Hacker satellite grid to counter Internet censorship
The Hackerspace Global Grid is hoping to build its own satellite network in an effort to counter various Internet censorship initiatives such as the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) act.
In addition to launching communications satellites into space, the group plans to develop a grid of ground stations to track and communicate with the satellites.
"The first goal is an uncensorable internet in space. Let's take the internet out of the control of terrestrial entities. [We] can put humanity back in space in a meaningful way," hacktivist Nick Farr told the BBC on the sidelines of the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin.
"The goal is to get back to where we were in the 1970s. Hackers find it offensive that we've had the technology since before many of us were born and we haven't gone back. We believe communication is a human right."
Hackerspace Global Grid participant Armin Bauer expressed similar sentiments, but acknowledged that hobbyists have thus far only managed to put a few small satellites in orbit due to budgetary constraints.
"Professionals can track satellites from ground stations, but usually they don't have to because, if you pay a large sum [to send the satellite up on a rocket], they put it in an exact place."
However, Bauer plans to create a network of low-cost ground stations that can be purchased (at 100 euros each) or built by individuals that could be in place during the first half of 2012. Operating together in a global network, the stations would be capable of pinpoint satellites, helping them to send data back to Earth.
"It's kind of a reverse GPS. GPS uses satellites to calculate where we are, and this tells us where the satellites are. We would use GPS co-ordinates but also improve on them by using fixed sites in precisely-known locations," he added.
Aside from budgetary constraints and technical difficulties, the Hackerspace Global Grid also faces potential legal threats from various countries opposed to the anti-censorship plan.
"There is an interesting legal dimension in that outer space is not governed by the countries over which it floats," explained 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."