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  • Comandante Usa non possiamo identificare l’anomalia satellitare

[16.12.2011] da Jim Lupo (trad. di Levred per GilGuySparks)

(Reuters) – Il comando responsabile delle operazioni militari spaziali statunitensi manca di dati sufficienti per determinare chi ha interferito con i due satelliti del governo degli Stati Uniti, anomalie forse dietro all’accusa più esplosiva di un rapporto sulla Cina che ha inviato al Congresso mercoledì.

Quello che ho visto non è conclusivo“, ha detto in una teleconferenza da Omaha, Nebraska, il Generale Robert Kehler, comandante del Comando Strategico USA,  che ospita la squadra militare che conduce le operazioni statunitensi nello spazio e nel cyberspazio.

Il Congresso che ha creato la Commissione di Sicurezza Economica e di Valutazione USA-Cina, ha detto, nella sua relazione annuale 2011, che almeno due satelliti statunitensi di monitoraggio dell’ambiente  hanno avuto interferenze in quattro o più occasioni nel 2007 e nel 2008 attraverso una stazione di terra in Norvegia.

L’esercito della Cina è un primo sospettato, ha precisato la Commissione bipartisan di 12 membri, anche se ha aggiunto che gli eventi in questione non erano in realtà stati rintracciati in Cina.

Le tecniche “appaiono coerenti con autorevoli scritti militari cinesi” che hanno sostenuto la disattivazione di impianti di controllo satellitare di un nemico a terra in un conflitto, lo ha riferito la commissione.

Kehler ha parlato ai giornalisti durante una conferenza ospitata dal suo comando sulle questioni cyber e spazio. Gli è stato chiesto da Reuters se poteva attribuire la colpa dei probabili tentativi di prendere il controllo dei satelliti Landsat-7 e Terra AM-1 , come riferito dalla commissione.

Prima di tutto, ho familiarità con i due episodi,” ha risposto. “La migliore informazione che ho, è che non siamo in grado di addebitare [a qualcuno] questi due avvenimenti.

Credo di condividere che non abbiamo dettagli sufficienti“, ha aggiunto Kehler.

La commissione nella sua relazione, ha detto che un utente malintenzionato potrebbe utilizzare l’accesso ai controlli di un satellite per danneggiare o distruggere i veicoli spaziali con funzioni più sensibili, quali le comunicazioni militari o di spionaggio.

Ha accusato Pechino di responsabilità per l’allestimento di attività informatiche dannose, includendo anche quelle per facilitare lo spionaggio industriale e compromettere i sistemi informatici del governo statunitense e di altri stranieri.

L’ambasciata della Cina a Washington ha detto in risposta che “è ovvio che alla commissione è affidata la missione di denigrare l’immagine della Cina e di diffondere la teoria della minaccia cinese giustapponendo accuse ingiustificate contro la Cina.

Chiediamo alla Commissione che smetta immediatamente di rilasciare tali rapporti per il bene dell’aumento della fiducia reciproca tra i nostri due paesi, mentre la Cina continuerà a svolgere un ruolo responsabile sia nel mondo reale che in quello virtuale“, Wang Baodong, il portavoce dell’ambasciata, lo ha riferito via e-mail .

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/17/us-china-usa-space-idUSTRE7AG08120111117

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  • U.S. commander cannot pin down satellite anomaly

Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:12pm EST

(Reuters) – The command responsible for U.S. military space operations lacks enough data to determine who interfered with two U.S. government satellites, anomalies behind perhaps the most explosive charge in a report on China sent to Congress on Wednesday.

“What I have seen is inconclusive,” General Robert Kehler, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said in a teleconference from Omaha, Nebraska, home to the military outfit that conducts U.S. space and cyberspace operations.

The congressionally created U.S.-China Economic Security and Review Commission said in its 2011 annual report that at least two U.S. environment-monitoring satellites were interfered with four or more times in 2007 and 2008 via a ground station in Norway.

China’s military is a prime suspect, the bipartisan, 12-member commission made clear, though it added that the events in question had not actually been traced to China.

The techniques “appear consistent with authoritative Chinese military writings” that have advocated disabling a foe’s satellite control facilities on the ground in a conflict, the commission said.

Kehler spoke to reporters during a conference hosted by his command on cyber and space issues. He was asked by Reuters whether he could assign blame for the possible efforts to take control of the Landsat-7 and Terra AM-1 satellites, as reported by the commission.

“First of all, I am familiar with the two incidents,” he replied. “The best information that I have is that we cannot attribute those two occurrences.”

“I guess I would agree that we don’t have sufficient detail,” Kehler added.

The commission in its report said an attacker could use access to a satellite’s controls to damage or destroy spacecraft with more sensitive functions, such as military communications or intelligence-gathering.

It accused Beijing of responsibility for mounting malicious cyber activities, including to facilitate industrial espionage and to compromise U.S. and foreign government computer systems.

China’s embassy in Washington said in response that it was “obvious that the commission is entrusted with the mission of vilifying China’s image and spreading China threat theory by patching up unwarranted allegations against China.”

“We urge the commission to stop issuing such reports for the good of increasing mutual trust between our two countries while China will continue to play a responsible role in both the realistic and the virtual worlds,” Wang Baodong, the embassy spokesman, said by email.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/17/us-china-usa-space-idUSTRE7AG08120111117

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The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), a government panel established in 2000 by Congress for the purpose of examining how China’s growing military and technological power could impact U.S. security, says two America satellites were hacked in 2007 and 2008. The Commission’s report (pdf) accuses China of doing it to it.

According to the report, the first satellite attacked was Terra (EOS-AM-1), the flagship satellite in a series of NASA orbiters, designed to monitor the Earth’s climate. The satellite was attacked twice in 2008, with attackers gaining command-and-control access level.

The second satellite was Landsat-7, which is designed to take high-resolution images of the Earth’s terrain. These images are publically available and are often color-balanced and enhanced by commercial entities for use in services such as Google Maps. They’re also used by the USGS to create 3D maps

The report describes (pg. 216):

  • On October 20, 2007, Landsat-7, a U.S. earth observation satellite jointly managed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey, experienced 12 or more minutes of interference. This interference was only discovered following a similar event in July 2008 (see below).
  • On June 20, 2008, Terra EOS [earth observation system] AM–1, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration-managed program for earth observation, experienced two or more minutes of interference. The responsible party achieved all steps required to command the satellite but did not issue commands.
  • On July 23, 2008, Landsat-7 experienced 12 or more minutes of interference. The responsible party did not achieve all steps required to command the satellite.
  • On October 22, 2008, Terra EOS AM–1 experienced nine or more minutes of interference. The responsible party achieved all steps required to command the satellite but did not issue commands.

Earlier drafts of the commission’s reporttraced the cause of the probe interference to the Norwegian ground station owned and run by Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), which denied any occurrence of interference via its facilities, reports The Register. In response to queries by El Reg, the satellite services issued a statement saying a thorough investigation has turned up nothing amiss. Neither NASA, which maintains the satellites, nor regulators at the NOAA had complained, it added.

US commanders cannot pin down satellite anomaly, according to the US Strategic Command chief, who says the data is “inconclusive”. U.S. Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said in a Nov. 16 teleconference.

“The best information that I have is that we cannot attribute those two occurrences,” Kehler said in response to a question from a Reuters reporter. “I guess I would agree that we don’t have sufficient detail.”


China’s embassy in Washington said in response that it was “obvious that the commission is entrusted with the mission of vilifying China’s image and spreading China threat theory by patching up unwarranted allegations against China. We urge the commission to stop issuing such reports for the good of increasing mutual trust between our two countries while China will continue to play a responsible role in both the realistic and the virtual worlds,” Wang Baodong, the embassy spokesman, said by email to Reuters.

The Pentagon made it clear it is prepared to launch a cyber offensive if directed by the president. The Washington Post called it the Pentagon’s “most explicit cyberwarfare policy to date.”

In the report, released on Monday (pdf), Defense Department officials stated that they could retaliate against “significant cyberattacks directed against the U.S. economy, government or military.”

Presumably, any report accusing space-based, cyber-warfare against the United States would be opening a Pandora’s box of accusations, with all sides guilty as hell.

China is pretty busy with their manned space program.

Shenzhou-8, launched on Nov. 1, safely returned to earth last week, marked the full success of China’s first space docking mission joining the unmanned spacecraft with Tiangong-1, their space laboratory, which was launched on Sept. 29. Tiangong-1 is expected to be visited by three Shenzhou missions during its two-year operational lifetime.

Meanwhile, Landsat 5 is on the brink of failure, after having outlived its three-year design life nine times. Landsat 5 is showing signs of an “impending failure” after more than 27 years in space. USGS engineers have suspended image acquisitions using the satellite for at least 90 days, the agency said in a statement.

“This anticipated decline of Landsat 5 provides confirmation of the importance of the timely launch of the next Landsat mission and the need for an operational and reliable National Land Imaging System,” said Anne Castle, assistant secretary for water and science at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Landsat 7 has experienced an instrument anomaly which reduces the amount of data collected per image. Landsat 8, currently called the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, is now scheduled to be launched in January 2013.

The Landsat program has kept a constant vigil over Earth since the launch of Landsat 1 in 1972. The constellation’s 39-year legacy provides a robust archive of data at the fingertips of scientists.

But GAO says taxpayers have bailed out Northrop Grumman and its contractors to the tune of hundreds of millions for non-working earth resources satellites (pdf).

The NPOES satellite project is “a poster child for mismanagement,” said David Powner, author of a Government Accountability Office report issued June 17, 2009 (pdf). “It’s clearly up there as one of the most troubled programs that we’ve looked at.”

Northrop Grumman’s next generation weather satellites were at least $8 billion over budget and the launch of the first satellite at least five years late, reports USA Today, before the program was cancelled.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), manages the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system, and the lower, Polar Orbit satellites. Their images are seen nightly on virtually every television forecast in the United States.

NOAA’s polar orbiting meteorological satellites (POES), circle the Earth at a typical altitude of 850 km (530 miles, passing over the poles in sun synchronous orbits, which means they are able to observe any place on Earth and view every location twice each day.

Other polar orbiting weather satellites include the DOD’s Meteorological Satellite (DMSP) which can detect objects almost as small as an oil tanker. Russia has the Meteor and RESURS series of satellites. China and India have polar orbiting satellites as well.

The next generation of polar orbiting weather satellites was supposed to be the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). Designed to avoid duplication by the military (DMSP) and civilian (POES) low orbit weather satellites, it will pack a ton of exotic instrumentation.

The GAO Director of Information Technology Management Issues, told Congress: “NPOESS is a program in crisis”. The joint program, run by NASA, NOAA and the Defense Department was scheduled to begin replacing separate military and civilian weather satellite constellations by 2009. It’s still on the ground.

In March 2005, NPOESS was budgeted at $6.8 billion, but cost estimates ballooned to $13.8 billion a couple years ago. NPOESS was delayed until 2012 – three years late, putting long range weather forecasting in jeopardy.

In the end, NPOESS was split (again), after wasting billions in taxpayer subsidies.

NASA would manage the civilian Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) afternoon orbit satellites, for NOAA. The Pentagon would manage its own Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS) for the morning orbit.

To insure the successful completion and launch of the JPSS spacecraft with no loss of continuity, NASA believed it would have to contract directly with the instrument and ground system developers. Sole source contracts would follow to the following firms:

  • Ball Aerospace and Technologies – Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS)
  • ITT Space Systems – Cross-Track Infrared Sounder (CrIS)
  • Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems – Advanced Technology Microware Sounder
  • Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems – JPSS/NPP Ground System.
  • Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems – Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS)

The Pentagon, on the other hand, took until May 2011 to award an initial design contract for its Defense Weather Satellite. That contract remains with Northrop Grumman. So far, the JPSS/DWSS split looks like it’s increasing program costs.

The United States, meanwhile, has been forced to supplement observations from data provided by the European (EUMETSAT) series of weather satellites.

Whose side is Northrop Grumman on?

Presumably, their stockholders, contractors, military advisers and political allies who would benefit from an escalation in cyber warfare spending.

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