Pros and cons of video from space

DOD agency studies feasibility of footage from micro satellites

U.S. intelligence specialists and military officials currently are assessing a European-pioneered technology that would offer yet another way to monitor battlefields and areas of potential conflict around the globe, reports Ben Iannotta at Defense News.

The group recently received a demonstration of video beamed from a satellite built by the Technical University of Berlin. The video of a U.S. team participating in a military exercise was taken by a micro satellite weighing just 50-kilogram (110 lbs.) called LAPAN-TUBSAT.

The Defense Department’s Operationally Responsive Space office is in the midst of a six-month evaluation of the technology, and ORS officials are seeking input on the potential worth of satellite video to commands across all domains: air, land, sea and special operations.

A major initiative of ORS is finding cost-effective ways to quickly design, build and launch micro satellites for data collection, reports Barry Rosenberg in Defense Systems.

Make no mistake, shooting video from satellites has serious limitations. Video from micro satellites such as LAPAN-TUBSAT lacks the same sharpness and clarity of that taken from airborne platforms and they provide only brief footage as they pass overhead in orbit.

Still, video from satellites would help fill the increasing demand for video from battlefield commanders and also provide a backup of aerial reconnaissance if the U.S. finds itself struggling to control airspace in a future conflict.

What ORS is exploring is the possibility of buying a “pearl string” of six to eight micro satellites from an undetermined manufacturer that would provide some coverage of an area every hour or so.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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