Posts Tagged ‘Space Conflict’

The Militarization of Outer Space: The Pentagon’s “Space Warriors”

By Tom Burghardt – BLN Contributing Writer

It’s not as if things aren’t bad enough right here on planet earth.

What with multiple wars and occupations, an accelerating economic meltdown, corporate malfeasance and environmental catastrophes such as the petroleum-fueled apocalypse in the Gulf of Mexico, I’d say we have a full plate already.

Now the Defense Department wants to up the stakes with new, destabilizing weapons systems that will transform low- and high-earth orbit into another “battlespace,” pouring billions into programs to achieve what Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) has long dreamed of: “space dominance.”

Indeed, Pentagon space warriors fully intend to field a robust anti-satellite (ASAT) capability that can disable, damage or destroy the satellites of other nations, all for “defensive” purposes, mind you.

Back in 2005, The New York Times reported that General Lance W. Lord, then commander of AFSPC, told an Air Force conference that “space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny. … Space superiority is our day-to-day mission. Space supremacy is our vision for the future.”

Five years on, that “mission” is still a top priority for the Obama administration. While some might call it “net-centric warfare” on steroids, I’d choose another word: madness.

Government Computer News:

Technology has always been essential to military strength, but breakthroughs developed within the military often are not limited to weapons. This special report introduces some of the Pentagon’s most advanced information technology projects, in the context of their relation to commercial products and battlefield necessities.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has fostered technologies ranging from the Internet to artificial intelligence research. Nowadays, the scientists it supports are pushing IT ever closer to achieving the processing power and cognitive awareness of living beings. At the same time DARPA is applying technology to the pressing threats imposed by current conflicts, the agency is sponsoring more than a dozen innovative projects, including a bid to perfect cheap, extremely accurate and nonradioactive atomic clocks for use in battlefield systems.

Advances in the mathematical algorithms for cryptography and the processing muscle behind them soon will transform the platforms that handle cascades of classified data, for example. National Security Agency officials characterize their work as a process of continuous ploy and counterploy in the rarefied realms of logic and computing.

The Grand Challenge of bringing practical, remotely piloted or autonomous land vehicles into use also is advancing via the competitive work of several teams. And in its approach to supercomputing, the Defense Department could be changing the way high-performance systems are measured, developed and purchased.

Mutating threats shape DARPA’s research in a wide range of new technologies

In a conflict where the biggest threats to soldiers often are low-tech, homemade explosives, it might not be obvious why troops need a more precise atomic clock to support their efforts. But the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency is working to deliver such precision, along with 13 other future icons that span a range of science and technology, from networking to air vehicles, biology and lasers, DARPA Director Tony Tether said.

The Chip Scale Atomic Clocks (CSACs), for instance, would perform key control functions throughout Pentagon networks and also could help warfighters detect an enemy’s presence.

All the Future Icon projects involve the application of computing resources to solve present and future defense missions, and some directly attack the problems of improving information technology performance for existing systems and futuristic computer architectures.

And they are the types of projects whose impact often extends beyond their original scope, affecting the development of technologies used elsewhere in government and commercially.

“They are tremendously difficult technical challenges that will be hard to solve without fundamentally new approaches — ones which may require bringing multiple disciplines to bear and perhaps even result in entirely new disciplines,” Tether said in testimony submitted recently to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities.

One of the most ambitious of the futuristic computer design projects is a five-year project to build a system modeled on the human brain, which would reflect and incorporate human assessments of the roles and intentions of people (see sidebar).

Shape shifters
The research agency is also probing highly advanced IT challenges such as the Programmable Matter project, which aims to develop software that would allow physical objects to change their size, shape, color and other attributes to fulfill changing functions within, say, a military communications system.

CSACs would tackle more immediate concerns in defense networks and in helping soldiers detect enemy vehicles and facilities, according to a leading scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology who is researching the technology with DARPA support.

DARPA’s research is honing computer-based methods of detecting purposely hidden or naturally elusive enemy targets underground or on the high seas.

The CSAC project has been driven by the increasing need to reliably assure continual synchronization of systems linked via the Global Information Grid, said Thomas O’Brian, chief of the Time and Frequency Division at NIST’s laboratory in Boulder, Colo. The lab receives DARPA funding to support the development of chip-scale atomic clocks.

The tiny clocks could be deployed in hundreds of systems that military organizations at all levels rely on, including not only radios but also radars, sensors and location units that use the Global Positioning System, O’Brian said in an interview. The atomic clocks promise to make GPS systems more reliable while using little power, along with providing other helpful features, such as low weight and small size, he continued.

The CSACs “are significantly more accurate than the quartz crystal units ,which have been the standard” for such timekeeping, O’Brian said. The new generation of small clocks relies on the vibration frequency of elements such as cesium and rubidium to maintain their steady timekeeping and does not involve radioactive materials.

The tiny clocks can operate for as long as two days or more using the power available in a AA battery, O’Brian said.

“Another aspect of these devices is that they can serve as magnetometers,” he added. As such, the CSACs could sense the presence of metallic objects, such as mines or tanks. “You could scatter them across a wide area so when a Jeep or tank drives over, they might detect it,” O’Brian said. “Or they could detect the presence of ventilating fans in [al Qaeda caves] in Tora Bora [Afghanistan].”

CSACs already have proved themselves in demonstrations using GPS devices, and the technology showed that it could help navigation units function when satellite signals aren’t available, O’Brian said.

Some of the main tasks remaining before the CSACs reach routine use include:

  • Developing efficient, low-cost mass-production methods.
  • Improving the small clocks’ resistance to field conditions such as vibration, temperature and pressure variations and shock.
  • Reducing power consumption.

O’Brian expressed confidence that researchers could soon achieve those improvements.

The research agency’s push in the fields of “detection, precision identification, tracking and destruction of elusive targets” has spawned several research projects. One group of them aims to improve methods for finding and investigating caves, and another centers on tracking seaborne vessels.

The cave research has gained momentum partly from the response of adversary countries’ forces to the success of the Pentagon’s spy satellite technology. Countries such as Iran and North Korea reportedly have built extensive underground facilities to conceal some of their nuclear-weapon production facilities from orbiting sensors.

The underground research spurred by such strategic threats also has led DARPA to study how better cave technology can aid tactical operations, such as by helping soldiers discover enemy troops and weapons lurking in small caves and by helping detect cross-border smuggling tunnels.

The Counter-Underground Facilities program aims at developing sensors, software and related technology to:

  • Pinpoint the power, water airflow and exhaust vents from cave installations.
  • Evaluate the condition of underground facilities before and after attacks.
  • Monitor activities within cave structures during attacks.

According to DARPA procurement documents, the Pentagon’s cave program began by developing methods to learn about those conditions and other features of caves via Measurement and Signature Intelligence (Masint) technology.

Masint methods involve the use of extremely sophisticated and highly classified technology that can integrate information gathered by various types of sensors, including acoustic, seismic, electromagnetic, chemical, multispectral and gravity-sensing devices.

DARPA’s underground facility research project also involves investigation of the effluents coming from vents connected to cave complexes. Effluents for Vent Hunting research can involve the computerized evaluation of smoke to distinguish, for example, between decoy cooking fires and real cooking fires in an area where hostile forces may be roaming.

On the high seas, the Predictive Analysis for Naval Deployment Activities (PANDA) project is refining its existing technology to track the location and patterns of more than 100,000 vessels and to detect when ships and boats deviate from normally expected behavior.

Suspicious behavior
As such, the PANDA research is similar to other systems that use exception detection to pinpoint unusual behavior by people in airports or train stations. Developers of those counterterrorism systems have carved out the task of teaching systems what types of events to watch for among the countless mundane activities observed via video cameras in the transportation hubs.

Like the PANDA system, the exception-detection software for airports flags unusual events — such as an errant freighter in one case or an unattended satchel in the other — and brings them to the attention of human analysts.

At the edges of computer science, DARPA is approaching the problem of attracting and cultivating talent to the field of computer science partly by asking promising students to choose projects that strike them as interesting and attractive.

“One of the ideas the students liked is Programmable Matter,” Tether told the congressional subcommittee members. “It is an important idea that is of significant relevance to DOD. The challenge is to build a solid object out of intelligent parts that could be programmed so that it can transform itself into other physical objects in three dimensions. It would do this by changing its color, shape or other characteristics.”

The programmable matter project could, for instance, lead to the invention of a malleable antenna that could change its shape depending on the radio or radar to which it is connected, Tether said.

“The computer science challenges are to identify the algorithms that would allow each element of the object to do its job as the object changes, while staying well coordinated with the other elements and functioning as an ensemble,” he added.

DARPA throws down the challenge on cognitive computing

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s research in the field of cognitive computing could progress to the point of a Grand Challenge that would pit alternate methods of building brainlike systems against one another.

The agency’s Biologically-Inspired Cognitive Architecture program is pushing artificial intelligence in the direction of building software that mimics human brain functions.

BICA relies on recent advances in cognitive psychology and the science of the human brain’s biological structure to build software that comes much closer to human abilities than previous AI. The research agency’s Information Processing Technology Office is leading the BICA research process by funding research teams based mainly at universities.

AI traces its roots back to designs such as expert systems and neural networks, familiar since the 1980s, which held out the promise of transforming information technology by adopting human learning and thinking methods. Those classic AI approaches proved to be useful in some commercial and government systems but were less effective than conventional IT architectures for most uses.

BICA’s leaders note that AI progress has been slow and steady in recent decades. “However, we have fallen short of creating systems with genuine artificial intelligence — ones that can learn from experience and adapt to changing conditions in the way that humans can,” according to DARPA. “We are able to engineer specialized software solutions for almost any well-defined problem, but our systems still lack the general, flexible learning abilities of human cognition.”

The BICA program has completed its first phase, which commissioned eight research teams to combine recent findings in brain biology and psychology to help build blueprints for functioning computers that could learn and understand like people. In the second phase of the five-year BICA program, which is now under way, the military research agency is seeking proposals for vendor teams to develop and test models of human cognition, or thinking, based on the architectures built in the program’s first year.

DARPA has not yet announced plans for a grand challenge competition to pit the resulting AI-like systems against one another. But vendor documents submitted in response to BICA’s first phase refer to an anticipated challenge stage of the program.

The University of Maryland at College Park provided one of the computer architectures for the first phase of the BICA program, basing some of its research on methods of designing a mobile system that could learn the various skills DARPA seeks in a cognitive system. “We are ultimately interested in [designing] an agent that captures many of the abilities of a child, and thus do not focus on a large initial knowledge base,” the University of Maryland computer scientists wrote.

“We keep the environment and input/ output to the system relatively simple so that we can focus on the primary issue of integrating those components and not the important but low-level details that will eventually need to be addressed,” according to their blueprint.

The 14 Future Icon technology areas, as described in testimony by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Tony Tether before a House committee:

Networks: Self-forming, robust, self-defending networks at the strategic and tactical level are the key to network-centric warfare.

Chip-Scale Atomic Clock: Miniaturizing an atomic clock to fit on a chip to provide very accurate time as required, for instance, in assured network communications.

Global War on Terrorism: Technologies to identify and defeat terrorist activities such as the manufacture and deployment of improvised explosive devices and other asymmetric activities.

Air Vehicles: Manned and unmanned air vehicles that quickly arrive at their mission station and can remain there for very long periods.

Space: The U.S. military’s ability to use space is one of its major strategic advantages, and DARPA is working to ensure the United States maintains that advantage.

High-Productivity Computing Systems: DARPA is working to maintain the U.S. global lead in supercomputing, which is fundamental to a variety of military operations, from weather forecasting to cryptography to the design of new weapons.

Real-Time Accurate Language Translation: Real-time machine language translation of text and speech with near-expert human translation accuracy.

Biological Warfare Defense: Technologies to dramatically accelerate the development and production of vaccines and other medical therapeutics from 12 years to only 12 weeks.

Prosthetics: Developing prosthetics that can be controlled and perceived by the brain, just as with a natural limb.

Quantum Information Science: Exploiting quantum phenomena in the fields of computing, cryptography and communications, with the promise of opening new frontiers in each area.

Newton’s Laws for Biology: DARPA’s Fundamental Laws of Biology program is working to bring deeper mathematical understanding and accompanying predictive ability to the field of biology, with the goal of discovering fundamental laws of biology that extend across all size scales.

Low-Cost Titanium: A completely revolutionary technology for extracting titanium from ore and fabricating it promises to dramatically reduce the cost for military-grade titanium alloy, making it practical for many more applications.

Alternative Energy: Technologies to help reduce the military’s reliance on petroleum.

High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System: Novel, compact, high-power lasers making practical small-size and low-weight speed-of-light weapons for tactical mobile air and ground vehicles.

NSA pushes for adoption of elliptic-curve encryption, whose greater security and shorter key lengths will help secure small, mobile devices

The cryptographic security standards used in public-key infrastructures, RSA and Diffie-Hellman, were introduced in the 1970s. And although they haven’t been cracked, their time could be running out.

That’s one reason the National Security Agency wants to move to elliptic-curve cryptography (ECC) for cybersecurity by 2010, the year the National Institute of Standards and Technology plans to recommend all government agencies move to ECC, said Dickie George, technology director at NSA’s information assurance directorate.

Another reason is that current standards would have to continually extend their key lengths to ensure security, which increases processing time and could make it difficult to secure small devices. ECC can provide greater security with shorter keys, experts say.

The switch to ECC will be neither quick nor painless. It will require mass replacement of hardware and software to be compatible with ECC and new NSA cybersecurity standards.

In fact, the 2010 goal might not be realistic for NSA, where more than a million different pieces of equipment will need to be moved to ECC, George said. NSA’s move could potentially take as long as 10 years to complete, given the project’s complexity and scope. The agency has not set a specific deadline for completing its Cryptographic Modernization initiative, started in 2001 and recognizes that cybersecurity will always be a moving target, he said. The move to ECC is part of the initiative.

ECC, a complex mathematical algorithm used to secure data in transit, will replace RSA and Diffie-Hellman because it can provide much greater security at a smaller key size. ECC takes less computational time and can be used to secure information on smaller machines, including cell phones, smart cards and wireless devices.

The specifics of the changeover were announced in 2005 with NSA’s release of its Suite B Cryptography standards. Suite B falls under NSA’s Cryptographic Modernization initiative and details ECC usage for public keys and digital signatures. The announcement, the first related to cryptographic standards in 30 years, was a watershed event, said Bill Lattin, chief technology officer at Certicom, a pioneer in ECC.

NSA has licensed approximately 25 of Certicom’s ECC patents for use by the government and vendors that develop defense products.

The move to ECC represents a new way of doing business for the NSA. The Cryptographic Modernization initiative “is not just replacing the old with the new. We are upgrading the entire way we do communications,” George said.

Interoperability is the core of the new communications program and the reason for the modernization initiative. NSA plans to work closely with other governments, U.S. departments and agencies, first responders, and the commercial sector, George said. To do so, the agency needs public-key algorithms to securely transmit information among all parties, he said.

“If you go back 30 years, things weren’t nearly as interoperable as they are now. In today’s world, everything is being networked. We have to allow interoperability. And the cryptography has to match [among devices] because if it doesn’t, it is not going to be interoperable,” George said.

These interoperability goals will most likely extend across federal, state and local governments in addition to law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Although RSA and Diffie-Hellman are both public-key algorithms, experts say they don’t scale well for the future. To make RSA and Diffie-Hellman keys, which now can go to 1,024 bits, secure for the next 10 to 20 years, organizations would have to expand to key lengths of at least 2,048 bits, said Stephen Kent, chief scientist at BBN Technologies. Eventually, key sizes would need to expand to 4,096 bits. “That’s enormous keys. To do the math operations underlying the keys takes longer and is more computationally intensive,” Kent said.

Thus, NSA’s decision to move to ECC, which appears to be the only option. Experts agree that there is no new technology comparable to ECC. Although there are a number of protocols, there are only two basic technology approaches, George said: integers, used by RSA and Diffie-Hellman, and ECC, he said.

“ECC is the only impressive thing out there,” Kent said. “People don’t get excited every time a new thing comes along. We wait several years and let people try to crack it first. ECC definitely passed the test in this regard.”

NIST, which develops government- wide cybersecurity standards, also sees a need to move to ECC, although its recommendations are less stringent than NSA’s, whose ECC guidelines are a subset of NIST’s.

“I’m pretty sure [RSA and Diffie-Hellman] will be broken within a decade or so,” said Bill Burr, manager of NIST’s security technology group. “We are trying to end the use for most purposes of RSA and Diffie-Hellman with 1,000-bit keys by the end of 2010. And if you are real conservative, we are late.”.

“NSA has been fairly aggressive to standardize on ECC,” Burr said. We are slower, partly because we think it will naturally happen anyhow.”

John Pescatore, vice president and analyst at Gartner, does not see a need for the average user to switch to ECC unless it is to take advantage of its smaller size, such as securing cell phones and smart cards. With NSA, those technologies might include “things that a soldier carries around…and [has] strict limits on power consumption,” Pescatore said.

Burr expects ECC to become a universal standard by 2020, when most ECC patents owned by Certicom expire. “If it’s not a big problem today, it may be hard for the CIO to motivate people to transition to ECC,” said Kent.

DARPA’s Grand Challenge moves downtown, where teams will test their vehicles against city traffic

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s competition for autonomous vehicles has seen great leaps forward in its first two incarnations. This year, the ride could get rather bumpy, as the Grand Challenge moves from the expanses of the desert to the mean streets of the city.

The competition, called the Urban Challenge for 2007, is no mere sporting event. DARPA’s goal is to use the challenge to help develop technologies for self-guiding military vehicles that could reduce the deadly toll of vehicular-related battlefield casualties among U.S. military personnel.

Approximately half the U.S. soldiers killed to date in Iraq have died in enemy attacks on vehicles, whether by live enemy fire or by improvised explosive devices or, to a lesser extent, in vehicular accidents.

Based on results from the two previous Grand Challenges and a preliminary look at the entrants in DARPA’s Urban Challenge contest now under way, “we think that over time we will be able to build vehicles that will be able to drive as well as humans in certain situations,” said Norman Whitaker, program manager for DARPA’s Urban Challenge.

In May, DARPA trimmed the roster of teams competing in the Urban Challenge from 89 to 53 and will further narrow the field to 30 semifinalists this week based on scores issued during site visits DARPA officials have been conducting since May. The agency also will name this week the location of the competition’s Qualification Event scheduled for Oct. 26 to 31 and the location for the final contest Nov. 3.

To date, DARPA has said only that both events would take place in the western United States, although its placement in a simulated urban combat zone has become the theme of this year’s contest and considerably upped the ante for the level of vehicle proficiency that will be required to successfully complete the contest’s 60-mile course in six hours.

The complexities of a city environment and the introduction this year of other moving vehicles along the course increases exponentially the sophistication of the sensing, data processing and guidance technologies required, Whitaker said.

DARPA’s goal in its successive challenges is to raise the bar each time, he said, although the addition of moving traffic represents the biggest obstacle ever added to the contest.

The first Grand Challenge in 2004 ran over a 142-mile course in the desert, but the competition looked more like the Keystone Cops than Knight Rider — no vehicle made it past the eight-mile mark. Still, DARPA officials said they saw promise, which came to fruition in 2005, when four vehicles covered a 132-mile desert course. With those results, the decision was made to take the Grand Challenge downtown.

With an urban setting and traffic, vehicles “have to make decisions fast, so we’ve speeded up the timeframe” in which vehicles must receive sensor data, process it and respond, all without human intervention, Whitaker said. “As usual, we’ve taken it to the nth degree and said we want full autonomy. By [asking for an extreme], we get a lot of the middle ground covered.”

The placement of this year’s contest in a dynamic setting creates challenges unheard of in previous challenges and requires technological advancements that will bring self-guided vehicles to a near reality, participants say.

“This year we have moving objectives and that dynamic interaction is new and very difficult,” said Gary Schmiedel, vice president of the advanced product engineering group at Oshkosh Truck, one of the corporate entrants in this year’s Urban Challenge and one of the teams that successfully completed the 132-mile course in 2005. “This brings us much closer to a real-world application of the technology and means that we have to build a truck that’s as versatile as you or I would be.”

At the level of sophistication that will be required in this year’s contest, “this is really a software competition, not a hardware competition,” said David Stavens, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University who’s working on Stanford’s entry in the Urban Challenge and was a co-creator of Stanley, the modified Volkswagen Touareg sport utility vehicle that won DARPA’s 2005 Grand Challenge for Stanford University.

The Stanford team, consequently, is spending much of its time this year working on probabilistic algorithms and machine learning capabilities and is tackling the problem with help from the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Stavens said. Probabilistic algorthms will help this year’s Stanford entry, Junior, a Volkswagen Passat station wagon, deal with uncertainties along the course, while machine learning will enable the team to program the car with human-like driving skills.

“By driving other roads, you can gain enough knowledge that the robot will be able to handle the Urban Challenge course just fine,” Stavens said. “This is a very rich subset of the skills that you and I would use when we jump in our own cars and go driving, but this type of technology can save our soldiers’ lives in the battlefield and save lives in the civilian world.”

After this year’s challenge, DARPA will evaluate whether the contests have advanced the technology enough to make commercial production of autonomous vehicles for the military feasible and economically practical, Whitaker said. After an experiment along the lines of the challenges, “there’s an intermediate phase before [the military] goes out and starts buying systems. It could also be that we’ll need to see more work on the commercial side,” he said.

Teams build on technologies from past challenges

As the agency that created the Internet and nurtured it through its early years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has a long history of transferring its technical innovations from military to civilian use. The Grand Challenge will likely prove to be another example.

Although the challenge’s primary goal is developing driverless military vehicles, DARPA has organized the competitions with the expectation that technologies created for them will be applied in the private sector, too.

Many of the corporate Grand Challenge participants, in fact, look at it as an opportunity to test and perfect — in demanding military conditions — technologies they will later adapt for industrial or civilian use.

Velodyne Acoustics, a maker of high-fidelity stereo and home theater equipment, entered the 2005 Grand Challenge and invented laser-based sensors for its vehicle that it has now sold to participants in the 2007 Urban Challenge.

The company also is marketing its invention to prospects in several industries, said Michael Dunbar, Velodyne’s business development manager.

David Hall, the company’s founder, chief executive officer and chief engineer, along with his brother, Bruce, Velodyne’s president, entered a vehicle in the 2005 Grand Challenge as Team DAD (for Digital Audio Drive). While working on the project, they identified shortcomings with the laser-based light, distancing and ranging (Lidar) scanners used alone or in combination with cameras as the eyes in the guidance systems of autonomous vehicles, Dunbar said. Lidar systems available on the market at the time scanned for objects only along a single, fixed line of sight.

In response to those limitations, David Hall, an avid inventor, created his own Lidar scanner consisting of an assembly of 64 lasers spinning at 300 to 900 rotations per second capable of detecting objects anywhere in a 360-degree horizontal field. The Velodyne Lidar assembly produces 1 million data points per second, compared to the 5,000 data points a second of earlier systems.

Velodyne doesn’t have a vehicle in this year’s Urban Challenge but has sold its HDL-64 Lidar scanner to 10 Challenge participants that have included it on their vehicles, either alone or in conjunction with optical sensors, Dunbar said. “Some of the teams can use our sensor and eliminate other types of sensors so [the sensor data] is much easier for them to manipulate,” he said.

By setting its own benchmarks for supercomputing systems, DOD gets better performance — and might change how HPC systems are procured

Twice a year, work being done by the world’s fastest supercomputers comes to a screeching halt so the systems can run a benchmark called Linpack to determine how fast they are, at least in relation to one another. Linpack — which measures how many trillions of floating-point operations per second the machine is capable of executing — is the benchmark used to rank the fastest supercomputers in the world, in the twice-annual Top 500 List.

As an exercise in flexing muscle, Linpack is about as useful as any other benchmark. But as a tool for judging supercomputing systems in a procurement process, it is limited at best. The Defense Department, through its High Performance Computing Modernization Program, is shaking up the supercomputing world by applying a more disciplined approach to purchasing big iron.

Instead of using a generic benchmark to compare models, the program issues a set of metrics that carefully codifies its own workload. Program leaders then ask vendors to respond with the best — yet most cost-effective — systems they can provide to execute such a workload.

“We don’t specify how big the machine is,” said Cray Henry, head of the program. “We will run a sample problem of a fixed size, and call the result our target time. We then put a bid on the street and say we want you to build a machine that will run this twice as fast.” It is up to the vendor to figure out how that machine should achieve those results.

Sounds simple, but in the field of supercomputers, this common-sense approach is rather radical.

“It’s a well-oiled process,” agreed Alison Ryan, vice president of business development at SGI. She said that for vendors, “this kind of procurement is actually difficult. It takes a lot of nontrivial work. It’s easier to do a procurement based on Linpack.” But in the end, the work is worthwhile for both DOD and the vendor, because “it’s actually getting the right equipment for your users.”

“They’ve done a great job on the program in institutionalizing the [request for proposal] process,” said Peter Ungaro, chief executive officer at supercomputer company Cray.

DOD created HPCMP in 1994 as a way to pool resources for supercomputing power. Instead of having each of the services buy supercomputers for its own big jobs, the services could collectively buy an array of machines that could handle a wider variety of tasks, including large tasks.

On the rise
Today, the program has an annual budget of about $250 million, including $50 million for procuring two new supercomputers. Eight HPCMP shared-resource centers, which house the systems, tackle about 600 projects submitted by 4,600 users from the military services, academia and industry.

As of December 2006, the program had control of machines that could do a total of 315.5 teraflops, and that number grows by a quarter each year, as the oldest machines are replaced or augmented by newer technologies.

And over the years, the program has developed a painstakingly thorough process of specifying what kind of systems it needs.

What about HPCMP is so different? It defines its users’ workload, rather than use a set of generic performance goals.

Henry said that most of the workloads on the program’s systems can fall into one of about 10 categories, such as computational fluid dynamics, structural mechanics, chemistry and materials science, climate modeling and simulation, and electromagnetics. Each job has a unique performance characteristic and can be best run on a unique combination of processors, memory, interconnects and software. “This is better because it gauges true workload,” Ryan said.

To quantify these types of jobs, HPCMP came up with a computer program called the linear optimizer, which calculates the overall system performance for handling each of these jobs. It weights each job by how often it is executed. It also factors in the price of each system and existing systems that can already execute those tasks.

Once numbers have been generated for each proposed system, the program takes usability into consideration. Henry admitted that is hard to quantify, but it includes factors such as what sorts of third-party software is available for the platform and what sorts of compilers, debuggers and other development tools are available.

Once these performance and usability numbers are calculated, they are weighted against the past performance of the vendors. From there, the answer of which system may be the right one may be obvious — or it may come down to a narrow choice between a handful of systems.

“It’s not often they need the same type of system year after year,” Ungaro said.

Bottom line
Although DOD generally is well- represented on the twice-annual list of the world’s fastest computers — it had 11 in the June 2007 Top 100 ranking, for instance — the true beneficiaries are the researchers who can use the machines. The biggest benefit? “Time to solution,” Henry said.

DOD might need to know the performance characteristics of an airplane fuselage. Using a very accurate simulation saves money and time from testing actual fuselages.

“Typically, the kind of equations we’re trying to solve require from dozens to thousands of differential calculations,” Henry said. And each equation “can require a tremendous number of iterations.”

Imagine executing a single problem a million or even tens of millions of times at once, with each execution involving thousands of calculations. That’s the size of the job these systems usually handle.

DOD has many problems to test against. Programs track toxic releases of gas spread across an environment. They help develop better algorithms for tracking targets on the ground from moving radars. They speed development of missiles. In one example, supercomputing shortened the development time of the Hellfire missile to just 13 months, allowing it to be deployed in Iraq two years earlier than otherwise would have been possible.

By providing the fastest computing power available, the program in its modest way can assure the Defense Department stays ahead of the enemy.

Info / Resource page for my 2007 film, as originally posted. DARPA has since merged their iXo ‘office’ with their IPTO office (IPTO deals with their cognitive AI projects).


Google Video

This was constructed almost entirely using government / military animations, videos, images and photos. The narrative is sourced from government quotes from start to finish. It is the “official version”, if you will, but in an unprecedented format.

It unveils the governments numerous and ongoing programs related to A.I., “NBIC”, the “Global Information Grid”, nanotechnology, biotechnology, autonomous drones, “naval sea-bases”, space weapons, weather modification… or more directly: domestic and global totalitarian technological domination. American Imperialism meets Artificial Intelligence.

The only debate is: what are we going to do to stop it? Time’s running out…

It mostly centers around DARPA materials, as they’re the fountainhead of all of this, but this is all a broad multi-agency effort. Some of the video content, like the “OS interface” of the video, was screen captured from the DARPA sites old iXo interactive flash presentation, from almost a year ago, but is now no longer available.

This was a somewhat of an impromptu project that I found myself sucked into last Thursday. I was dong my daily sorting and organizing thru my massive media drives, normal stuff trying to prepare for my monster video project, and stumbled across the DARPA site materials I captured last year around the time I did TWYS. I checked the DARPA site and sure enough they took it all down. I’ve been on this for the last week almost round the clock. I know it’s a bit out of context on the bigger video many have been waiting for, but my ability to do major editing and processing of that monster is virtually halted thanks to a money – computing combination crisis. I technically started this project long before the monster I’ve been working on, as well as some others.

A special thanks to the Music Contributors:
“2012 Death Prophecy” during the Augmentation / NBIC segment

Intro ambients & “Nerve” (features machine vocals “Totalitarian System; …”) during the GIG segment.

-And other various “drum & bass” artists; Extracts from various full mixes. Hard to determine the track composers.
For mad free Drum & Bass mixes:

{Use this linked image to post this in profiles/comments/forums/groups instead of using embeds.}

This is the resources page that has all of the narrative quotes, and all the rest that I simply couldn’t fit in the video. It will function as the “official” discussion / debate page (like there is any debate?) that will be permanently linked underneath it in my profile or wherever.

“We can no longer avoid the need to be prepared to fight in cities.”

“The globalization of the world economy will also continue, with a widening between “haves” and “have-nots.””

“Although unlikely to be challenged by a global peer competitor, the United States will continue to be challenged regionally.”

“Failed states have cultures and world views that are vastly different from those of the United States.”

“Given the global population trends and the likely strategies and tactics of future threats Army forces will likely conduct operations in, around, and over urban areas – not as a matter of fate, but as a deliberate choice linked to national security objectives and strategy”

[The Government is aimed at] “conflicts in high density urban areas against enemies having social and cultural traditions that may be counter-intuitive to us, and whose actions often appear to be irrational because we don’t understand their context.”
“The objective of the Urban Reasoning and Geospatial Exploitation Technology (URGENT) program is to develop a 3D urban object recognition and exploitation system”

“Capabilities that, for example, allow us to establish surveillance that provides robust, dynamic situational awareness on all the scales of the city.”

“Compared to our current airborne capabilities, the new sensor and surveillance systems required must provide far more detailed and fundamentally different information and coverage.”

“In addition, we need a network of nonintrusive microsensors, creating the ability to map an entire city, and the activities within it, in all three dimensions and (all the) time.”

“The goal is to extend our awareness to the level of a city block so our forces have unprecedented awareness as the fighting begins, a level of awareness that enables them to shape and control the conflict as it unfolds.”

“Because of the shrunken time scale of urban operations, these dynamic capabilities must operate in near-real-time.”

“Combat Zones That See (CTS) is a project of DARPA to track everything that moves ”,shachtman,45399,1.html

“CTS will produce video understanding A.I. embedded in surveillance systems for automatically monitoring video feeds”

“CTS (develops A.I.) for utilizing large numbers (1000s) of cameras to provide the close-in sensing demanded for military operations in urban terrain.”

“Global Engagement combines global surveillance with the potential for a space-based global precision strike capability.”

“Biomedical status monitoring is the medical equivalent of the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

“The large investments already present in nano-, info- and biotechnology should be coordinated and coupled with efforts in cognition. DARPA, NASA, NIH, and NSF already have major programs that seek to integrate nano-, bio- and info- research.”

“The goal of the human performance augmentation effort is to increase the speed, strength, and endurance of soldiers in combat environments.”

“The DARPA Augmented Cognition program promises to develop technologies capable of extending the information management capacity of warfighters.”

“The goal of this program is to discover new pharmacologic and training approaches that will lead to an extension in the individual warfighter’s cognitive performance capability by at least 96 hours and potentially for more than 168 hours without sleep.”

“The intent is to take brain signals (nanotechnology for augmented sensitivity and nonintrusive signal detection) and use them in a control strategy (information technology), and then impart back into the brain the sensation of feedback signals (biotechnology).”

“The future requires a symbiosis of human and machine in a way that synergistically exploits the strengths of each. ”

“Two of the critical issues for exoskeletons are power for actuation and biomechanical control integration.”

“DARPA has a brain-machine interface program about to start. This program seeks human ability to control complex entities by sending control actions without the delay for muscle activation.”

“From local groups of linked enhanced individuals to a global collective intelligence”

“We are not alone. We are interconnected as are our cognitive systems.”

“Prolific unattended sensors and uninhabited, automated surveillance vehicles under personal warfighter control will be providing high data streams on local situations.”

“We believe that, in the future, artificial cognitive systems will continually monitor, record, and assess a warfighter and his activities.”

“Embedded, real-time “cognitive” processing for both the warfighter and associated automated systems will be critical to success”

“The J-UCAS vision is that a collection of unmanned, weaponized, high performance aircraft, equipped with the latest contemporary autonomous capabilities”

“The enemy will be at risk from relatively small, relatively inexpensive, unmanned platforms that bring the fight to the opponent while keeping our capital assets out of harm’s way.”

“The uninhabited air vehicle will have an artificial brain that can emulate a skillful fighter pilot in the performance of its missions.”

“Tasks such as take-off, navigation, situation awareness, target identification, and safe return landing will be done autonomously, with the possible exception of person-in-the-loop for strategic and firing decisions.

“Removing the pilot from assault and fighter aircraft will result in a more combat-agile aircraft with less weight and no g-force constraints, and will reduce the risk of injury or death to highly trained warfighters. American public opinion makes this a clear priority.

“Add mobility, and our autonomous platforms can act, not just observe.”

“The fighter airplane will likely derive the greatest operational advantages, but similar benefits will accrue to uninhabited tanks, submarines, and other military platforms.”

“The Government’s vision of an ultimate prompt global reach capability (circa 2025 and beyond) is engendered in a reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV). This autonomous aircraft would be capable of taking off from a conventional military runway and striking targets 9,000 nautical miles distant in less than two hours. It could carry a 12,000-pound payload consisting of Common Aero Vehicles (CAVs), cruise missiles, small diameter bombs or other munitions. This HCV will provide the country dominant capability to wage a sustained campaign from CONUS on an array of time-critical targets that are both large in number and diverse in nature while providing aircraft- like operability and mission recall capability.”

“The BICA program intends to develop artificial systems that can respond to a variety of situations by simulating human cognition that will enable it to learn from experience, reflect on current strategies and adjust them if necessary, and mentally simulate alternate plans and decisions. As the use of autonomous, unmanned, and intelligent systems in the military increases, the need for systems that can understand and respond to new and unique situations is growing dramatically.”

“Space provides 24/7, latent, global persistence, just what we need for low-intensity conflicts and the Global War on Terror.”

“Space Power  (systems, capa-bilities, and forces) will be increasingly leveraged to close the ever-widening gap between diminishing resources and increasing military commitments.”

“For most of history -the Greek, Roman, Spanish and British empires- to be a great power meant to be a sea-faring nation. Maritime dominance remains a critical way to project power. But, for all the reasons just discussed, if the United States is to be a superpower in the 21 st century, we must keep our lead as the world’s premier space-faring nation.”

[It will] “Strengthen the nation’s space leadership and ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives;”

“Enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there;”

“The use of space nuclear power systems shall be consistent with U.S. national and homeland security, and foreign policy interests, and take into account the potential risks.”

“Control of Space is the ability to assure access to space, freedom of operations within the space medium, and an ability to deny others the use of space, if required.”

“We have to retain this high ground, just as we must retain our maritime superiority.”

“The world’s oceans cover two-thirds of our planet.”

“The sea offers strategic, operational, and tactical mobility to those who control it.”

“Maritime dominance remains a critical way to project power. ”

“It’s the medium over which no sovereign can veto our movements. And it’s the medium in which US dominance is exercised globally, with stealth.”

“If we’re to maintain maritime supremacy with a leaner Navy, it must be done by employing diverse contingents of autonomous offboard systems together with the capital platforms of the future Navy. Our naval force will be multiplied by having these systems interconnected by a robust, seamless maritime network that operates above the water, on the water, and in the water.”

“Let’s envision the future Naval Force. There will be fewer ships casting a wide net over the vast maritime battlespace; a net that’s extendable, flexible, and impenetrable; a net that’s extendable, flexible, and impenetrable -fleets, squadrons, or units- of autonomous systems distributed around the world doing their jobs.”

“the extended reach of networked weapons and sensors will tremendously increase the impact of naval forces in joint campaigns.”
“A U.S. warship is sovereign U.S. territory ————-, whether in a port of a friendly country or transiting international straits and the high seas. U.S. naval forces, operating from highly mobile “seabases” in forward areas, are therefore free of the political encumbrances that may inhibit and otherwise limit the scope of land-based operations in forward theaters.”
“the extended reach of networked weapons and sensors will tremendously increase the impact of naval forces in joint campaigns. The will be realized by exploiting the largest maneuver area on the face of the earth: the sea.”
“SEABASE serves as the foundation from which offensive and defensive fires are projected making SEA STRIKE and SEA SHIELD realities.”
“SeaBasing capitalizes on the freedom of action achieved through sea control, and is vital to this nation’s ability to fully exploit its unprecedented and unequaled military strength in support of an over-arching national security strategy.
“SeaBasing, which refers to the ability of naval forces to operate at sea, as sovereign entities, free from concerns of access and political constraints associated with using land bases in other countries.”

“…[We must] leverage information technology and innovative network-centric concepts of operations to develop increasingly capable joint forces.Our ability to leverage the power of information and networks will be key to our success”
–Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz

“Network Centric Warfare the key to DoD dominating future military operations.”

“The Global Information Grid (GIG) vision implies a fundamental shift in information management, communication, and assurance”
–Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz

“The next-generation DoD enterprise network will be taking in sensor information from a variety of sources ?satellites in space, manned and unmanned systems in the air, at sea and on the ground, soldiers in the field, and intelligence from a variety of places, all being transmitted to and from its edge nodes.”
“the Global DoD Enterprise Network forms the backbone of the DoD Global Information Grid (GIG).”

“The Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) program will provide secure, collaborative information-sharing environment and unprecedented access to decision-quality information. NCES will enable decision-making superiority that results in increased mission effectiveness and enhanced process execution. It is based upon an emerging concept in the DOD called “net-centricity,” which enables systems to provide the right information to the right person at the right time.”

“The implementation must allow both human users of the GIG, and automated services acting on behalf of GIG users, to access information and services from anywhere, based on need and capability. ”
–Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz

“Transforming the network from a weapons support system into a weapon itself, that is the thread that runs through the programs that we pursue.”

“we must enable the network to defend itself against those adversaries who seek to deny us the use of this valuable combat resource.”

“This research thrust area will show automated cyber immune response and system regeneration. The technical approach will include biologically-inspired response strategies, machine learning, and cognitively-inspired proactive automatic contingency planning.”

“Desired capabilities include self-optimization, self-diagnosis, “Cognitive immunity” and self-healing.”
“As we move to an increasingly network-centric military, the vision of intelligent, cooperative computing systems responsible for their own maintenance is more relevant than ever.”

“We need to move from a conventional view of data processing to a cognitive view, one that will allow our systems to be more responsible for their own configuration and maintenance and less vulnerable to failure and attack.”

“Simultaneously, the network is invoking its memory, calling up huge databases and vast stores of knowledge. And, it is transmitting all of this to the various brains, the computers, which, in this case, may be distributed around the world.”

“Artificial minds will be housed in artificial brains, and we may need some radical changes in our computing foundations to get there.”

“These “fourth-generation” technologies will bring attributes of human cognition to bear on the problem of reconstituting systems that suffer the accumulated effects of imperfect software, human error, and accidental hardware faults, or the effects of a successful cyber attack.”
“new fourth generation technologies will draw on biological metaphors such as natural diversity and immune systems to achieve robustness and adaptability; the structure of organisms and ecosystems to achieve scalability; and human cognitive attributes (reasoning, learning and introspection) to achieve the capacity to predict, diagnose, heal and improve the ability to provide service.”

“The program concentrates on research needed to develop large-scale intelligent systems that can address practical Air Force needs.”

“This cognitive program I told you about is actually showing that it is learning, and it is learning in a very difficult environment. This is the program Stanford Research runs for us. ”
“We’ve got the technology to the point where we can now apply it in Iraq to a system that we also developed called CPOF, Command Post of the Future. It is a distributed command and control system.”
“The cognitive program’s whole purpose in life is really to increase the tooth-to-tail ratio [military-speak for the number of combat troops to the number of support troops].”
“Our cognitive program[s] whole aim is to have a computer “learn you,” as opposed to you having to learn the computer.”
“Cognitive computers can be thought of as systems that know what they’re doing. Cognitive computing systems “reason” about their environments (including other systems), their goals, and their own capabilities. They will “learn” both from experience and by being taught. They will be capable of natural interactions with users, and will be able to “explain” their reasoning in natural terms.”

“ACIP will incorporate biological, cognitive algorithm, and DoD mission challenge clues as inputs to establish the concepts of the effort.”

“The goal of the BICA program is to develop integrated psychologically-based and neurobiology-based cognitive architectures that can simulate human cognition in a variety of situations.”
“The BICA program intends to develop artificial systems that can respond to a variety of situations by simulating human cognition that will enable it to learn from experience, reflect on current strategies and adjust them if necessary, and mentally simulate alternate plans and decisions.”

“The Integrated Learning program seeks to achieve revolutionary advances in Machine Learning by creating systems that opportunistically assemble knowledge from many different sources in order to learn.”

“The goal of the Transfer Learning Program solicited by this BAA is to develop, implement, demonstrate and evaluate theories, architectures, algorithms, methods, and techniques that enable computers to apply knowledge learned for a particular, original set of tasks to achieve superior performance on new, previously unseen tasks.”

“[They] Will be aware of themselves and able to reflect on their own behavior

{One product of this broad multi-agency initiative is NASA’s “Intelligent Archives”}
“Stated goals of NASA’s I.A.:
“adapting to events and anticipating user needs”
“Continuously mining archived data searching for hidden relationships and patterns”
“Identifying new data sources and information collaborators, and using available resources judiciously”
“aware of its own data content and usage”
“can extract new information from data Holdings”
“large scale data mining”
“acting on information discovered”
“extracting new information from its data holdings”
“coordination between intelligent archives and intelligent sensors”
“advanced weather prediction”

++++++++++WEATHER CONTROL++++++++++
“In the tele-immersive room, the scientists plan their research forecasts by summoning a vivid holographic 3-D projection of the Earth, and accessing projections of scaled real-time weather conditions.”
“Space-based, airborne, and terrestrial sensors will produce weather-related data with varied resolutions, rates, bands, parameters, and volumes.”
“Key aspects of a visionary system for advanced weather model building and operation would include:”
“Flexible, intelligent global observing system”
“Cyber infrastructures will comprise distributed system components (e.g., sensors, services, modeling, information & knowledge discovery tools) operating in a high-speed intelligence-based computing environment.
“This interconnected computing environment, in which I.A.’s also operate, provides the collective processing, data management, data persistence, and data interchange services necessary to meet the near-real-time requirements for advanced weather prediction.

“Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025”
“US aerospace forces can “own the weather,” as they “own the night” now.”
“It could have offensive and defensive applications and even be used for deterrence purposes.”
“Though a high-risk effort, the investment to do so would pay high rewards.”
“Weather modification offers both the commercial sector and the military greatly enhanced capabilities.”
“Its application in the military arena is a natural development as well. Weather modification will become a part of domestic and international security and could be done unilaterally”
“The ability to generate precipitation, fog, and storms on earth or to modify space weather, and the production of artificial weather all are a part of an integrated set of technologies to achieve global awareness, reach, and power.”
“For this to occur, technology advancements in five major areas are necessary. These are advanced nonlinear modeling techniques, computational capability, information gathering and transmission, a global sensor array, and weather intervention techniques. All of these will be greatly enhanced as we approach 2025. Current demographic, economic, and environmental trends will create global stresses that create the necessary impetus for weather modification to become a reality in the commercial sector. Its application in the military arena is a natural development as well. Weather modification will become a part of domestic and international security and could be done unilaterally, through alliance networks—particularly regional ones—or through an ad hoc coalition or a UN framework. It could have offensive and defensive applications and even be used for deterrence purposes. The ability to generate precipitation, fog, and storms on earth or to modify space weather, improve communications through ionospheric modification (the use of ionospheric mirrors), and the production of artificial weather all are a part of an integrated set of technologies which can provide substantial increase in US, or degraded capability in an adversary, to achieve global awareness, reach, and power. Weather modification will be a part of 2025 and is an area in which the US must invest if only to be able to counter adversaries seeking such a capability.”


“In contrast to incremental or evolutionary military change brought about by normal modernization efforts, defense transformation is more likely to feature discontinuous or disruptive forms of change.”

“The end result of these enablers and concepts is Full Spectrum Dominance.”

“Computing is a key element in this revolution.” – Newt Gingrich

“We want to live forever, and we’re getting there.” -Bill Cinton

“This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing…”
“Dubya” – 2006 State of the Union Address

{In 2001, Bush & the DOD blocked a congressional bill that would have made, space weapons, weather modification and other”exotic weapons” illegal}
Title: To preserve the cooperative, peaceful uses of space for the benefit of all humankind by permanently prohibiting the basing of weapons in space by the United States, and to require the President to take action to adopt and implement a world treaty banning space-based weapons.
Sponsor: Rep Kucinich, Dennis J. [OH-10] (introduced 10/2/2001)      Cosponsors (None)
Latest Major Action: 4/19/2002 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Unfavorable Executive Comment Received from DOD.
(B) Such terms include exotic weapons systems such as–
(i) electronic, psychotronic, or information weapons;
(ii) chemtrails;
(iii) high altitude ultra low frequency weapons systems;
(iv) plasma, electromagnetic, sonic, or ultrasonic weapons;
(v) laser weapons systems;
(vi) strategic, theater, tactical, or extraterrestrial weapons; and
(vii) chemical, biological, environmental, climate, or tectonic weapons.
(C) The term `exotic weapons systems’ includes weapons designed to damage space or natural ecosystems (such as the ionosphere and upper atmosphere) or climate, weather, and tectonic systems with the purpose of inducing damage or destruction upon a target population or region on earth or in space.

{Al Gore is a KEY figure in the governments A.I. “revolution”.}

Danger Room:

Seven years ago in the Pentagon cafeteria, two sci-fi-loving Marines shared a vision: to build a Space Shuttle-like “spaceplane” that could “to instantaneously deliver Marine squads anywhere on Earth.” The two Marines, Roosevelt Lafontant and Franz Gayl, and their mildly crazy idea were the subjects of my Popular Science cover story from last year. “The whole idea still rings of science fiction, and the question is whether its proponents can corral the various technologies together to make the project possible,” I wrote.

But now the so-called Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion, or Sustain, has taken a step towards reality. Joe Rouge, director of the National Security Space Office, has scheduled the first official meeting to define Sustain’s Concept of Operations:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) capability is a potential revolutionary step in getting combat power to any point in the world in a timeframe unachievable today. The National Security Space Office (NSSO) is pleased to host a conference focusing on SUSTAIN employment options. …

The draft CONOPS responds to Service and Joint needs as well as to guidance regarding manned DoD spaceflight within the National Security Space Plan (NSSP). The CONOPS will serve to lay the foundation for a follow-on Technology Roadmap, also outlined in the NSSP, and the finalization of a SUSTAIN Initial Capabilities Document (ICD).

If that sounds to you like a lot of bureaucratic gobbledygook, you’re not alone. But every serious weapons development starts with meetings, reports and bureaucracy. For fans of future Space Marines, this is good news.

(Art: PopSci)

Space War
RIA Novosti
by Andrei Kislyakov
RIA Novosti political commentator
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 21, 2008

Replacements are expected to take place soon in the “space spy community”. Yet another American GPS (Global Positioning System) Navstar satellite will be launched into the low earth orbit in autumn.

It might seem an ordinary event, had it not been for this satellite being equipped with a platform for intelligence equipment. A purely navigational GPS has turned into an advanced intelligence system, appropriate for a variety of special tasks.

Military experts expect the world’s major powers to spend as much as $30.6 billion for intelligence satellite programs in the next decade. By that time, around one hundred military satellites of various types will be orbiting earth.

Intelligence satellite constellations, including imagery intelligence (optic and electronic, and radar intelligence), electronic surveillance, military communications, and space navigation satellites are packed with the following capabilities:

– early warning of a nuclear missile attack;

– timely detection of preparations for and start of hostilities,

– sustained communication and combat control in the interest of the state leadership, strategic nuclear forces, and other branches and services;

– navigational, hydro-meteorological support, cartographic survey support, time and frequency support for the armed forces.

The U.S. possesses the most powerful space intelligence network, having launched over 500 satellites by now. The Key Hole imagery intelligence satellites, also codenamed Big Bird, are the heart of the U.S. space intelligence system.

The first of the series, the KH-9, was deployed in 1971. Now these “birds”, weighing up to 15 tons, provide coverage of nearly all the Earth’s surface. One of these satellites was given a special assignment in 2001 to track down Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the further operation of “Big Birds” is at risk. The Misty program, launched by Boeing and Lockheed Martin and aimed at the creation of advanced imagery intelligence satellites, has already consumed $7.6 billion with no significant results.

In late winter last year, a U.S. Navy cruiser fired a missile and shot down the malfunctioning satellite USA-193, which, military experts believe, could be the latest KH-14. In September 2007, a transitional model of Key Hole, the KH-12-4, which was a prototype of the KH-13 series, fell to earth in Peru.

In Russia, the fate of the intelligence satellite program is inseparable from the fate of the national space program. There was a great decline between the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. By 2005, only one Russian electronic reconnaissance satellite was in orbit, compared to 12 American satellites, surveying Russia’s territory.

Currently Russia has almost nothing to match the Big Bird. In November 2006 and August 2007, optical reconnaissance satellites ceased operation.

Still, there’s no need to panic.

In late July this year, a Persona optical reconnaissance satellite was placed into orbit. It is a modern intelligence space vehicle, able to transmit images via a radio channel. Russia’s Defense Ministry plans to launch two Persona satellites a year, starting with 2009.

Moreover, in late January, Vladimir Popovkin, who was in charge of Russia’s Space Force at that time, said a new domestic-made satellite will be launched next year to retransmit signals from Russian intelligence space vehicles to ground centers.

It will have a lifetime of 12 years, while the satellites currently in service operate a maximum of three years.