Space: The Tracking Twins Trap Terrorists


June 18, 2007: Last week, the U.S. launched a secret payload that was, apparently, two electronic monitoring satellites, to provide ocean surveillance, and a system for keeping track of suspicious ships, particularly those carrying weapons or terrorists, or both. All this cost about $700 million (the two birds and the Atlas 5 rocket). This project had been discussed openly for months, including the approximate date of the launch. But since it involved counter-terror and space based reconnaissance, it was officially a secret.

There are already other ocean surveillance satellites up there. But these birds wear out, and have to be replaced. Moreover, most of the satellites watching the ocean have a hard time tracking ships over a long period of time. The two new satellites are about a thousand kilometers up, and track ships by detecting their electronic emissions, and tracking the movement of those detection events. This work is critical if you care tracking some small merchant ship belonging to some outfit known to work with terrorist organizations. A ship could be undetected if it maintained electronic silence, but that is difficult to do.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close