Sunday, January 01, 2012

Hackers plan own satellite network to bypass Internet censorship

Are you worried about Internet censorship in the wake of all the discussions about SOPA and PIPA? So are hacker groups, and according to the BBC, they'll go as far as necessary to get around it, even outer space.

Unveiled at the 28th annual Chaos Communications Conference (or 28C3) in Berlin, the plan, dubbed the "Hackerspace Global Grid," involves hackers putting their own communications satellites into orbit and creating a grid of ground-based stations to track and communicate with them.

Naturally, the big obstacle to anything like this is money. It's hard to imagine getting anything in orbit without a government backing the program. However, hobbyists have already managed to "launch" a few small satellites into low orbit, using balloons. The problem with those is that they don't stay stationary. In order to be in geosynchronous orbit, a satellite must be launched to 22,236 miles above mean sea level.

So, instead of putting satellites into geosynchronous orbit, the idea is to use ground stations in a sort of reverse GPS network: the ground stations will track the satellites instead of vice versa.

Armin Bauer, a 26-year-old enthusiast from Stuttgart who is working on the Hackerspace Global Grid said,

"Professionals can track satellites from ground stations, but usually they don't have to because, if you pay a large sum [to send the satellite up on a rocket], they put it in an exact place."

Instead of that, Bauer said, the Hackerspace Global Grid would be "kind of a reverse GPS. GPS uses satellites to calculate where we are, and this tells us where the satellites are. We would use GPS co-ordinates but also improve on them by using fixed sites in precisely-known locations."

Hacktivist Nick Farr put out a call for donations in August. It's hoped that three prototype tracking stations can be made ready by the first half of 2012, with sales made on a nonprofit basis for about $130 each, and some given away at the next C3 in a year's time.

Despite the possible roadblocks, SOPA, PIPA, and other threats to an open, uncensored Internet have hacktivists ready to get this done, no matter how long it takes.

Hacktivist Nick Farr said, "The first goal is an uncensorable Internet in space. Let's take the Internet out of the control of terrestrial entities."

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