(17 November 2011) RapidEye, a leader in wide area, repetitive coverage of Earth through its constellation of satellites announced today that a second full coverage of Lithuania has been delivered and accepted by the Institute of Aerial Geodesy (AGI) in Kaunas, Lithuania.
This fulfills two-thirds of a multi-year, full coverage contract that was negotiated last year.
The Lithuanian Ministry of Agriculture plans to use RapidEye’s satellite images for monitoring agricultural land use and particularly for detection of abandoned agricultural land. [Full story]
The eagerly awaited declassification of vast amounts of historical intelligence satellite imagery that was supposed to occur this year did not take place, and it is unknown when or if it might go forward.
Earlier this year, government officials had all but promised that the declassification and release of miles of satellite imagery film was imminent.
"The NGA [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency] is anticipating the potential declassification of significant amounts of film-based imagery... in 2011," the Agency stated in a solicitation that was published in Federal Business Opportunities on February 14, 2011. ("Large Release of Intelligence Imagery Foreseen," Secrecy News, February 28, 2011).
"Almost all" of the historical intelligence imagery from the KH-9 satellite (1971-1986) should be declassified within a few months, said Douglas G. Richards of the Pentagon's Joint Staff at an August 23, 2011 public forum of the National Declassification Center.
But it didn't happen. Why not?
"I have no additional information to provide you concerning the status of this declassification effort," said Mr. Richards by email this week. "The Joint Staff completed its participation with the action a few months ago, consequently, I don't know its current status. Recommend contacting NGA for additional information."
An NGA spokesman said that the Agency is still weighing the issue and that it will eventually make a recommendation to the Director of National Intelligence on how to proceed. But it has not yet done so, and there is no particular deadline for it to reach a conclusion on the issue.
"The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has requested that NGA review the KH-8 GAMBIT and KH-9 HEXAGON imagery holdings for the purpose of making a recommendation to the DNI for possible declassification," said NGA public release officer Paul R. Polk in a November 10 email message to Prof. Chris Simpson of American University.
"At this time, NGA is conducting an ongoing review of the materials and will make its recommendations to the DNI once the evaluations are completed."
"If the DNI decides to declassify the subject imagery (or portions thereof), NGA will then need to develop a systematic method for transitioning the holdings over to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for the purpose of making these records available to the general public."
"In short, NGA cannot at this time advise as to what portions of the KH-8 GAMBIT and KH-9 HEXAGON imagery holdings will be declassified by the DNI, or when they may be available for purchase from NARA," wrote Mr. Polk in his message to Prof. Simpson.
It is difficult to discern what is going on behind the scenes here. One official suggested that the public announcements of impending declassification may have had the unintended effect of triggering latent opposition to the move and preventing its implementation.
There is a history of contention over imagery declassification dating back to President Clinton's 1995 executive order 12951, which declassified imagery from the Corona, Argon and Lanyard intelligence reconnaissance programs.
The Clinton order was a historic development in intelligence policy that was enthusiastically welcomed by scientists, environmentalists and many others at the time. But it also contained some problematic language that made subsequent declassification action more difficult than it would have been otherwise. The order stated that intelligence imagery from satellite programs other than Corona, Argon and Lanyard "shall be kept secret... until deemed otherwise by the Director of Central Intelligence."
Intelligence officials seized upon this language to argue that satellite imagery had been "carved out" of the normal procedures for automatic and systematic declassification. They insisted that any future release of such imagery was exclusively within the discretion of the DCI (later the DNI), who simply declined to exercise that discretion.
A compelling counterargument can be made that this Clinton order language (or this interpretation of the language) was superseded by later executive orders, including EO 13526, which stated that "no information may be excluded from declassification... based solely on the type of document or record in which it is found" (sect. 3.1g).
But although the debate might have been won in theory, it has been effectively lost in practice. Contrary to prior official statements, there will be no further declassification of historical satellite imagery in 2011, and no one can say when it might resume.
The U.S. intelligence community needs an organization that can assess the impacts of climate change on U.S. national security interests in an open and collaborative manner, according to a new report from the Defense Science Board (DSB).
The Director of National Intelligence should establish a new intelligence group "to concentrate on the effects of climate change on political and economic developments and their implications for U.S. national security," said the DSB report on "Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security" (large pdf).
The Central Intelligence Agency already has a Center on Climate Change and National Security. So why would the Intelligence Community need an entirely new organization to address the exact same set of issues?
One reason is that the role envisioned for the new organization is inconsistent with the practices of the CIA Center. So, for example, the new intelligence group would be expected to pursue cooperative relationships with others inside and outside of the U.S. government. It would also "report most of its products broadly within government and non-government communities," the DSB report said.
But the CIA Center, by unspoken contrast, does not report any of its climate change products broadly or allow public access to them. ("At CIA, Climate Change is a Secret," Secrecy News, September 22, 2011).
The CIA's unyielding approach to classification effectively negates the ability of its Center on Climate Change to interact with non-governmental organizations and researchers on an unclassified basis. Since, as the DSB noted, much of the relevant expertise on climate change lies "outside the government [in] universities, the private sector, and NGOs," the CIA's blanket secrecy policy is a potentially disabling condition.
In fact, the DSB report said, the secretive approach favored by CIA is actually counterproductive.
"The most effective way to tackle understanding [climate change] may be to treat it, for the most part, as an open question, transparent to all engaged in its study," the DSB report said. "Compartmentalizing climate change impact research can only hinder progress."
UN Conference on Geospatial Information announced
22 October 2011, 2:31pm
Experts Meet to Improve Coordination and Access to Global Geospatial Information for Solving Development Challenges
Representatives from 90 United Nations Member States and more than 50 international and civil society organizations and private sector entities will gather in Seoul, Republic of Korea, from 23 to 27 October for a series of high-profile meetings to improve the global management and coordination of geospatial information and in the application of geospatial technology to solve global socio-economic challenges.
The use of geospatial information (location-based information) goes beyond national borders. Many natural disasters and pandemic diseases are cross-border in their impact and tackling them requires information located and displayed globally. There is a need therefore for common frameworks and standards for national data to be used regionally and internationally and to harmonize definitions and methods that will enhance the use, accessibility and application of geospatial information globally. . . . [Full Story]
Russian Business-Newspaper: Roscosmos reviewed main provisions of the Federal Space Program to enhance commercial output: priority will be given to development of Earth remote sensing, navigation and communications satellites. There are plans in place to increase the number of Earth remote sensing satellites from 5 to 20 spacecraft by 2015. Olga Gershenzon, Vice-President of ScanEx Research and Development Center told RBN how business is carried out in remote sensing industry…[more]
1. Global datasets and information for risk reduction
Topic 1.1: Global and regional datasets
This session will focus on existing datasets which can be accessed and used for disaster-risk management and emergency response efforts (Landsat imagery via the EROS Data Center, SRTM/ASTER, MODIS, LANDSCAN, etc.).
Topic 1.2: Global and regional portals and platforms providing space-based and geospatial information
The session will bring together information on web-portals of UN-SPIDER, PDC, SOPAC, FAO, WFP, PreventionWeb, ReliefWeb and many more to promote information sharing and awareness raising.
Topic 1.3: Applications and case studies (national and global level)
Case studies related to hazard mapping and risk assessment will be the topic in this session, as well as national level disaster management systems and best practices from the region.
2. Rapid response mapping: opportunities and challenges
Topic 2.1: Rapid response mapping
Types of hazards in each country are specific to each one. Least Developed Countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states may have unique requirements based on the hazards they are exposed to. The session shall bring together the experience of disaster managers and technologists and promote an understanding of the requirements of decision makers from various countries. Rapid mapping calls for standard practices to cater the exact needs of the disaster managers. This session will address the following:
Information exchange between rapid mapping experts and end users (disaster managers)
Enhancing the utility of rapid mapping products: prompt access to image data and rules/best practices to improve relevance of rapid mapping products
Standardization of rapid mapping products
Taking advantage of crowd sourced mapping support
Topic 2.2: Existing rapid mapping mechanisms
Rapid mapping mechanisms have been set up by space agencies and other institutions around the world. Among them: the International Charter Space and Major Disasters, Sentinel Asia, SERVIR, and SAFER. This session will present such mechanisms, in particular those which support Asia and the Pacific.
Topic 2.3: Case studies
Rapid mapping products of disasters in recent years and lessons learned, in particular the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011, floods in Pakistan and Myanmar in 2010 and many other disasters in Asia and the Pacific region etc.
3. Networks: building upon and strengthening existing capacities
Topic 3.1: The SPIDER Thematic Partnership for Asia: supporting National Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction
This session will introduce the SPIDER Thematic Partnership for Asia as a network or partnership to support National Platforms for Risk Reduction which have been set up by countries as a way to reach the goals proposed in the Hyogo Framework for Action. The partnership targets earth observation satellites, satellite telecommunication and global navigation satellite systems.
Topic 3.2: Efforts at the regional level
This session will showcase examples of existing networks which are promoting the use of space-based information to support disaster risk reduction and emergency response efforts. Presentations from UN-SPIDER partners and the network of Regional Support Offices (ADRC, ADPC, ASEM, ESCAP, APSCO, UNDP-BCPR, UNESCO-IOC, and the Pacific Disaster Network, among others) are expected.
Topic 3.3: Networking to enhance national capacities
This session will showcase examples of existing regional efforts conducted by Regional Centres for Space Science and Technology Education affiliated to the United Nations, Centres of Excellence and Universities on the use of space-based information for disaster risk reduction and emergency response (presentations by CSSTEAP, IRSA, CNSA, AIT, ITC, ISPRS, Z_GIS, etc).
It’s been super-secret for so many years, but for one day only on Saturday (Sept. 17), some of the United States’ once-clandestine spy satellites will be seen by public eyes for the first time.
by Len David
The buzz in space security circles is that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) will apparently lift the veil of silence on its hush-hush early spysat hardware — space-based James Bondish satellites that performed highly classified, intelligence-gathering duties.
The odds are that NRO’s GAMBIT and HEXAGON space surveillance programs of the 1960s will be the spotlighted projects. A HEXAGON satellite will be on display Saturday at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Va. More…
RICHMOND, B.C. – MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (TSX:MDA) announced Friday the signing of a contract valued at US$751,000 with Petroleos Mexicanos for the continued monitoring of natural oil seeps and spills in the Gulf of Mexico.
The contract, the fifth Pemex has signed with MDA since 2000, will use advanced Radarsat satellite data, MDA said in a release. [Full story]
PARIS — A Canadian distributor of optical satellite imagery has purchased Germany’s RapidEye company out of bankruptcy and is looking to develop the now debt-free RapidEye into a major player in the commercial Earth observation market. [more]
Despite growing interest from some senior U.S. Air Force leaders in exploring new architectures for the Pentagon’s satellite constellations, chances are that this “disaggregation” concept is not likely to take root any time soon, according to one senior procurement official.
Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, the outgoing military deputy in the Air Force acquisition office, says that the momentum today in the Air Force is behind sustaining current satellite programs in production.
Officials at Air Force Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command are exploring the disaggregation concept, which calls for distributing capabilities of satellites or constellations on various platforms in space. The idea is to field larger numbers of less capable systems to reduce the risk of a major space service outage in the event of an attack on a satellite system or an in-orbit failure.[more]