:5, Interesting)

            by smchris (464899) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:07AM (#11743240)
            Ah, a man who has obviously worked with government!

            Part of a job I had in the '70s required reviewing both our state and the federal legislative Registers. Be afraid. Be very afraid. If people only knew everything that gets proposed but doesn't pass committee, or if it passes committee, fails the vote (but isn't widely reported).

            Doesn't help that Congress seems especially corrupt at this moment in history. It isn't so much that the system is broken. It's working just fine for the special interests the way they want it to work.

            • by plover (150551) *
              I've always wanted a "three strikes" law for legislators. If you vote in favor of three laws that are later overturned by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional, you should be tried for treason.

              There should be the severest consequences for the "criminal" legislation that the Congress emits. Putting fear into their hearts would be the best way to ensure they don't try taking rights away from the population.

          • There should be three houses of Congress; The Senate, the House of Representatives and the Board of Editors. The third house would be comprised of disenfranchised magazine editors whose sole and entire purpose was to repeal legislation the other two houses dreamed up.

            Would there be enough diesnfranchised editors to fill what would be the largest house in such a senario :)
          • Re:Quietly passed (Score:5, Interesting)

            by HeghmoH (13204) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:36AM (#11743668) Homepage Journal
            I personally like Heinlein's idea for a bicameral legislature. One house only passes bills, and requires a 2/3rds majority. The other house only repeals bills, and requires only 1/3rds of the vote to do so. It seems to me that this would be a nice division of responsibility and would ensure that the legal system didn't get too complicated.
        • Re:Quietly passed (Score:5, Insightful)

          by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:12AM (#11742772)
          I agree.

          The simplest solution is to stop voting these folks into office. Unfortunately that requires people to actually give a crap and not just pick a party and stick to it like a religion.

          It also requires people to realize there are issues other than abortion and gun control that are both important and likely to be seriously addressed.

          These laws are "quietly passed" because everyone is focused on the media-friendly issues that are never resolved (because they are political suicide for any politician who addresses them seriously).
        • Maybe there should be a rule that in order to vote "yes" on a law, you have to hand in a hand-written copy of it, written by yourself (as can be checked by the handwriting). If you don't hand that in, your vote is automatically counted as "no". I guess this would cut down the size of laws considerably (and as side effect make sure that every one who votes "yes" has at least read the thing one time, and therefore has some idea of what it actually says).
      • Re:Quietly passed (Score:3, Interesting)

        by KevinIsOwn (618900)
        While the Congressmen themselves generally don't read the entire document, that's why Congressmen have staff. The staff read the entire thing and inform their boss of the contents. Most Congressmen will read a portion as well.
        The only notable exception to this is when legislation like the Patriot act was rammed through and only one Senator had time to read the whole thing.
    • wouldn't be passed at all

      either that or its just "that left wing propaganda to make it look scary"

    • Re:Quietly passed (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MagicDude (727944)
      If there is some group out there looking out for these sort of things, they probably didn't have the means of getting the word out. They were probably derided as a bunch of kooks by the media or any kind of outlet they tried to talk to. Getting information out is hard if you don't have the infrastructure to get people to listen to you.

      Here's an example of such a failure. In Hawaii, there is a tsunami monitering center, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, [noaa.gov] which moniters the west coast of the US, and p
      • Lots of speculation. Is that how you cover up for lack of knowledge? Assuming you are making mention of the December 2004 tsunami, your whole sceanario falls apart when you examine the truth that warning was provided. The failure to warn wasn't from U.S. monitors, it was local governments.
    • Re:Quietly passed (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nuclear305 (674185) *
      "Why isn't there some sort of community political watchdog site that informs us when things are "quietly passed"? Tell us about everything that's in the works, let us decide what we do and don't like."

      There are such watchdogs, however...to be frank, that's your job as a responsible voter to keep track of what your elected officials are doing since, you know, they are there to represent you.

      Saying that the government should take the time to inform everyone of whats going on because people are too lazy--or
    • Why isn't there some sort of community political watchdog site that informs us when things are "quietly passed"? Tell us about everything that's in the works, let us decide what we do and don't like

      The sheer scope of everything that's proposed, pending, passed, etc., makes this almost impossible except for vested parties with DC-based busy-bodies. They're called Lobbyists, PACs, Associations, etc. Or, as we love to call them, Special Interests.

      For actions that end up impacting large business sectors,
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:38AM (#11742507) Homepage Journal
    Government, by and for corporations, of the people.

    Before you flame me with narrowminded visions of brownshirts blotting out your vision, realize that this was Mussolini's definition, and it's what we've got in the USA. Then consider that the brownshirts aren't too far off, either in the future or in actual conditions today.

    Fascism is the human face on the corporate body politic. And these days, the mask is off.
    • Fascism is the human face on the corporate body politic. And these days, the mask is off.

      Well, not off fully. But the trend seems to be set for that to be more and more the case.

    • by Xel'Naga (673728) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:28AM (#11742657)
      ...this was Mussolini's definition

      Who has the right to make a definition? If he had thought he could have convinced anyone, Mussolini would have defined fascism as paradise. That doesn't necessarily mean it is correct.

      Allow me to quote the definition found on Wikipedia (No link, it's currently out):
      Definition
      The word fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that
      * exalts nation and sometimes race above the individual,
      * uses violence and modern techniques of propaganda and censorship to forcibly suppress political opposition,
      * engages in severe economic and social regimentation.
      * engages in corporatism,[1] (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=219369 )
      * implements or is a totalitarian regime.

      In an article in the 1932 Enciclopedia Italiana, written by Giovanni Gentile and attributed to Benito Mussolini, fascism is described as a system in which "The State not only is authority which governs and molds individual wills with laws and values of spiritual life, but it is also power which makes its will prevail abroad.... For the Fascist, everything is within the State and... neither individuals nor groups are outside the State.... For Fascism, the State is an absolute, before which individuals or groups are only relative...."

      Mussolini, in a speech delivered on October 28, 1925, stated the following maxim that encapsulates the fascist philosophy: "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato." ("Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State".) Therefore, he reasoned, all individuals' business is the state's business, and the state's existence is the sole duty of the individual.

      Historians should judge the leaders of the world - not themselves. And it appears historians consider corporatism a rather small part of fascism. It is later in that article described as more of a means than an end.

      Historians often judge people and their deeds quite different from what they would do themselves. Consider this quote: (Translated from German to Danish to english - sorry)

      "At this hour I feel, that it is my duty to my own conscience again to appeal to the common sense, both in Great Britain and elsewhere(...)
      I can see no reason for this war to continue. Herr Churchill will probably disregard this statement by saying, that it is born of fear and doubt about our final victory. In that case I have relieved my conscience about the things that are to follow."
      Adolf Hitler - 19. july 1940.

      Yet historians put the blame of the atrocities of the second world war on Hitler, rather than Churchill.
      (Yes, I know about Godwin's law)

      • Why is a reasoned response to a knee-jerk GEORGE BUSH SI A FASCIST!!! post moderated "troll"?
      • It's one thing to merely take a politician at their word, regarding their politics. And another to look at their actions - Mussolini's government was structured as an organization of corporations, so there's no quibbling that his corporatism was just propaganda. Fascism "has come to mean" many things to many people - mostly it has come to mean "like the Nazis", due to American propaganda, during and following WWII. Not only because America demonized the enemy to motivate our attack on it, but to distinguish
    • by kir (583)

      I'm a little confused how this event even remotely relates to fascism. The TLE data is still freely available on the Space Track website [space-track.org].

      Everything isn't doom and gloom you know. It boggles the mind how you got from this story to fascism so quickly (5 minutes?). Or did you not actually read the links provided?

      I smell stormtroopers!!! ;-)

      • Maybe you skipped the link to the User Agreement, which says

        "The User agrees not to transfer any data or technical information
        received under the agreement, including the analysis of tracking data,
        to any other entity without the express approval of the DoD.
        "

        That data is public. It was bought by the public, and represents public places. Restricting its duplication is a way to reserve the value in the central distributor, NASA/DoD - which is not how science works. But it is how corporate IP works. If you rea
    • And these days, the mask is off.

      Truly.

      While reporting sometimg along the following "Deutsche Bank reports 2004 pre-tax profit of 4.1 billion, up 50%, and fourth quarter 2004 pre-tax profit of 418 million after reorganisation charges of 574 million" it was also said that they are going to cut approx. 6500 jobs worldwide, around 1900 in Germany alone.

      CC.
      • And you still can't send money person-to-person over the Internet, between banks, without paying a fat fee. Or joining the unregulated abusive global banking monopoly PayPal, spun off from DeutscheBank. Who needs brownshirt punks when you can get people to rob themselves? Real punks wear suits.
    • Fascism has zero to do with corporations. This article has zero to do with Fascism OR corporations.

      For before you mod me down for stating the obvious, I'm beginning to wonder if Slashcode parses and automatically mods up and comments containing "before you 'flame me|mod me down'".

      • Fascism has zero to do with corporations.

        Good moderate "Funny". As noted, Fascism has _everything_ to do with corporatism by definition.

        A non-political note before I move along. This (the real) thread topic is one of the problems that Flightgear.org apparently has had for some time in getting good, free geographical data for their excellent free flight simulator. Too bad on that count.

  • The government never does anything wrong, or stupid, or um... God I can't stop laughing. This is worth a karma burn.

    I really have nothing else to say, this is just plain crap.

    Let's all wait for the chorus of "Now I'm moving to canada"

  • Does anyone know if "surveillance data" also includes digital photography from other government satellites and the Blue Marble/Earth Observatory [nasa.gov]?

    Are there any plans to extend this ban to cover these categories?

  • by zymano (581466) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:51AM (#11742557)
    How hard is it to build a spy/telescope satellite ?

    I found this site about building a miniature

    Miniature Space satellite [micro-a.net]

    A canadian cheapy.
    Canadian Satellite [space.com]

    I think it would be cool if someone could put a cheap one in space from off the shelf telescope parts . Don't you think these prices for these orbitting telescopes are a bit farfetched ?
    • I can buy a deck of cards at my local drugstore for a buck, but that doesn't mean that it won't cost several thousand to send it into space.
    • Hubble cost something like $2B (?). Spy satellites like the Keyhole 12 are similar to Hubble, and would cost at least that much. This gives you 10-cm resolution.
      Sure, you could buy a simple telescope, duct tape a digital camera and a packet radio transmitter to it, and blast it into space.
      But building optics that won't break during launch, and can handle the temperature changes is another matter. Building an attitude control system (a cluster of miniature rocket engines, plus control system) is nontrivial,
  • Once again.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:52AM (#11742560) Journal
    Once again knowledge resources are shut down for no reason at all. It seems the world in general is getting more and more shut out from Information.. how can ANY government claim this is healthy?

    The dumber the people get the more they need help, the more help they need the more the 'powers that be' control them. The more they control them.. the closer to get to 1984.

    I'm not into Space, but right now every day I hear more things are being hidden or shut down, yet we're still happy to waste money left right and centre on a war which was ment to be over 12 months ago, when we still have more armed forces there then any where.

    Maybe we should stop thinking about how we're going to deal with the "next terrorists" and start thinking "how are we going to make life worth while so we have a reason to fight these terrorists?"
    • Once again knowledge resources are shut down for no reason at all. It seems the world in general is getting more and more shut out from Information.. how can ANY government claim this is healthy?

      The dumber the people get the more they need help, the more help they need the more the 'powers that be' control them. The more they control them.. the closer to get to 1984.


      "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." -- George W Bush
    • Re:Once again.. (Score:2, Informative)

      by kir (583)

      Did you even read the links provide? No "knoweledge resource" is being shut down. The TLEs are available on Space Track. There is a convenient little "Create a New Account" link on the main page.

      I'm not into Space

      You may not be INTO space, but you're definitely IN space... Space Cadet!

  • by ABeowulfCluster (854634) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:52AM (#11742561)
    Nasa has tons of servers...so, the "oh gee, the server went down, so lets throw our hands in the air and give up" thing doesn't compute. There are always backups of servers. I expect organized agencies to have backups. The 'Server went down so give up' thing only applies to AOL users.
  • and i'm a us citizen

    aren't i paying for this?

    so what is the rationale to deny me what i have paid for?

    the purpose of my government is to serve me, is it not?
    • by MagicDude (727944) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:18AM (#11742629)
      Be careful with your generalization arguments. The wider the net you cast with your argument, the larger the holes are going to be.

      By your argument, you would imply thatou are entitled to know where our covert spies are, or where our ships and armies are specifically deployed, since your tax dollars paid for all of that personel and equipment. Or that you are entitled to a free trip on Air Force One, since your taxes paid for it. I'm sure the secreat service would love to have the coordinates of Air Force One broadcast on the internet, because people feel they have a right to know everything all the time. The government does what they feel is in the best interest of their people. And if you feel that they are a bunch of buttmunchers who have more allegiance to the oil industry than to the american people, then vote them out. Otherwise, you have to understand that there's the possibility that there's more to governmental policy than they choose to let you know.
      • The government does what they feel is in the best interest of their people.

        ...except it doesn't. In fact these days I'm not even sure it should. Anyway, revolutions need to remove/reform the people first, not the government..
    • I'm with you, bro! Any American taxpayer who wants to dress up in a flight suit and land on a Carrier should be able to do so! It's high time those suits stopped acting like they own the fruits of our labors!
  • by luvirini (753157) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:55AM (#11742574)
    Of course, amateurs are still free to redistribute their observations, including those of classified satellites.

    I mean this should clearly be made illegal, I mean publishing information of existance of something secret. I am sure that the next version of the bill will correct this bug.

  • keplerian elements (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:55AM (#11742576)
    This is information about the precise orbits of satellites. This is what you would need if you want to shoot down a satellite.

    They are not talking about weather photos.

    Does anybody read the article? Like the article says, this info is available, more accurately, from a global collaboration of amateur observers.
    • "Does anybody read the article?" No, of course not, you think people read Playboy for the articles too?
      • Actually, after looking at a Playboy for the first time today, I would have to say yes. I never bought porn and none of my friends buy playboy, my friend's brother just happened to leave one in his truck. I've heard Playboy is basically a topless Maxim so I went thru the magazine. There were 5 (nude) pictures in the centerfold section and maybe 2 or 3 outside of that. The magazine is mostly articles, and some of them were actually interesting. When I want to look at porn, I'll stay with the 90+ gigs of
    • Of course, the commenters aren't reading the articles. Then they'd have to acknowledge the U.S. government is ceasing a project and reducing spending. If they admitted the government is reducing spending by eliminating an unnecessary program, it wouldn't play into their paranoia. "Brown shirts", indeed! Now, if we can just get rid of that underground helium storage project which goes back to WWII...
    • by voisine (153062) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:10AM (#11742766)
      Shooting down a satellite is pretty much impossible with current technology (as far as you know). It's much more likely the information would be used to decide when you should cover up your wmd's since a spy satellite is about to pass overhead. Don't you read Tom Clancy?
    • This is information about the precise orbits of satellites. This is what you would need if you want to shoot down a satellite.

      I think you'd need a bit more than that. A VERY powerful hunting rifle, for instance.

    • by mpe (36238)
      This is information about the precise orbits of satellites. This is what you would need if you want to shoot down a satellite.

      If you were going to shoot down a satellite you would need a missile with an accurate guidance system anyway. Anyone who can build such a weapons system can most likely also build a radar system capable of accuratly tracking satellites. Especially given that minimising RCS is typically not a design requirement for a satellite.

      Like the article says, this info is available, more
  • Privacy? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Agret (752467) <<alias.zero2097> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:18AM (#11742626) Homepage Journal
    In the "Terms of Use" it states By continuing, you consent to your keystrokes and data content being monitored.
  • Withholding? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gordgekko (574109) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:26AM (#11742652) Homepage
    I'm a bit puzzled. If the U.S. is "withholding" satellite data, why is it still freely available via another web site? Less editorializing, more reporting.
  • ""The only way to obtain satellite data now is by signing up with the official Space-Track website. Part of the agreement to obtaining data from their site is that you agree to not redistribute their data""

    Am i the only one thinking that people likely to abuse this information ,are not likely to care about breaking a contract.
  • Open ended (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WillieT (861656) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:34AM (#11742807)
    So I was reading through the "terms of use" and got to this line "... By continuing, you consent to your keystrokes and data content being monitored." The way it's stated is so ambiguous that it's scarry. Anyone else agree?
  • Awww, man. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dark Coder (66759)
    No more on-line close up of Paris Hilton nude-sunbathing in the Carribean.
  • celestrak.com (Score:3, Informative)

    by d_p (63654) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:18AM (#11743272)
    For years, the satellite industry has relied on celestrak.com for easy and open access to TLE's. I have written several applications over the years for satellite ground operations that ftp'd or wget'd from celestrak's ftp site. There is no ftp or http access directly to the files on space-track. You have to log in to the web site, navigate through their cgi crap and copy/paste. Its going to be a major PitA to rework this stuff. I don't have as much of a problem with the restriction of access to this data as much as the poor design of the site.

    And contrary to popular belief, I think just about any US citizen can get an account on space-track if you sign up for it. There is a lot more to the story than NASA's OIG server crashing. The Air Force has been warning that this was coming for a very long time.

    d_p
  • by reallocate (142797) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:56AM (#11743436)
    Typical nonsense from the tinfoil brigade.

    A server supporting a system scheduled to end goes down a few weeks before that and the government decides not to spend the money to repair it. What's the problem?

    The same data remains available. What's the problem?

    The government -- any government with satellites -- doesn't want you or anyone else to know the location of its secret satellites. Why enable the very people those satellites are targetting to find out where they are?

    And, what is that crack about legislation that was "passed quietly" supposed to mean? Looks like deliberate paranoia-mongering to me: those sneaky people in Congress passed a bill and didn't ven bother to jump up and down on TV about it. Guess they forgot that the /. crowd won't pay attention unless you make a lot of loud noise.

  • by scattol (577179) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:20AM (#11743564)
    No orbital information means that you can't make and especially share satellite observation forecasts with your friends

    Site like Heavens Above [heavens-above.com] will need alternate source to make their forecast. This is a shame, accurate forecasts were a bonus to amateur observers and essential to observe some satellites.

    Those who haven't observed a -8 Iridium [satobs.org] are missing something. They are spectacular
  • typical /. FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:21AM (#11743570) Journal
    "NASA not distributing it the way it was done before" is NOT equivalent to "U.S. Withholding Satellite Data"

    As CelesTrak says on their site, you can "...Register for a Space Track account today at http://www.space-track.org (only 4,000 users have done so to date) and use the application provided at http://celestrak.com/SpaceTrack/TLERetrieverHelp.a sp to automatically download and convert Space Track data into CelesTrak data sets to help you with the transition. This will ensure you get the very latest data in the formats you are currently accustomed to...." (emphasis added)

    How is this "withholding" data, except in the "George-Bush-is-teh-debbil-therefore-the-governmen t-MUST be-fascist" fantasies of /.?
    • Re:typical /. FUD (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jonathan McDowell (515872) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:06AM (#11743897) Homepage
      Here's the problem: the new site not only forbids redistributing the keps (orbital parameters) to other people, which is a problem for /.-loved sites like http://www.heavens-above.com/ [heavens-above.com] which tell you when things are coming overhead, but also forbids redistributing analysis based on the data. So if you have a business that's a subcontractor to a satellite operator, and your job is to analyse the orbital data and tell the satellite owner if they are drifting off station or something, then as of last week you are theoretically out of business. And even if you are using the data to provide very basic info on satellites that falls short of what you'd need to predict where the satellite is - like my newsletter at http://www.planet4589.org/ [planet4589.org] - it's not clear if you're even allowed to do that.

      Now I suspect this is just a bureaucratic screwup, and the intent wasn't to be quite that restrictive. But there was way too little communication between the folks who wrote the law, the folks at USAF and NRO who understand which security concerns are real and which are bogus, and the different set of folks at USAF who run the orbital data service and had to interpret the law with very little guidance when writing up the new rules. In the absence of communication, things tend to be written to be so cover-your-ass that it gums up the works and that's what is happening.
  • satobs.org (Score:2, Informative)

    by lecithin (745575)
    For a very good discussion on this topic and others dealing with observation of 'satellites', go to http://satobs.org/seesat/ and browse the messages on the topic.

    You will get much more than the /. opinions.

  • by Khyron42 (519298) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @12:10PM (#11745114) Journal
    The only change here is that (a) they get to know who's accessing the data, and (b) those who access the data can't restribute it. This doesn't keep them from distributing the result of calculations based on the data, however.

    Heavens-above.com [heavens-above.com] has data regarding when satellites are visible from a given location on the earth's surface. I'm not sure if this gives any data on classified satellites. This site does currently still show orbital elements on the "orbit" page of each satellite's detail list - these are probably coming from non-Airforce tracking radars.

    JTrack 3D [nasa.gov] is a great little java applet (warning, the applet loads in a separate window) that shows you a real-time view of near-earth space. You can even pull up description pages for each of the satellites shown. The "Launch/Orbital information" link on the detail page is broken, and seems to be the only part of this service affected. Again this is unlikely to ever have shown classified satellites.

    Conspiracy theorists, take note. Every spacefaring nation on the planet knows where everything is in space including the orbital elements mentioned, to make sure thier expensive new pr0nosat won't crash into that random chunk of "damaged hardware that can't be de-orbited, oops" that's taking pictures of Osama's outhouse. This just keeps people from anonymously having the US Air Force do their orbit tracking for them.

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