02/10/2018 / By Frances Bloomfield
The race towards space has reached an all-time high. With China throwing its hat into the ring, the U.S. is facing its stiffest competition yet. The interstellar efforts of our nation aren’t helped by the fact that technology has made it easier to keep an eye on our space capabilities. These aren’t the words of a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist but of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Paul Selva.
“We’ve yielded an awful lot of ground to the Russians and the Chinese in space security,” said Selva, echoing past statements by Air Force General John Hyten.
A cyber warfare and space expert, Hyten has alleged that China and Russia have been testing and constructing devices to target space-based U.S. military assets. Decades of work have been poured into the likes of laser weapons and jamming weapons. All so that, according to Hyten, these countries can challenge the U.S. and shift the global power balance in their favor.
Not only does Selva agree with these claims, but he also believes that unearthing our nation’s space secrets would take little to no effort.
Of this he stated: “Space is really an open architecture. If you have enough hobbyists with telescopes, you can detect all the satellites in low-Earth orbit. If you know where all those hobbyists are and you can precisely map their GPS coordinates — and you can map the time they saw the object you’re actually interested in — you can develop a reasonable detection and targeting system.”
Russia and China are more than capable of carrying this out. “Russia and China possess both elegant radar systems and elegant space detection systems and they are able to subscribe to all of those other capabilities that already exist,” he added. (Related: Russia just launched a secret military satellite into orbit from its new Arctic base of operations… the “high ground” for planet Earth.)
But even without these, one can still get a good picture of what’s going on in the Earth’s orbit. A simple Google search will yield a wide range of apps. There are apps for everything from tracking satellites in real time, to observing the movement of the International Space Station, to remaining updated on the latest National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) missions. Although some apps need to be bought, many can be downloaded for free. All it would take is one very bored individual with a lot of free time to learn more than what’s necessary about American space faculties.
Just look at what happened with Strava. This athletic activity tracker doesn’t chart stars, but its users have unknowingly revealed the locations of military bases around the world through the global heatmap. Furthermore, anybody looking at the heatmap can figure out the routines of military personnel since it shows the routes that people take and how frequently they go through it.
Of course, the Pentagon can and will step in to hike up security. But as Selva explained, the information is already out there.
“What are you going to do when the enemy knows everything about you simply because they can exploit big data?” asked Selva. The creators of Strava certainly didn’t mean for it to disclose sensitive information, but the fact that it was able to acquire and generate it in the first place should be cause for concern. Specifically because that data is readily accessible to just about anyone. “If you can map the global universe of that data, some really interesting things come out.”
Visit Space.news to read up on more stories about space and the lengths numerous countries have been going through to dominate it.