Communication satellites are usually put into orbit by governmental agencies or big corporations, but a group of hackers is planning to do some satellite-launching of their own, all with the aim of “saving” the Internet from being censored by various governments.
The issue of Internet censorship and online freedom might getting more that its regular share of attention from the public seeing that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is currently being heavily debated in the US, so the news has created much buzz at the Chaos Communication Congress held last week in Berlin.
“The first goal is an uncensorable internet in space. Let’s take the internet out of the control of terrestrial entities,” explained Hacktivist Nick Farr and added that the project – named Hackerspace Global Grid – would also include the creating of a grid of ground stations that would keep in touch with the satellites and that could pinpoint their location at any given time.
The team behind the project is currently working on a prototype of a modular receiver station with networking capabilities, and they believe they will have a working prototype ready sometime in the next six months.
Their goal is to make the ground station cheap (less than 100 Euros per device) so that they could sell them easily to interested parties who would then be part of a distributed network of these stations. The stations themselves will be built on open-source hardware and software as well as open standards.
According to the BBC, the project is aided by Constellation, a German research initiative that operates an eponymous platform that provides distributed computation capability to various aerospace related research projects.
But this ambitious plan is not without its problems. There are technical difficulties that will have to be overcome, but legal issues are also likely to arise.
“There is also an interesting legal dimension in that outer space is not governed by the countries over which it floats,” pointed out Prof Alan Woodward from the computing department at the University of Surrey. “So, theoretically it could be a place for illegal communication to thrive. However, the corollary is that any country could take the law into their own hands and disable the satellites.”