SeeSat and Kosovo

Philip Chien (
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 19:38:34 -0500 said:

>Hi everybody!
>Wouldn't it be a good idea to stop publishing observation
>of classified NATO reconnaissance satellites for some time?
>We should assume that yugoslav military makes good use any
>source of information about these satellites for their purpose.

or any other party in the conflict ...

I think it would be rather arrogant of Seesat if we decided that the
military forces involved in any conflict, with presumably at least a couple
of folks who have taken Physics 101, wouldn't have at least as much
information as we do about classified military satellites.  Any sensible
force would have gathered as much information as it could about any
potential adversaries ahead of time and possible defenses against those
assets.  And certainly there is plenty of public unclassified information
of varying accuracy about the U.S. visible and radar imaging satellites.

About the only key advantage SeeSat has over any government organization is
geographic distribution - a satellite which isn't visible in one portion of
the world can be seen by others.  But presumably if somebody wanted to go
to the efforts to determine elements for U.S. recon birds it would be easy
to assign embassy personnel around the world to observe satellites and
report the data as part of their duties.

In addition any of the data used by the U.S. to determine which targets to
strike were certainly collected weeks ago, although obviously images
continue to be taken for damage assessement purposes.

There are rumors that the U.S. Department of Defense has put in an
application for a waiver from Isaac Newton so satellites can maneuver the
way they've been described in movies, spy novels, and by some memembers of
the press, but so far that application hasn't been approved ...

Kevin Fetter <> said:

>Since the russian military must be traking us military
>satellite's, to bad they don't have a
>site where they could supply orbital elements for [U.S. classified]

Sure would be nice.  I'd be glad to subscribe - and even pay - to receive
elements for a handful of U.S. satellites which USSPACECOM doesn't want to

>don't think the usa would be happy about russia releasing elements for the
>us military satellite's, but I don't see a problem, since the usa releases
>elements for russian military satellite's. Last time I checked the usa
>doesn't own space, so what gives them, the right to try and hide the
>satellite's, by not releasing elements for them.

The U.S. doesn't own space.  But it's the only country which has decided to
make information publicly and readily accessible by the general public.
Which I am grateful for.  This is paid for by the U.S. taxpayer and we
(Seesat) are all the benefits of this service.  Of course they get to
decide if they want to hold something back - even if it's silly or doesn't
make sense.  Still, there's nothing to stop any other organization with
satellite tracking capabilites, or even amateurs using U.S. government
assets (e.g. NAVSPUR) to generate elements independently.

>since india is
>tracking this satellite, they could easily track low earth orbit
>satellite's such as lacrosse, and then hide certain things from the usa,
>remember the nuclear bomb incident.

presumably they did.  More important is India was given access to a large
amount of classified information about the U.S. satellites to "prove" to
India that it was futile to try to hide things from the U.S.  (the logic
being if we know what you're doing and the world knows then your element of
surprise is gone, as well as world opinion even before you do your test).
Of course India took this information and used it to determine how to 'fake
out' the U.S. satellites and was able to hide much of their preparations in
advance, but not the actual nuclear tests.  And obviously the Indian
government decided that the tests were more important than world opinion.

Not realizing that the test was imminent was embarassing for the U.S., but
not a major loss.  The logic behind deterence is nobody wants to use a
sophisticated weapon for the first time in battle.  If a weapon test cannot
be hidden when it occurs then the U.S. can keep track of the capabilities
of potential adversaries.  Hiding preps for the test is another issue, and
certainly possible as India showed.

My only resentment is countries like Iraq and India have been given access
to information which I, a U.S. taxpayer, paid to develop.  But I can't have
access to that same information because it's classified!  (hmmm, maybe
somebody in Iraq or India would be willing to provide to me information on
these satellites which I can't obtain elsewhere ...)

>So it makes no sense to not release
>elements for us military satellite's.

The logic here is yes the military is aware of the existence of Seesat and
that Russian satellite tracking assets know the orbits of the U.S. recon
satellites.  But why bother to give that information away for free to your
adversaries (or potential adversaries).  Let them go to the expense and
effort to generate it themselves.

Philip Chien, KC4YER
Earth News
world (in)famous writer, science fiction fan, ham radio operator,
all-around nice guy, etc.