Satellite Destruction Using Google Earth And Orbitron
Researchers use off-the-shelf software as part of an experiment to demonstrate the vulnerability of critical space infrastructure.
Say you want to shoot down a satellite.
After a brief stop by Wikipedia to brush up on China's destruction of its Feng Yun 1C weather satellite in January, you download Sebastian Stoff's Orbitron satellite tracking software and Google Earth, to make your attack easier to visualize.
You pick a target. Why not Feng Yun 1D, since the Chinese don't appear to care much for their weather satellites?
(click image for larger view)
You plot the satellite's position ten minutes hence using your computer and you feed the predicted latitude, longitude, and altitude to your hidden launch pad control center. Using literature that's been available since the 1960s, you -- or your launch control staff, if you've got the requisite payroll of a Bond villain or an international terrorist cabal -- compute the amount of fuel needed to get your one-stage rocket and its warhead to the satellite's future position.
You plot a "solution" or flight plan that takes into account the liftoff phase, the controlled orbit insertion phase, and the ballistic fall onto the target. You double check your math, because you've got a small chunk of change invested in this scheme.
Lacking the standard red launch button, you settle for clicking the "Destroy Satellite" dialog box (you had to code this yourself).
Your computer dutifully asks for confirmation: "Are you sure you want to Destroy Satellite? This operation cannot be undone."
This, more or less, is what Adrian Gheorghe, Professor of Systems Engineering at Old Dominion University Norfolk, Virginia, and Dan Vamanu, a Senior Researcher at the National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering in Bucharest, Romania, did as an experiment to demonstrate the vulnerability of critical space infrastructure.
"It's an awareness paper," said Gheorghe in a phone interview, who aims to make it clear that satellites aren't merely vulnerable to nations with demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities but to a far broader group.
This is not to say that the kid next door is likely to try such a thing tomorrow and prompt a retaliatory missile strike (make sure to be out on an errand when that happens). The barrier to entry in the anti-satellite club isn't yet that low.
But ongoing efforts by software billionaires to commercialize space -- Elon Musk's Space Explorations Technology Corp. and Jeff Bezo's Blue Origin, for example -- demonstrate that rocket technology and know-how are becoming increasingly accessible. And the software is already here.
Shooting down a satellite, is, as Gheorghe and Vamanu put it, "in theory, piece-of-cake!"
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security EnterpriseTo learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
2017 State of IT ReportIn today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.