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NASA Space The Military Science

NASA Gets Two Military Spy Telescopes For Astronomy 237

Posted by samzenpus
from the hand-me-downs-for-the-heavens dept.
First time accepted submitter SomePgmr writes "The U.S. government's secret space program has decided to give NASA two telescopes as big as, and even more powerful than, the Hubble Space Telescope. Designed for surveillance, the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office were no longer needed for spy missions and can now be used to study the heavens."
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NASA Gets Two Military Spy Telescopes For Astronomy

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:05PM (#40212837)

    They are sitting in a cleanroom in upstate New York [nytimes.com]. There is a longer, more detailed article [nytimes.com] in the New York Times. The satellites may save $250M each or more on various NASA missions, but they still need to be launched and have a program built around them — which may put dark matter research more than a decade ahead of schedule.

    For the folks who don't know what the National Reconnaissance Office [nro.gov] is, the NRO is the member of the US Intelligence Community [intelligence.gov] responsible for designing, building, launching, and maintaining the United States' intelligence satellites. It does not do intelligence work itself, nor does it direct the use of space assets. Judging from some of the comments on the NYT article, I should also say this: NRO has been around for a half century, and its existence was declassified two decades ago, so this isn't some kind of "new"/shadowy intelligence agency. While its work is classified, its purpose and function is well-understood.

    For a look at what kinds of work NRO does, see

    Declassified US Spy Satellites Reveal Rare Look at Secret Cold War Space Program [space.com]

    Twenty-five years after their top-secret, Cold War-era missions ended, two clandestine American satellite programs were declassified Saturday (Sept. 17) with the unveiling of three of the United States' most closely guarded assets: the KH-7 GAMBIT, the KH-8 GAMBIT 3 and the KH-9 HEXAGON spy satellites...

    Secret No More: Spy Satellite Designer Reveals Life's Work [space.com]

    Phil Pressel had kept a secret for 46 years. A secret that he shared with no one, not even his wife, since he first went to work for the Perkin-Elmer optics company in 1965...

    Aside: I know this is difficult to comprehend for some on slashdot, but US intelligence assets in space are almost exclusively used for FOREIGN intelligence. Occasionally capabilities of, e.g., the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) may provide civil support in natural disasters. Our intelligence operations are not transparent, and are kept secret to deny our adversaries knowledge of our techniques, capabilities, sources, and methods. Be happy that we're able to repurpose for science intelligence assets that might otherwise have been destroyed or kept secret beyond all usefulness.

    • Of course I noticed the mistake right as I posted it... :-/

      • by houghi (78078) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:51PM (#40213435)

        Of course I noticed the mistake right as I posted it... :-/

        No worries, that is why we have Editors. Right?

      • by cusco (717999)
        deny our adversaries knowledge of our techniques, capabilities

        In my more conspiracy-inclined moments I sometimes wonder whether the 'defect' in the Hubble mirror wasn't deliberate, to keep the Soviets from being able to figure out how good Big Bird and the rest of the fleet really were. There are dozens of steps in the manufacturing process, and the final one, polishing, has to be programmed to follow the actual curve to an extreme exactitude. Did they really make the same mistake all along the line?
        • What happened with Hubble is very well-understood, in terms of the specific event that caused the error, and the management climate that led to multiple tests detecting the error being ignored. In answer to, "Did they really make the same mistake all along the line," yes, yes they did. At least two major tests after the mirror was ground which showed the error were themselves dismissed as flawed.

          The Hubble Space Telescope Optical Systems Failure Report [nasa.gov], or the "Allen Report", has all the details.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:09PM (#40212885)

      Our intelligence operations are not transparent, and are kept secret to deny our adversaries knowledge of our techniques, capabilities, sources, and methods.

      Security through obscurity is neither.

      • by busyqth (2566075)
        Very insightful.
        Instead of hiding the existence of our intelligence assets, we should be strongly encrypting them.
        No would ever know they exist, because the assets themselves would look like random data.
        • by f3rret (1776822)

          Very insightful.

          Instead of hiding the existence of our intelligence assets, we should be strongly encrypting them.

          No would ever know they exist, because the assets themselves would look like random data.

          You honestly think this isn't already done? I am fairly certain that strong encryption is commonplace is all intelligence operations.

      • Security through obscurity is neither.

        Yes. You might as well just tell me your password.

      • Our intelligence operations are not transparent, and are kept secret to deny our adversaries knowledge of our techniques, capabilities, sources, and methods.

        Security through obscurity is neither.

        That's what anonymous cowards (whose only real knowledge of security is the platitudes they quote) believe. It's also quite wrong. In the real world of security, obscurity is a valuable tool in the kit. You can't prepare to thwart a measure you don't know the existence of.

    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:10PM (#40212901)

      An awful long post for one minute after the story's timestamp. I'll save the rest of the Slashdotters here the work and accuse you of working for Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, Linus Torvalds, the NSA, the CIA, the KGB, the Democrats, the Republicans, Adolf Hitler and Mr. Rogers.

      More on topic, any idea where in "upstate NY" they're being kept? Whether you go by the NYC definition of Upstate or the rest of the state's definition of Upstate, it's still a pretty big area and odds are I'll be near it sometime within the next two weeks. I'm going to guess somewhere near either Rome or Watertown.

    • by Jiro (131519)

      Aside: I know this is difficult to comprehend for some on slashdot, but US intelligence assets in space are almost exclusively used for FOREIGN intelligence.

      And if it wasn't, how would you know? They're secret. This means that "we use it on foreign targets only" is entirely based upon trusting the government's say so, and they have every reason to lie (or just to make sure that the department which is giving us the denial isn't in the know about how the satellites are actually used). Indeed, if it's observi

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oh, FOREIGN intelligence. That's OK then. Those evil foreigners have no right to privacy, they aren't even *American*!

      • by f3rret (1776822) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:56PM (#40213479)

        Oh, FOREIGN intelligence. That's OK then. Those evil foreigners have no right to privacy, they aren't even *American*!

        In the eyes of the CIA and the NSA and their international counterparts, no, no they don't.

        That sort of is the whole point of intelligence gathering, just comfort yourself in the knowledge that you are nowhere near interesting enough for any agency to look at you.

  • Translation ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:12PM (#40212921) Homepage

    the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office were no longer needed for spy missions and can now be used to study the heavens

    This translates to "we have far cooler spy stuff now".

    But, and here I demonstrate how little I know about satellites, would something designed for looking down at Earth be easily adapted to astronomy?

    You'd think the optics/instruments would be optimized for a different problem set.

    • by T-Bone-T (1048702)

      That's exactly what I was wondering.

    • Re:Translation ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by jmauro (32523) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:17PM (#40212985)

      The article indciates that these are just the mirrors and the shells. There are no instruments and they're currently sitting in a warehouse instead of being in space. NASA would need to equip them and launch them before they could even be used for anything, but it would shorten the timeline (over the Webb Telescope) since they're similar to the existing Hubble telescope.

      • by synapse7 (1075571)
        Seems like exciting "windfall". But, what about the age and how practical would it be to re-purpose.
        • A lot more practical than retrofitting Hubble or building a new satellite from scratch.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            As the Hubble approaches it's end of life and no possibility for refurbishment from the shuttle, seems that NASA should offer an X-prize to companies that can viably offer and execute a mission for unmanned or manned refurbishment of the Hubble. $500M would make an interesting prize and be only a fraction of what a servicing mission from the shuttles cost. Even if the mission just replaced consumables such as fuels, coolant and failing gyros, keeping the Hubble going for a few more years would be worth it

          • Re:Translation ... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Chrontius (654879) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @02:09AM (#40216825)
            More to the point, call them Hubble-2 and Hubble-3 - And instead of the Hubble telescope, call it the Hubble mission. Call telescopes with that mirror size and configuration "Hubble class", like we have Iowa-class battleships and Arleigh Burke class destroyers, all named after the first ship of its type. This way, the Hubble mission of visible-light astronomy doesn't end with the service life of the first Hubble. On a tangent, maybe SpaceX can build a Dragon with an airlock and send people up for another servicing mission on the Mark 1, or maybe they can bring it back intact for display at the Smithstonian. Failing that, boost it into a "museum orbit" (polite term for "graveyard orbit", like is usually done with nuclear powered satellites) until it can be repaired (let's face it, space launch is getting cheap these days) or its mirrors harvested, or it can be displayed somewhere. Maybe on the first lunar Smithstonian branch, which will be built around the Apollo 11 site?
        • Re:Translation ... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Genda (560240) <mariet@got.nERDOSet minus math_god> on Monday June 04, 2012 @05:11PM (#40213643) Journal

          Actually the mirrors are the really difficult part, with current or even slightly more advanced electronics, these critters should kick holy hinny. The really cool part, is that there are two. Place these little bad boys a couple million miles apart and now you have a Hubble class interferometer. You should be able to see aliens french kissing on planets closer than 200 light years. Add to that, these guys can be made to see in anything from infrared to hard UV, and this could be a huge boon to cosmology and those of us who enjoy astrophotography.

          My only question is if these are the discards what the heck are they watching us with now? I'm worried about street cameras, this is a whole new level of invasion of privacy. So now its "Does a bear crap in the woods, film at 11...

          • by clodney (778910)

            Total speculation here, but I wonder if the retirement of the shuttle has an impact here? Is it possible that these telescopes were sized to fit in the shuttle launch bay, and with no more shuttle that requirement has been dropped and they can build in a larger primary mirror?

            I can certainly imagine that at some point in the last 20 years (which is probably when the authorization for these scopes happened), that somebody put in a requirement that they had to be compatible with the shuttle.


            • None of the militarys KH-11's (the one NASA "cloned" the first time when they built up the Hubble) were launched using a Shuttle mission.
    • by gman003 (1693318)

      From a different article on this I read earlier today, it would seem that the fact that it was designed for wider views actually helps it for certain tasks - monitoring for supernovae, for instance.

      • From a different article on this I read earlier today, it would seem that the fact that it was designed for wider views actually helps it for certain tasks - monitoring for supernovae, for instance.

        If only we had them operational 776 years ago.

        • by tnk1 (899206) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:45PM (#40213365)

          From a different article on this I read earlier today, it would seem that the fact that it was designed for wider views actually helps it for certain tasks - monitoring for supernovae, for instance.

          If only we had them operational 776 years ago.

          They were, it's just taken this long for Holy Roman Empire Intelligence to declassify them.

      • by Sperbels (1008585)

        From a different article on this I read earlier today, it would seem that the fact that it was designed for wider views actually helps it for certain tasks - monitoring for supernovae, for instance.

        That would likely be a waste of an orbital telescope. We have lots and lots of ground based scopes already watching for this. You can do this with really small scopes. Amateurs do a lot of it. We also have telescopes arrays that are specifically designed for covering large parts of the sky very quickly, they're better suited to this kind of duty.

    • Re:Translation ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by necro81 (917438) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:28PM (#40213119) Journal
      As far as the optics go, the main criteria in both applications is primary mirror diameter and focal length. The application-specific stuff is further downstream in the objective optics and camera (resolution, sensitivity (both what wavelengths it is sensitive to, and the effective ISO value)). From what I gather, these cast-off telescopes have a primary mirror similar to hubble's, which results in good light gathering for both applications. They also have a shorter focal length than Hubble. That makes sense for reconnaissance, because what you are looking at is so much closer, as compared to Hubble, where you are trying to resolve things billions of light-years away. However, for dark-energy astronomy, I gather a wider field of view would be preferred, so it's serendipitous.

      Bear in mind though: these aren't complete, launch-ready satellites. You've got the major components of a telescope, but you are likely lacking the actual camera, plus most of the rest of the satellite components (solar panels, flight computer, thrusters and gyros, batteries, thermal management, etc.). Still, it gets you a lot closer than designing from scratch. Plus, by having certain components fixed from the get-go forces a lot of the rest of the design into place, rather than spending years trying to get past the blank page of infinite possibilities.
      • by elwinc (663074) on Monday June 04, 2012 @05:56PM (#40214025)

        There are some secondary characteristics of the mirror that may be less than perfect for optical astronomy. The Hubble mirror was ground smooth enough to focus the Lyman Alpha spectral lines of neutral hydrogen (best way to see H2 gas clouds). These wavelengths are in the UV. Presumably an earth-looking satellite won't have much use for UV, but it might be better at IR, which is also useful in astronomy. Also in service of the short wavelength goal, the Hubble primary mirror was made of a very exotic glass with near zero thermal coefficient of expansion. The mirror has glass stiffening braces in back that were *welded* on; no annealing necessary. Presumably spy satellites rarely have multi-hour exposure times, so thermal stability may not be so necessary. On the other hand, it sounds like the spy satellite secondary mirrors are adaptive optics. This is good for correcting for atmospheric distortion, but it needs a bright source (earth based scopes with AO use lasers to create a bright source high in the atmosphere for distortion correction). Perhaps the AO can be used to correct for thermal changes to the primary; I don't know...

        • by careysub (976506) on Monday June 04, 2012 @07:04PM (#40214635)

          The UV capability of Hubble was nice, but for looking into the early Universe - the current focus of research (understanding the Big Bang; understanding dark energy and dark matter) it is useless - everything of interest has been red-shifted into the IR. The whole design focus of the James Webb Telescope is IR operation, that is why it will be sent far from that big glowing heat-ball called Earth (it will have a sun shield of course).

          In longer articles (Washington Post, NY Times) they are proposing that these could be James Webb Jr. telescopes, providing some of its capability earlier, and then increasing the value of Webb by observing the "easy" stuff, leaving Webb to do what only it can do.

    • by jd (1658)

      The mirrors are the difficult part. Hubble was damaged at birth due to defective mirror production, the corrective lens helped but any thickening of a lens will reduce the light that gets through to some extent. The Newtonian reflector didn't use a front lens at all - which would be great in space where you've not got to worry about atmosphere and corrosion (although micrometeorites are a pain).

      Once the Enterprise [buildtheenterprise.org] is built, though, we can just fly to the stars. Well, once someone invents the warp drive.

    • Re:Translation ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:58PM (#40213493)

      This translates to "we have far cooler spy stuff now".

      I would imagine satellite imagery is being supplanted by covert reconnaissance drones. The achilles heel of spy satellites has been their fixed orbits. They can pass over a target only at certain times, can't loiter, and frequently can't get an ideal viewing angle (if the hangar doors open to the West, you have to place the camera there to peek inside). People paranoid about being spied upon can predict when the satellites will be overhead (their orbits are public knowledge since it's virtually impossible to hide anything in LEO), and simply hide everything they're doing when the satellites could see. Yes these problems can be overcome by changing the orbit, but that requires burning fuel, and there's only a finite amount aboard each satellite with (as of the Shuttle's retirement) no way to refuel them.

      Drones overcome all these problems, at the cost of being easier to down [slashdot.org]. But they're several orders of magnitude cheaper (a few $million vs a few $billion), and there's nothing particularly secret about optics and CCDs. The thing that's puzzled me about the drone which was downed in Iran is that it wasn't near any valuable targets I can think of in Iran. It wasn't near Iran's nuclear plant, it wasn't near Tehran, it wasn't near their major military bases, and it wasn't near the Strait of Hormuz. All of these could have been more easily accessed by a drone launched from a nation "friendly" to the U.S. (Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE). But this drone went down way out in the boonies near Afghanistan, which makes me suspect either the USAF was telling the truth and it malfunctioned in Afghanistan and strayed into Iran, or that drones have pretty much supplanted spy satellites and the U.S. is flying a bunch of these all over the place even over medium- and low-value targets.

      would something designed for looking down at Earth be easily adapted to astronomy?

      You'd think the optics/instruments would be optimized for a different problem set.

      The wider field of view would be the biggest impediment. But the uses NASA is thinking of need a wide field of view. And even then, you can add optics which narrow the field of view (increase the focal length). It's not as ideal as the larger optics being shaped from the onset for the longer focal length (more margin for error), but it's not that big a problem. Hubble basically had the same problem - its primary and secondary optics were ground to the wrong shape. This was corrected by inserting small lenses into the light path to correct the error.

      Presumably the NRO stripped out all the instrument sensors and processing electronics. Those are the parts which were most suited for terrestrial targets, and which would've had to have been replaced anyway for deep space (very very low light) applications. Typically this involves cooling the sensor to cryogenic temperatures to decrease the noise floor. So overall this is a very, very good deal for NASA. Assuming they can find a way to launch it (the 94" mirror size was dictated by the largest diameter which was able to fit into the Shuttle's cargo bay).

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:16PM (#40212973)

    The CEO did a good interview on 60 minutes last night.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    of what could happen if we spent more on useful, scientific space programs instead of spending it on military. Think of how many missions could have been launched if we did that. How much more we could have learned about the universe.

  • NASA Has 2 Hubbles (Score:5, Informative)

    by jcnnghm (538570) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:19PM (#40213005)

    NASA has a fully functional copy of Hubble "sitting around" at Goddard Space Flight Center as well. If something goes wrong in space, fabrication of replacement components and the training of the astronauts that will fix it does not occur in space. It is invaluable to have an exact duplicate on the ground for this reason.

    Interestingly, the total 2010 US Space budget was $64.6B. The entire rest of the world combined spent only $22.5B. NASA's 2010 budget was $18.7B. Many programs that people think are NASA projects are actually defense projects. For example, the GPS system is not included in NASA's budget, it's spearheaded by the Air Force Space Command, and comes out of the Defense budget.

    Chances are the main satellites that these are duplicates for have been decommissioned, so these are no longer needed. I would guess they are actually two distinct but similar designs, and not two copies of the same design. I would assume NASA already determined that the risk of these satellites failing and NASA being incapable of fixing them is outweighed by the desire to have higher powered telescopes in space.

    My mother has worked in the thermal blanket lab at Goddard for years. Several years ago, she got one of the engineers working on the James Webb Space Telescope to take her and I on a tour of the clean room where they are fabricating one of the core components, the micro-shutter array. The micro-shutter array is an array of 65,536 shutters on an area about the size of a postage stamp. We got to go into the clean room and see the entire process. It is very similar to the process used to fabricate semiconductors, and I think they were operating at about the 60nm level. The idea of the micro-shutter array is that each shutter can be independently operated to shut out interfering light sources, so that the telescope can look much further back in space and time for deep fields. These should be spectacular. Instead of imaging the entire shutter area as the Hubble does, JWST will be able to close all but one micro-shutter which should allow very long exposure times, and the ability to see extremely distant objects. More on the array at http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/microshutters.html [nasa.gov].

    Also, the Hubble is huge. It is a cylinder with a diameter of perhaps 15ft and a height of roughly 40ft. Pictures really don't do it justice, I had no appreciation for the size until I saw it. I know my mother did some of the thermal blanket fabrication (think the tin-foil looking stuff on the outside of spacecraft) for Servicing Mission 4. Disclaimer: This is a cross-post of something I wrote at Hacker News earlier today.

    • by jd (1658)

      Not just higher-power, but optical. There's other, more powerful, space telescopes being built* but none are in the visible or near-visible spectrum.

      *Admittedly, the Congresscritters want them cancelled, but they are for now being built. Even if NASA got these two, I'd be worried that Congress would continue being "cent-wise and dollar-foolish", with the result of them either never being launched or being sold to the Russians. Where they might well be converted back into spy satellites.

    • by afidel (530433)
      There's a replica of the Hubble in the entryway to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, it's really impressive how large [flickr.com] it is.
    • by jbeach (852844)
      In response to your sig, you don't necessarily make the poor richer by making the rich richer either...just sayin'.
    • by Mal-2 (675116)

      Those microshutters kinda look like a DLP mirror array, except used to pass/block light rather than reflect/deflect it. Everything is in line rather than at a near-180-degree angle. I have to wonder if there is any commonality to their development, and possibly to their application -- could these shutters be used to make a better, brighter projector for consumers? The R&D is already done and it can't be THAT groundbreaking or we wouldn't be reading about it here -- the military would want to sit on anyt

  • Nice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Simulant (528590)

    Nice to know we can afford to build spy satellites that we don't need. We have our priorities straight.
    • Re:Nice (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tnk1 (899206) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:51PM (#40213433)

      Considering that defense is a much more immediate concern than astronomy, I would say that the priorities are exactly correct.

      That's not to say I don't wish we would spend more on space, of course. And military stuff does often get re-purposed like this, so the defense budget is not a complete money sink.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      As the Hubble itself shows, supporting a certain level of capability in space is not really a deterministic process. You have launch failures. You have failures on station. So, it is almost impossible to maintain, say, a 90% probability of maintaining a capability, without some overbuild.
    • by Sperbels (1008585)

      Nice to know we can afford to build spy satellites that we don't need. We have our priorities straight.

      Does this really surprise you? You need to take another look at how much money is spent on the military and black budget stuff. These satellites are a drop in the ocean.

    • by PPH (736903)

      My wife must run the NRO. Like these satellites, shoes come in pairs. And she buys far more of them than she needs.

      What color are these telescopes? And is there a matching dress hanging up somewhere?

  • Easy, just put them on the next Shuttle flight. Ahhh, too soon? But seriously, will these fit on Dragon?
    • by Zocalo (252965)
      You do know that NASA has other launch [wikipedia.org] vehicles [wikipedia.org] than the Shuttle, right?
      • by afidel (530433)
        Something the size of Hubble is going to require a The Delta IV Medium+ or Delta IV Heavy given the need for a 5m payload fairing. In fact it's likely that these satellites are the reason for the 5m variants.
      • by Macrat (638047)

        You do know that NASA has other launch [wikipedia.org] vehicles [wikipedia.org] than the Shuttle, right?

        Other, more expensive, launch vehicles.

    • by Macrat (638047)
      Dragon is a capsule. I think you mean the Falcon launcher.
  • Say whaaa? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pesho (843750) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:27PM (#40213105)
    Should I be excited that NASA can use the hardware to move projects off the backburner or should I be depressed that NRO is so well funded that they are building toys they don't really need? Now that's the kind of news that can give you bipolar disorder. How can people who have been pinching NASA's pennies for years now can justify secretly building not one but two Hubble class telescopes for which they have no use?
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      How can people who have been pinching NASA's pennies for years now can justify secretly building not one but two Hubble class telescopes for which they have no use?

      Same thing they've been using to justify everything for the last 11 years or so -- terrorists and national security, with the odd bit of protecting children thrown in for good measure.

      They likely developed something way cooler than these since they were commissioned.

      The military-industrial complex does loads of stuff they don't like to tell peopl

  • This really goes to show you the budget humans have allocated to watching/killing each other vs. the budget allocated for exploring the deepest reaches of outer space. Military comes first, science gets the scraps.
    • by turing_m (1030530)

      I'd rather not look this gift horse in the mouth. (Though in Soviet Russia, gift horse looks you in mouth.)

  • Why these exist (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Monday June 04, 2012 @04:29PM (#40213135)
    Back in the early '80s, the NRO had extra "black projects" money, because its satellites were lasting longer than the design goals, so they didn't need as many. So they used the extra money to build a really nice campus near DC. Congress found out only after it was completed, and had a small cow.

    I imagine that that is exactly what these were, spares that were never needed. As other commentors have noticed, they probably are obsolete, and since they don't have any instruments, are probably very adaptable to astronomy.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    As this NASA HUbble document says [nasa.gov] "changing to a 2.4-meter mirror would lessen fabrication costs by using manufacturing technologies developed for military spy satellites." Hubble and KH-11 were apparently shipped in much the same container [wikipedia.org] (suggesting they're physically pretty similar) and both were integrated at Lockheed's Sunnyvale, CA plant. Given that there are only so many US aerospace contractors able to work on either project, there will have inevitably been some degree of cross-fertilisation betwe

  • Damn scientists, perverting military tech for their inhumanly-focused aims.

    How would you feel, if you were a contractor who worked on one of these satellites and who always assumed it would be used for some kind of warlike purpose -- maybe even to locate someone or something which needs to be blown up -- only to discover your work was going to be used for peaceful purposes?

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      Damn scientists, perverting military tech for their inhumanly-focused aims.

      How would you feel, if you were a contractor who worked on one of these satellites and who always assumed it would be used for some kind of warlike purpose -- maybe even to locate someone or something which needs to be blown up -- only to discover your work was going to be used for peaceful purposes?

      Yea, I'd be upset. We have never re-purposed technology from war to peace before. It has NEVER happened except for, HUMV's, motorcycles, atomic energy, aerodynamics, satellites used for communications, GPS, LORAN, encryption, radio communications, computers, explosives, Helicopters, emergency medicine, phased array antennas, ceramics, semiconductors, jet engines, transport aircraft, and WD-40, just to name a few.

  • It wouldn't hurt for NASA to send out a general message so all named and unnamed agencies could check their overstock list.. who knows, perhaps there's a Mars lander or two in there as well.
  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Monday June 04, 2012 @07:41PM (#40214923)
    When the Hubble was launched a NASA scientist was talking to a general. The general asked if he turned the Hubble around and pointed at the Earth what could it see. The scientist gave an example of how small an object it could see. The general responded "not Bad", not particularly impressed. The scientist thought to himself what could the military satellites do if he wasn't impressed? I think they are getting a little peak at obsolete military technology. Translated what could NASA do with practically unlimited funds.
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Monday June 04, 2012 @07:49PM (#40214977) Homepage

    Ladies and gentlemen: Why NASA never has enough money.

  • From junk to useful at the stroke of a pen. Science is always a loftier and more honourable goal than war.

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