Feeds

New prototype US spy satellite rushed into active use

'Hyperspectral cube' eye can spot buried bombs, tunnels

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

An experimental "hyperspectral" spy sat which is able to detect buried roadside bombs and concealed cave or tunnel entrances has been handed over to the US forces for operational use in the Wars on Stuff.

Concept of TacSat-3 analysing a hyperspectral cube. Credit: AFRL

Hyperspectral cube gobbler from outer space.

The TacSat-3 was launched aboard a Minotaur-1 rocket along with several other small satellites from Wallops Island, Virginia, in May 2009. The TacSat was designed to prove the US concept of "operationally responsive space", where a military user can make a request and a small inexpensive satellite can be in a suitable orbit within days rather than months or years.

Thus the TacSat is designed to be fitted with a variety of different payloads as required by an operational commander. TacSat-3, as a prototype, carried one in particular known as the Advanced Responsive Tactically Effective Military Imaging Spectrometer, or ARTEMIS. This is a "hyperspectral" sensor able to detect not just visible light but infrared and ultraviolet as well.

The idea of hyperspectral sensing is not, however, merely to "see" in the usual sense of optical telescopes, infrared nightscopes and/or thermal imagers. This kind of detection is used on spy satellites and other surveillance systems, but it suffers from the so-called "drinking straw effect" - that is, you can only view a small area in enough detail to pick out information of interest. It's impossible to cover an entire nation or region in any length of time by such means; you have to know where to look in advance.

Hyperspectral imaging works differently. It's based on the same principle as the spectrometry used in astronomy and other scientific fields - that some classes of objects and substances will emit a unique set of wavelengths when stimulated by energy. In this case, everything on the surface below the satellite is being stimulated by sunlight to emit its unique spectral fingerprint.

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
Who wants to be there as history is made at the launch of our LOHAN space project?
Two places available in the chase plane above the desert
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.