Hactivists Plot Satellite System To Bypass Web Censorship


So called hacktivists are considering an outlandish plan to launch their own satellites to create a free space-based Internet, immune to censorship

A group of hackers reportedly plans to launch its  own communication satellites into orbit so as to bypass what it feesl is the increasing censorship of the Internet.

The outlandish scheme was revealed at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, which took place from 27 to 30 December. The Chaos Communication Congress is an annual meeting for international hackers, and is organised by the Chaos Computer Club.

Internet Freedom

The group of hackers believe that by launching their own satellites, they can “save” the Internet from being censored by various governments, according to a report on the BBC.

The idea was apparently first mooted in August last year by hacktivist Nick Farr, when he reportedly urged people to contribute to the project. He pointed to the increasing threat of internet censorship as the motivation for the project.

“The first goal is an uncensorable internet in space. Let’s take the internet out of the control of terrestrial entities,” Farr reportedly said.

For those interested, the project has been named Hackerspace Global Grid. Besides its ambitious aim of wanting to launch its own satellites, the group is also looking to create a grid of ground stations to track and communicate with the satellites. And its longer term aim is reportedly to help put an amateur astronaut on the moon, supposedly within the next 23 years.

Balloon Launches

According to the BBC report, hobbyists have already put a few small satellites into orbit (launched via balloons instead of rockets), but these home grown satellites have stayed in orbit for a relatively short period of time, as tracking the satellite is difficult for those without a budget the size of NASA.

A rocket in comparison can place a payload in an almost exact orbit, whereas the unguided ‘balloon-launched’ satellite is normally placed in a much wider section of low earth orbit, which makes them harder to track. Therefore the group behind the project is currently working on a prototype of a modular receiver station with networking capabilities.

A working prototype, built with open source hardware and software, will reportedly be ready in the next six months, and will cost less than 100 euros (£83) per device. The idea is that making these modular receiver stations so cheap will allow for them to easily sold to interested parties who would then be part of a distributed network of these stations.

The hacktivist project is, according to the BBC, being aided by Constellation, a German research initiative. constellation already operates a platform that provides distributed computation capability to various aerospace related research projects.

Government Reaction?

So although the project does at first sound somewhat outlandish, it could well work, although experts believe there are a number of hurdles to overcome.

“Low earth orbit satellites such as have been launched by amateurs so far, do not stay in a single place but rather orbit, typically every 90 minutes,” Prof Alan Woodward from the computing department at the University of Surrey, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

And he warned that any country could take the law into their own hands and disable the satellites.

In October it was revealed that two US satellites had been attacked with the finger of suspicion pointed at the Chinese military, although China denied it was involved.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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