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German Hackers Propose Uncensorable Global Grid — With Satellites 262

Posted by timothy
from the das-klingt-aber-gut dept.
braindrainbahrain writes "The members of the Stuttgart Hackerspace have taken it upon themselves to launch their own space program. The immediate goal of the Hacker Space Program is to create an uncensorable internet in space beyond the control of terrestrial entities using a network of ground stations and communications satellites. In the longer term (think the year 2035), they'd like to put a hacker astronaut on the moon!"
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German Hackers Propose Uncensorable Global Grid — With Satellites

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  • I Wonder... (Score:5, Funny)

    by mrozone (2272302) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:02PM (#38574328)

    Can a Hot Pocket be cooked in space?

  • by Tekfactory (937086) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:02PM (#38574334) Homepage

    Someone will shut it down, that's why we can't have nice things.

    • by trifish (826353)

      Bad people use mobile phones, computers, cars, and streets too. Why not ban all of those too then?

    • by jdavidb (449077) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @03:25PM (#38575414) Homepage Journal

      The reason we can't have nice things is not because bad people use them, but because bad people shut them down, using the other bad people as a pretense.

    • I am not going to operate a base station in the United States. Yes, amateurs have done satellite operations in the past, but there is no doubt that some well-meaning person will send an encrypted message -- and thus create a legal mess for a US operator. It is a great idea, but it is pretty hard to hide a satellite base station and pretty easy to run afoul of the law with this proposal.
    • by EdIII (1114411)

      Not someone. A government.

      Take a guess if all the participating members of the UN Security Council could agree to use their missiles to shoot down those hacker satellites?

      Hmmmm...... It's as if they think space somehow makes their communication equipment untouchable by governments.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Cool. Now they can finally draw a swastika without the government freaking out and going apeshit on them. Because we all know, drawing a symbol on a piece of paper is what caused the Third Reich.

    Nevermind the swastika was actually a holy symbol... apparently they want the Nazi's tarnishing of it to stand unchallenged.
    • Re:Free speech! (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:46PM (#38574992)
      *Almost* a holy symbol. For some strange reason, the Nazi version was drawn back-to-front. Pre-nazi, the other way around dominated, though the flipped form was not unknown.
      • And aren't Nazi ones usually aligned diagonally, whereas Hindus' are horizontal & vertical?

        • by steelfood (895457)

          No. They're found in all orientations in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Indian religions and philosophies, as well as their offshoots and derivatives (though they mean slightly different things). Flipped, diagonal, straight, etc. They also sometimes come with dots in the squares, but that's not a necessity either.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:04PM (#38574364)

    If the big governments want rid of it, they will find a way.

    • Guns (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I tend to agree, even as I applaud them for trying. The fact is that government = guns, and the man with the gun always wins.

      To clarify, government is defined as the organization holding the unique "right" to employ deadly force (or threat thereof) as a business model. You simply cannot compete with that unless you have similar firepower (which government makes damn sure won't ever happen).

      • Re:Guns (Score:5, Insightful)

        by forkfail (228161) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:50PM (#38575020)

        I always am amazed at you "government is the root of all evil" folks.

        Let's say you do away with governments. Do you think that power will disappear? That government is power?

        How is it that you can see the evil of governments (and yes, they do exist), but not see the fact that there has to be some entity of the people to counterbalance private power? That at least with public power, there is some sort of ability to limit private power.

        Power abhors a vacuum. What you take away from governments, you hand to private entities - corporations, religious entities, whatever - something will fill the void. If you want any sort of control over what happens, you have to make the instrument of public power the tool of the public, and not the tool of the private entities. Therein lies the trick. Simply doing away with government is absolutely handing the deed to the hen house over to those that government is supposed to protect the rest of us from.

        • by tmosley (996283)
          Power to the people. People can have a militia to defend themselves from outside invaders. There is little a modern military can do that a militia can't, and a militia is much much MUCH better at defending home territory than a standing army is. Armed societies with sovereign citizens simply can't be conquered, and attempts to do so lead to nothing but a bloodbath for both sides (witness Somalia). The only problem with Somalia (aside from continuous attempts at imposition of a central government upon th
          • There is little a modern military can do that a militia can't,

            I'm doubtful: militias tend to have poor firepower; few or no tanks, airplanes, things like that. Note, for example, that the Libyan militia was proving relatively ineffective against the Libyan military, until the west intervened.

            Armed societies with sovereign citizens simply can't be conquered,

            But can be exterminated, or forced off the land the invaders want.

          • by forkfail (228161)

            I'm all for second amendment rights (to the chagrin of my rather liberal friends, often) - but nevertheless, a well trained, disciplined military force will rip through a disorganized militia.

            Absolutely an armed citizenship can be subdued and conquered. Especially when you throw in the propaganda/advertising techniques that we've got these days to turn folks against themselves.

            And regardless of this, you can't always be tearing down all organization - that is anarchy, and that road leads to extinction. No

        • I always am amazed at you "government is the root of all evil" folks.

          Where did he even say that?

          • by forkfail (228161)

            It's inherent in his definition of government.

            I'd argue that his definition is that of a broken government. The definition of a functional, western democracy is, IMO, that of the instrument of the people; the collective power of the citizenry to offset other powers, both internal and external to the nation in question.

    • Yep, the new National Defence Authorization Act should be good for this (in a manner of speaking).
    • by wiedzmin (1269816)
      They'll just wait until one of these things accidentally collides with a GPS or Glonass satellite and gets nuked off the orbit in retaliation for this obviously extrimist act of aggression...
    • by forkfail (228161)

      When the telecoms and copyright house corporations decide they want to get rid of it, they'll be gone with a quickness.

      There, fixed that for ya.

  • Uncensorable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:04PM (#38574378) Journal
    And what is there to prevent a government transmitting from the ground to disrupt the satellite transmission?
    • Re:Uncensorable? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tekfactory (937086) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:19PM (#38574624) Homepage

      If you are worried about governments, the problem is not disrupting the satellites at all, the weak link is the ground station which by definition resides in somebody's territory.

      I don't think there are enough friendly countries of convenience to give you line of sight and global access to the satellites 24/7. Symantec published a book on the different IT Security laws all over the globe, its dated now, but a map of something like that would be interesting for this discussion.

      So then you end up only running ground stations out of frendly countires somewhere in the netherlands perhaps, maybe to command and control satellites that route CnC information and traffic to the other satellites in the constellation which may be over an unfriendly country at the time.

      I can't really see it working unless every user is a ground station/autonomous node.

      There are some neat things you can do once you have this up, even for broadcast. Say you used it to broadcast grain or soybean prices to farmers in rural farming villages. Reformat traffic information from publicly funded sources (traffic cameras) and send them to a generic GPS or smartphone app so I don't need to pay TomTom or Garmin for the privilege of knowing if I will be sitting in traffic or not.

      • I re-read my post if the satellites are in Low Earth Orbit and transiting every 90 minutes or so, can you burst up all of your internet traffic, and receive your answers on the next pass?

        Certainly you won't be streaming audio or video like this, but for email and web-surfing one page at a time it would work.

        • by discord5 (798235)

          but for email and web-surfing one page at a time it would work.

          *click* DAMN! Missed my window. Oh well, I'll try again in 9 hours.

          • Two satellites drops that 45 minutes, three to 30 minutes, 4 to 22.5 minutes...

            But more realistically, if you actually had the funding for such a scheme you'd use a pair of geo-stationary satellites as a universally accessible uplink, and have them farm out downlink to low-orbit birds.

            • by jpapon (1877296)
              I think you're going to need a pretty powerful antenna to be using an uplink that's in geo orbit...
              • by tmosley (996283)
                Eh? That is how current satellite internet services work. When I had it, my dish was slightly smaller than the one I had for TV (I cancelled both long ago).
        • by Synerg1y (2169962)

          why not, what about buffering and caching?

          How do you think you do it on a cell phone?

          I'm assuming they'd have the equivalent of tower to tower coverage where the next satellite would pick up where the previous one left off, otherwise this is a really inferior idea compared to proxies or usenet.

      • by khallow (566160)

        If you are worried about governments, the problem is not disrupting the satellites at all, the weak link is the ground station which by definition resides in somebody's territory.

        The weak part is the satellites. You have to launch them or their replacements from somebody's territory which is going to a whole lot less countries than what you can stick ground stations in. I imagine in addition, the ground station will be cheap and fairly easy to hide, assuming anyone needs to do that.

        • You have to launch them or their replacements from somebody's territory which is going to a whole lot less countries than what you can stick ground stations in.

          Actually international waters [wikipedia.org] are the best place to launch a satellite from and are not in anyone's sovereign territory.

          • by hedwards (940851)

            They might not be anybody's sovereign territory, but you're still bound by the laws of the country of your citizenship or failing that the flag on the vessel. What's worse is that in international waters pretty much any navy can put a stop to the launch without having the same sort of international incident if you were launching from land.

            On top of that sea based launches are incredibly tricky even for well funded outfits, Boeing had several of their attempts fail.

            • by jpapon (1877296)

              pretty much any navy can put a stop to the launch without having the same sort of international incident if you were launching from land

              I'm pretty sure that shooting at or boarding a vessel to stop a communications satellite launch in international waters would cause an international incident.

              • by khallow (566160)

                I'm pretty sure that shooting at or boarding a vessel to stop a communications satellite launch in international waters would cause an international incident.

                With who?

                • by jpapon (1877296)
                  The countries of the citizens on the sea-launch vessel, and the flag it flies? Just because you're in international waters doesn't mean that others can shoot at you or board you... there's a word for that sort of thing; piracy. You know, the YARRR kind, not the digital kind.
                • by tmosley (996283)
                  Pretty much everyone.
        • by X0563511 (793323)

          If you are worried about governments, the problem is not disrupting the satellites at all, the weak link is the ground station which by definition resides in somebody's territory.

          The weak part is the satellites. You have to launch them or their replacements from somebody's territory which is going to a whole lot less countries than what you can stick ground stations in. I imagine in addition, the ground station will be cheap and fairly easy to hide, assuming anyone needs to do that.

          There's a technical solution to this political problem: figure out how to launch such payloads from water, and do so outside the bounds of any national power.

          • by khallow (566160)

            There's a technical solution to this political problem: figure out how to launch such payloads from water, and do so outside the bounds of any national power.

            If you're launching from international waters on Earth, then you're not outside the bounds of a number of national powers.

          • by wagnerrp (1305589)
            If you fly any particular nation's flag, then you are bounded by their rules while in international water. If you do not fly any particular nation's flag, then you are not a protected entity, and fair game for anyone who wants to acquire you. If you have a bunch of flags to raise up whenever anyone comes by, then you are likely to be identified as a smuggler, intercepted, and boarded.
      • by Idbar (1034346)
        Well, countries have also sovereignty over geostationary satellites. It's not like they don't have to ask permission to put them up there.

        Unless, they would float on top of the oceans perhaps, but if countries managed to claim pieces of the south pole (Antarctica) by "projecting" their area, what stops them to do this 40km above the sea level?
    • by forkfail (228161)

      Perhaps more to the point, what's to prevent the RIAA participants and telecoms from shutting them down?

      • by tmosley (996283)
        Gravity?

        Unless they have access to anti-satellite weapons, and the permission to use them. Be careful you don't hit someone else's sat.
        • by DarthBart (640519)

          Wanna shut down a satellite? Just need a bigger antenna/more power. Witness Captain Midnight and HBO. And he was just a bored operator at a teleport.

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      Let's not forget that most if not all major governments have demonstrated fairly inexpensive (for a government) ASAT capability, such as the F-15 air-launched ASAT missiles.

      Obviously these can only get to LEO, but it's going to take this group a LONG time to be able to even get to LEO - no amateur effort has ever gotten an object into orbit before. Amateur satellites have always piggybacked on commercial launches (early AMSAT sats), had MAJOR fundraising behind them (tens of thousands of dollars for launch

      • by tmosley (996283)
        I don't understand why people think they won't launch these with commercial launch service.
        • Even if you do piggyback them, getting a half reasonable fleet of LEO satellites is big money. More money than typically a group of generally disorganized private parties can pull off. Hell, Globalstar, a 'real' company with a business plan is in deep financial trouble and Iridium had to be rescued by the US military.

          If you go for 'white knights' then you run the serious risk of having them be the front for some serious bad boy operation like an international drug smuggling cartel who would just love to h

  • by phayes (202222) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:06PM (#38574398) Homepage

    to any government that cares to do so...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's still easier: they'll shut down the ground stations.
      They should try mesh network but getting from the Americas to anywhere else looks challenging. Even in the same country lag can be terrible as packets get routed from home router to home router but a round trip from a bunch of satellites to get on the other site of the world is not quick.

  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:09PM (#38574450)

    since it will cost like eleventy billion $$$ or euros where can i donate? i'll gladly donate $50,000 for this just to be able to download free movies and music

    • by cdibbs (1979044) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:13PM (#38574516)
      They probably only accept Bitcoins.
    • by hawguy (1600213)

      since it will cost like eleventy billion $$$ or euros where can i donate? i'll gladly donate $50,000 for this just to be able to download free movies and music

      I doubt it would have the bandwidth to handle movies and music and maybe not even pictures.

      Think a 1980's era BBS and that's probably able all that an underfunded group of hackers could provide in a satellite they've built themselves (and paid launch costs for - their best bet would be to find a friendly commercial space launch company and get them to launch it on a test flight with the understanding that it may not actually make it).

      But even something with such limited capabilities would actually be extrem

  • Landside? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by smi.james.th (1706780) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:09PM (#38574458)

    I read about this on the Make Magazine blog a few days ago. (Link for anyone who's interested.) [makezine.com]

    Something that strikes me as weird though. From TFA:

    In the open-source spirit of Hackerspace, Mr Bauer and some friends came up with the idea of a distributed network of low-cost ground stations that can be bought or built by individuals. Used together in a global network, these stations would be able to pinpoint satellites at any given time, while also making it easier and more reliable for fast-moving satellites to send data back to earth.

    So... these ground stations would I presume be connected together by, uh, the internet? I don't get it.

    Not that I'm against this at all, I think it's a fabulous idea. I'd buy one. Or build one. Or whatever.

    • They'd be connected by either satellites or point-to-point wi-fi.

      While it's within the means of any standing army to shut down wi-fi traffic, no one proposing that they have a modernized economy is going to be able to do so without destroying huge amounts of mundane usage as well.

  • by sgt_doom (655561) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:10PM (#38574462)
    Effing A! Phase I implemented......

    http://thedaemon.com/ [thedaemon.com]

    http://thedaemon.com/daemonsynopsis.html [thedaemon.com]

  • by crankyspice (63953) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:11PM (#38574478)

    Was going to write a science fiction tale around it, but life intervened (and I'm not the wordsmith to make "OMG, data from the skies!" interesting... Neal Stephenson can make building a data haven interesting. Me, notsomuch...).

    The idea came about when I read about Sealand. Okay, sure, great, pseudo-island-nation with its own wacky laws -- but, (a) their pipes have to terminate somewhere, and (b) one pissed off Iranian speedboat[1] with a small hand-launched missile could wreak enough havoc to take Sealand offline, if push came to shove.

    My idea coupled the then-burgeoning phenomenon of microsats http://slashdot.org/articles/00/06/11/2013214_F.shtml [slashdot.org] with the fuzziness of international / maritime law; rogue geeks on sailboats uploading censored data to the satellite network, that could then be received by any kid with an 18" dish and readily available receiver plans. (Transceiver seemed a bit far fetched.)

    Maybe I'll write it one day. How long 'til NaNoWriMo?

    [1] Leaving aside for the moment the logistics of how such a speedboat would traverse the open ocean from the Strait of Hormuz to the coast of England ... [insert African swallow reference(s) here]

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Was going to write a science fiction tale around it, but then I took an arrow to the knee...

      Fixed.

    • by Bucky24 (1943328)

      How long 'til NaNoWriMo?

      Well it's not until November so another 10 months? Personally I think it would be awesome if they left that graph thing running, just resetting every month. It's a great motivator. I've been thinking about coding something similar, just haven't gotten around to it.

      • by migla (1099771)

        How long 'til NaNoWriMo?

        Well it's not until November so another 10 months? Personally I think it would be awesome if they left that graph thing running, just resetting every month. It's a great motivator. I've been thinking about coding something similar, just haven't gotten around to it.

        Seems like you could use the NaNaNoWriMoCoWriMO - National NaNOWriMO Code Writing Month.

        • by Bucky24 (1943328)
          Hmm that's not a bad idea. I imagine it would be a good deal harder to track progress in the same way. I suppose we could go with "write x lines a day" but what about lines deleted/changed/ect? Maybe it could be a timed thing, like "this month you must spend x hours on this project, x/[28,29,30,31] per day".

          The problem is that it's easy to quantify when a book is done (you have done x words today) but much harder to quantify the goals for a coding project.
  • Uncensorable? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:11PM (#38574490)

    I think China has already demonstrated the ability [wikipedia.org] to censor satellite-based communications.

  • What about money? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kikito (971480) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:22PM (#38574678) Homepage

    You know, putting satellites in orbit is kind of expensive. Who is going to pay for all that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MagikSlinger (259969)
      Pfft! They'll just wire up some servos, an arduino and some hobby rocket motors, and it's all good. :-)
    • Serious answer SpaceX, they have a really low cost per kilo to launch to LEO, and higher cost to launch to GEO. They will be doing a lot of satellite launches for Iridium to put up their satellite network.

      So now the problem is really architecting your standardized satellite not using a standardized picosat or microsat designed for limited experiments, but something meant to be up there for years handling comms.

      Then bundle them in a multiple satellite payload of some sort and have them spread to their final

      • by gknoy (899301)

        The cost to launch something like this is still several orders of magnitude more than most Kickstarter campaigns could fund, however.

  • by brit74 (831798) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:26PM (#38574738)
    But, how much bandwidth would they need (especially considering all the bandwidth torrents consume) and how much bandwidth could one satellite provide? It sounds like they'd need a whole fleet of expensive satellites. Sounds to me like it's either a pipe-dream or a bluff.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well, who wouldn't like a bunch of telecom satellites for themselfs to play with?

      problem is, who's global grid would that be? theirs? mine? yours? 23432423 chinese villagers?

  • ..but it's a childish idea that completely ignores the realities that it'd either get fucked up when too many people got involved with it, or it'd be used to commit crimes, or it'd be assumed to be used to commit crimes, so one government or the other would confiscate control of it.

    We need to stop indulging in fantasies and accept the reality: We need to save the Internet we have, keep the asshole corporations and the asshole dictators of the world from destroying it. If everyone stopped using the Internet
    • ..but it's a childish idea that completely ignores the realities that it'd either get fucked up when too many people got involved with it, or it'd be used to commit crimes, or it'd be assumed to be used to commit crimes, so one government or the other would confiscate control of it.

      We need to stop indulging in fantasies and accept the reality: We need to save the Internet we have, keep the asshole corporations and the asshole dictators of the world from destroying it. If everyone stopped using the Internet there would be no Internet; the power to shape what the Internet will become is in the hands of the people who use it, not the asshole corporations and dictators of the world. Stand up for it.

      Alas, it is those selfsame asshole corporations and governments that created and funded it in the first place. They hired geeks who thought they could change the world, but forgot about human nature, which is to be greedy, grabby and generally as grubby as possible.

      This is a sociological problem being band-aided with technological solutions and ultimately the bandaid is going to have to be removed.

  • When I saw that in the summary, the first thing that came to mind is that a number of people would like put hackers on the moon.

    It might rank number two after putting hackers in a blender but it's definitely in the top five.

    myke

  • by Ozoner (1406169) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:46PM (#38574980)

    Are you aware of the more than 70 Amateur-Radio Satellites which have been launched since 1961?

    see http://www.spacetoday.org/Satellites/Hamsats/HamsatsBasics.html [spacetoday.org]

  • A few hurdles .. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by n5vb (587569) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @02:54PM (#38575084)
    1. $10k/pound. Maybe less depending on which launch carrier will give you a ride to orbit, and how many sats can be taken up per launch, and how easily you can get each one into the orbit you want. And extra sats, because launch payloads don't always make it [youtube.com].
    2. Latency. Not as bad as with GEO sat links if you have a constellation of LEO sats, but packet round trip times are going to be seriously long, especially if you have multiple sat-to-sat line-of-sight hops on long connections. Unless you're connecting to a host in the footprint of the same sat you're connecting on, those trip times might cause TCP connections to drop if they're not aware of the longer latency. (This was a major problem with commercial "satellite Internet" ISP's a few years ago, as I recall.)
    3. Infrastructure. There will need to be at least one nameserver on the network, ideally a distributed name service that can propagate from a root name authority, and while it's probably not too outrageous to put the backbone routers on the sats and have them dynamically manage their routing tables based on which sats they can see (and possibly determining their locations via SGPS so they can route geographically) and maybe host the distributed DNS service as well, a fair bit of the core infrastructure and management will have to be on the ground somewhere. If it's in a country that doesn't absolutely love the idea of this system being operational, expect that ground control rackspace to be raided at some point. And if it's in an isolated location that isn't well defended by a willing host country, or the host country becomes unwilling at some point in the future, same hazard. (This actually makes some risks far greater because
    4. Attrition. LEO is LEO, and one of the facts of life at LEO altitudes is drag, at least at perigee. The sats will have to have some propulsion capability to maintain orbit, or more will have to be launched periodically to replace the ones that have de-orbited. Higher altitudes are far less susceptible to drag, but increase latency and possibly exposure to van Allen belt radiation. And there's always the danger of random collisions with space debris at almost any altitude, although low-LEO orbits are a lot more full of trash than higher altitudes.

    That's just off the top of my head. A worthy endeavor, but one that would require significant investment and planning.

    • by HBI (604924)

      Not to entirely handwave the latency bit away, but a good PEP can solve a lot of the issues associated with latency. Compression and proxying can be handy also, but the TCP acceleration is vital and can offer a real world 30% improvement in usable bandwidth as well as much faster response times, as chains of acknowledgements are spoofed.

  • Many nations have already displayed the ability to destroy satellites.

    There is no defense against said attacks.
  • by HBI (604924) <kparadine@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @03:43PM (#38575662) Homepage Journal

    This is a 5ghz band line of sight radio that I have worked with. [harris.com]

    This product delivers 108mbps of real bandwidth over a shot that can be up to about 20 miles. The radios can also be meshed, allowing multiple connections to each antenna. It's essentially not all that much different than wifi AP rigged up with a directional antenna. We've seen articles about such shots being extended to the same ranges the RF-7800w achieves. The key issue with such shots is the terrain, of course. Hills and valleys pose problems.

    That said, why isn't anyone thinking about this? It would work. True, it wouldn't help with transoceanic shots, but in that case you could consider satellite to carry that kind of traffic. Or just pipe it over the wired Internet using the encryption mechanism of your choice - cheaper and easier. Use the sats as a backup to that in the event of government interference.

  • by VP (32928) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @09:51PM (#38580670)

    at the CCC Camp in Germany. A lot of space-related topics were presented there [media.ccc.de]

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