Maritime surveillance: Spy satellites in Frontex operation

Electronic intelligence from space has long been the business of intelligence agencies and the military. Miniaturized technology and Musk’s SpaceX company are now making this interesting for border agencies. Even radars from ships are to be scanned unnoticed by satellites.

To locate and track vessels, Frontex uses Automatic Identification System (AIS) data, which requires every major ship to regularly transmit its identity, respective location and destination to receiving equipment via VHF radio frequencies. In this way, the border agency aims to prevent, for example, unwanted smuggling of refugees or even drug smuggling into Europe. The information is enriched with images from optical or radar-based satellites in an „overall situation picture.“ Frontex uses an algorithm to determine from space data if a ship is behaving conspicuously.

The multilayered surveillance system reaches its limits when ships are „uncooperative“ and turn off their AIS transponders. Images from high-resolution optical satellites are also expensive and can only be used during the day and in good weather. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data can detect ships at all times, but their resolution is coarse. „Maritime surveillance: Spy satellites in Frontex operation“ weiterlesen

German Armed Forces: SARah-1 spy satellite launches with SpaceX

The German military’s Earth observation program costs around €800 million. The foreign secret service also uses it, but is getting its own spy system under the name Georg.

On Saturday, the Bundeswehr plans to bring its first new SARah series spy satellite into space. The launch, which can be watched live, will take place from Vandenberg Rocket Base in California and is targeted for 1:30 p.m. GMT+2.

The satellite, which weighs about four tons, will be transported into space on a two-stage Falcon 9 from Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. The launch vehicle is partially reusable.

The company responsible for developing the SARah satellites is OHB System in Bremen, which was commissioned to do so by the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support in 2013. The SARah-1 was manufactured under a subcontract by Airbus in Friedrichshafen. „German Armed Forces: SARah-1 spy satellite launches with SpaceX“ weiterlesen

Frontex closes surveillance gaps in the air and in space

High-flying drones are to reconnoitre the EU’s external borders from the stratosphere, a static zeppelin is already observing close to the ground. With interception systems in space, the EU border agency wants to locate and possibly tap satellite telephones in the Mediterranean. So far, the technology has only been installed in aircraft.

The European Union‘s border agency Frontex is expanding its „surveillance capability“ with high-flying platforms. In a call for tenders, systems are being sought for use in the stratosphere. At an altitude of 20 kilometres, they are to close the gap between the aircraft, drones and satellites already in use.

The systems sought include so-called high-altitude platforms (HAPS) or lighter-than-air (LTA) solutions, such as those currently being developed to series maturity by the European armament company Airbus with the glider „Zephyr“ or its French competitor Thales with the zeppelin-like „Stratobus“, which can last for months or even years. Suppliers of microsatellites, which can be launched into space extremely cheaply these days, can also apply.

The launch of HAPS has been driven by the EU Space Agency since 2017, and its market share at the time was estimated to be over €7 billion by 2024. Frontex could therefore be one of the first users of the new technology, as with the „Space Data Highway“. „Frontex closes surveillance gaps in the air and in space“ weiterlesen