Signal intelligence 101: SIGINT targets

In order to start a series of articles about the American signal intelligence satellites, written with guest author Rob1, I thought it could be interesting to give some background on what those satellites listen to. So here is a quick overview of the various types of signal intelligence targets, with an emphasis on the Cold… Continue reading Signal intelligence 101: SIGINT targets

Smallsat constellations

In the article on Persistent Surveillance, I described the options for keeping a constant, 24/7 watch on a location though the use of high-altitude satellites. Those options are all expensive and technically risky. However, as hinted at in the article, there is a more straightforward way to achieve same goal, or at least to come… Continue reading Smallsat constellations

A new German space policy?

German media recently reported the country will procure a new high-resolution optical satellite. According to the press, this satellite will be operated by the BND, Germany's foreign intelligence service. Such a purchase breaks from the German tradition of operating only radar satellites, under the control of the military, and thus marks an unexpected shift in… Continue reading A new German space policy?

History of the French reconnaissance system

France currently has a vigorous earth observation industry, which captures a large part of the export market for reconnaissance satellites. It has not always been this way: contrary to the USA or the USSR, France has never had film-return optical satellites, and orbited its own space reconnaissance systems roughly 30 years later than them. In… Continue reading History of the French reconnaissance system

Persistent Surveillance

The future of Earth observation, Part III This post is a part of a series on the future of earth observation, and is a follow up to  The Future of Optical Earth Observation I: The road so far  and The Future of Earth Observation II: What do users really want, anyway? Originally, satellite imagery consisted of… Continue reading Persistent Surveillance

The Chinese maritime surveillance system

An analysis of the Chinese reconnaissance satellites, and their maritime surveillance capabilities This article initially appeared on eastpendulum.com, a French-language blog about the Chinese military and aerospace industry   Historical context   Ever since the Communist Party conquered mainland China in 1949, the island of Taiwan has been a source of tension in the region.… Continue reading The Chinese maritime surveillance system

The Airbus Very High Resolution constellation

The OTOS concept from CNES

Airbus Defense & Space just announced it will launch a constellation of 4 Very High Resolution (VHR) optical earth observation satellites, in 2020 and 2021. This will be a follow-on to the Pléiades constellation, which comprises two agile, 70cm resolution satellites, launched in 2011 and 2012. Unlike Pléiades, which was a public-private partnership between Airbus… Continue reading The Airbus Very High Resolution constellation

History of the US reconnaissance system

I wanted to make a short post on today's US spy satellites, but I realized that to speculate about them, it's better to have some historical perspective. So I assembled a condensed history of the US reconnaissance system (only for imagery, the electronic side might come later). I used Susan D. Schultz's chronology in Why… Continue reading History of the US reconnaissance system

What do users really want, anyway?

The Future of Earth Observation, Part II Earth observation satellites do not come cheap. As mentioned in the previous post of this series, until a few years ago, they could cost a few hundred million dollars a piece to build and launch.  This makes satellite observation expensive, even for organisations that only buy the images.… Continue reading What do users really want, anyway?