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Open Source Space Linux

Hackers In Space: Designing A Ground Station 95

An anonymous reader writes with some new information on the happenings of the Hacker Space Program. From the article: "At the Chaos Communication Camp 2011 Jens Ohlig, Lars Weiler, and Nick Farr proposed a daunting task: to land a hacker on the Moon by 2034. The plan calls for three separate phases: Establishing an open, free, and globally accessible satellite communication network, put a human into orbit, and land on the Moon. Interestingly enough, there is already considerable work being done on the second phase of this plan by the Copenhagen Suborbitals, and Google's own Lunar X Prize is trying to spur development of robotic missions to the Moon. But what about the first phase? Answering the call is the 'Shackspace,' a hackerspace from Stuttgart, Germany, who've begun work on an ambitious project they're calling the 'Hackerspace Global Grid.'"
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Hackers In Space: Designing A Ground Station

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  • by GiantRobotMonster (1159813) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @03:43AM (#39107851)

    Otherwise, why call this hacking?
    Engineering, anyone?

    • by Trahloc (842734) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @04:21AM (#39108019) Homepage
      That's cracking.
      • No, it isn't.

        Do Anonymous call themselves crackers?
        When companies suffer a serious security breach involving computers, do they say they have been cracked?
        Cracking involves hacking, but refers specifically to removing copy protection from software.

        • Words change. These words have changed so much, hardly anyone knows what they mean any more.
          • Indeed they do. Hjsdfh qeo, gfhe eight!

          • by Deus.1.01 (946808)

            Man...fuck the media...It might be 2012 but i haven't given up the term Hacker is what inspired me to become a programmer.

            The playfulness and ingenuity of a technologist, put on the same sideline as a scriptkiddie!

            TO ARMS I SAY!

            • I almost got expelled from school because I refused to deny accusations of hacking, instead trying unsuccessfully to convince the teachers that they were using the word incorrectly and that, while I was hacking, I was not hacking in the sense they were misusing the term.
      • It's also "hacking into".

        I appreciate what you are trying to do here. "Hacking" does not always mean "cracking", yes thank you, but "hacking into", by definition, is a subset of "cracking".

        If he said, "engineer your way past security" would you have had to correct him and say, "that's cracking"?

    • by eyenot (102141)

      Because. Unless "hack into the ISS" involved "prep and advance a compatriot hacker into the ranks of a national space agency and get them accepted into and lodged in the ISS", the "person on the moon" wasn't the requisite "hacker", it was just some innocent victim of belligerence.

      In this sense, "hack" as you intend to use it -- in the invasive and criminal context -- is a perversion of the form and a stereotype that the hacker community feels unjustly saddled with especially as it hurts their opportunities

      • You are of course correct. I had envisaged swapping places with an astronaut that was due to go to the ISS, swapping out all the video feeds etc with computer generated replacements to keep the swap a secret for as long as possible, before finally boarding the ISS and then trying to reverse park it in the sea of tranquility, but that was a little tricky to fit into the subject line :-). And confusingly, this involves good-old-fashioned piracy in addition to cracking, hacking, and social engineering.

        I do und

  • by Zouden (232738) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @03:43AM (#39107853)

    Simple question: where are they going to get the billions of dollars required to put a man on the moon? The physical world isn't like the software world, where things are often shared freely. Perhaps it'll be a little different in 2034, but I doubt anyone's going to build a lunar module with a 3D printer and some free plans from the internet.

    • Re:Money (Score:5, Funny)

      by srussia (884021) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @03:56AM (#39107909)

      Simple question: where are they going to get the billions of dollars required to put a man on the moon?

      Why, Bitcoin of course!

    • Another question might be: Where will find the hacker that belongs on the moon? Do we send up the person with the highest score on Lunar Lander []. Or do simply send up the most annoying hacker we can find to get him away from us? Also we need to make sure this hacker isn't going to turn into a full scale black hat in an unassailable moon fortress.
    • by neyla (2455118)

      More than "a little bit" different, I'd say. Putting a man on the moon in 2034 is going to be very different from doing it in 1969.

    • Re:Money (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @04:46AM (#39108115)
      The question to answer that question is, will it cost billions of dollars? Copenhagen Suborbitals [] are proving* that space travel can be a hobbyist project. Granted, there is a long way from suborbital to the moon, but just getting where they are now would have been called impossible twenty years ago.

      Another point is that hacker space activity usually is more about the process than the goal. So what if they never put a man on the moon, if they put one in LEO and have fun on the way, that's a win.

      *Pending their actual succes, and assuming the capsule will not burn on reentry.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        What has always baffled me, is that we don't make launch platforms that are lifted by Helium (or even hydrogen) balloons and actually launch when the balloon is to it's peak altitude - would save a lot of fuel/weight/size.

        • by dave420 (699308)
          What's baffled me is why the craft carries a component gas of air in its fuel so it can force itself through the air, instead of using oxygen from the air while it can, and using wings to make the dense atmosphere help it climb efficiently. I guess materials and manufacturing for that would have been pretty tricky back in the day.
          • Because air is only 21% oxygen, give or take a little. We already have rockets that use atmospheric oxygen: We just call them jet engines.
  • these guys.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @04:10AM (#39107967)

    disclaimer: I'm a satellite telecom engineer.

    What these guys don't know about satellite telecom could fill a swimming pool. "A open, free and globally accessible satellite communications network"? Sure. Except for the free part, it already exists. With a properly designed VSAT terminal (either C or Ku band) anywhere that's not beyond 83 degree latitude can get broadband net access. Why is VSAT service not cheap? It costs $200 million to launch a 6000 kilogram satellite into geostationary orbit, and the satellites lasts on average 12 to 16 years. The $200m satellite has less aggregate data capacity than a fiber optic cable the diameter of a pencil. Installing a 1.2 meter Ku-band VSAT terminal with DVB-S2 compliant TDMA modem (iDirect Evolution series, for example) is not rocket science, but proper service starts at $400/month and up.

    If they're trying to push a large amount of bandwidth through small, cheap low earth orbit satellites I believe they're going to run into some fundamental engineering constraints (satellite power budget, shannon limit, the fact that two axis tracking antennas are expensive).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If they're trying to push a large amount of bandwidth through small, cheap low earth orbit satellites I believe they're going to run into some fundamental engineering constraints (satellite power budget, shannon limit, the fact that two axis tracking antennas are expensive).

      They're not. At this point they aren't even looking at bi-directional communication. Stuff like simple downlinks of textual data (news, emergency info, etc). There are already a few satellites that do very similar tasks, like the FUNcube.

      Nobody is suggesting or attempting satellite internet access.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EdIII (1114411)

      they're going to run into some fundamental engineering constraints

      Nooo.... they're going to run into some military constraints. Last time I checked nobody "owned" space. There is no sovereignty claiming it as their possession.

      The US government, among others, is already targeting the Internet and shutting down websites over copyright. If they can do that with Internet services running on physical equipment that is actually on the ground in a country then I think they definitely won't give a crap about taking down a "free and globally accessible satellite communications

    • by Trahloc (842734)
      As an expert in this field, what is your response to [] ? They claim to be faster and cheaper than previous providers. Far less than $400/mo.
      • Re:these guys.... (Score:4, Informative)

        by schnell (163007) <> on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @06:59AM (#39108883) Homepage

        You're correct... satellite broadband can be had in the US for far less than $400/month. ViaSat and WildBlue's services (may or may not qualify as "broadband" depending on your definition) start at around $50/month []. The GP's citation of $400/month for satellite broadband refers to "business class" VSAT data service. Residential satellite Internet is heavily oversubscribed, often north of 100:1. Also note the Fair Access Policy [] terms under which you will be throttled for excessive data usage.

        For some use cases, the results will be indistinguishable at the lower price point; for others they will be very different. Think of the difference between the two as being T1 service from a business provider vs. home cable or DSL service.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I am a different Satcom Engineer who has worked on similar projects.

        They are claiming 50 per month for 20 Mbps down 3 Mbps up. However, there are several things not included in the press release.
        1. What type of contract will be required?
        2. What the service level agreement will be? A 600 ms delay means there are limits to what it can do. No MMPOG !
        3. Who pays for the ground user equipment, this is us

    • you used the word "kilogram". Everybody knows that only Americans launch stuff, and they launch pounds. Except for Mars explorers, then they launch bricks.

      -- Terry

    • by RevWaldo (1186281)
      I read that in Jeff Goldblum's voice.

  • by B5_geek (638928) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @04:30AM (#39108073)

    Step #1) Improve HAM bandwidth for data transmissions to/from space.

    On a good day my old 14.4k modem is faster then the throughput I can get on packet radio.

  • by Fusselwurm (1033286) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @04:34AM (#39108083) Homepage

    ... see, children, the difference between nerds and non-nerds may be as small as the one between 'ck' and 'g'.

  • Would it be possible to simply connect the Earth and Moon with a cable that vehicles could traverse? Yes some technologic problems to overcome but in principle?
    • by EdIII (1114411)

      Would it be possible to simply connect the Earth and Moon with a cable that vehicles could traverse? Yes some technologic problems to overcome but in principle?

      Only possible if it is in the same reality where the Moon is made of cheese. In that case just hire Wallace and Grommit. Remember to bring the crackers.

      Technological problems is an understatement. Assuming you could even get that much mass into space, the cable would be a feat of engineering worthy of the Greek Gods. You're talking about the Earth to the Moon.

      It would only be useful for one day out of the month, assuming you did not mean it was actually connecting the Earth and the Moon. If so.... that

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Easy, just put the moon into a geostationary orbit.

      • No, only the earth would need a channel. The moon is conveniently tide-locked. You could have the cable skim the upper atmosphere (Put bayload on balloon, balloon goes up, wait for cable, transfer payload) but you'd still need the type of cable that makes nanotubes look like tissue paper.
    • Re:Lunar cable car? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tragedy (27079) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @07:44AM (#39109207)

      The moons orbit is oblong, so you'd have to have some method by which the cable length could change. You need a cable strong enough to support its own weight. Gravity drops off as altitude increases by the formula g = 9.8 m/s^2(r/r+h)^2 (r is the radius of the earth and his your height), so it's 100% at the surface (very slightly less if you're at the equator), 96.937% 100 km up, 94.012% 200km up, 85.990% 500km up, 74.730% 1000 km up, 57.955% 2000 km up 37.770% 4000 km up, 19.678%. 8000 km up and so on. Even at geosynchronous orbit altitude (which may or may not be relevant depending on how this cable is being managed) where gravity is 2.287%, the average weight of the 35,800 km of cable to that point is about 15.172% of its Earth weight. Out at 325,000 km, which is about the distance of the L1 point between the Earth and the moon the gravity is .037% of what it is on Earth (not at the actual L1 point where it's cancelled by the moons gravity, this is just an approximation, not taking all forces into account) the average weight of the 325,000 km of cable is still about 1.932% of its Earth weight. So, if you need to stretch a tether out to Geosynchronous orbit, it needs to be strong enough to hold 15.172% of the Earth weight of 35,800 km of material. If the tether masses 1 kg per kilometer, that means it has to be strong enough, at that thickness, to hold the Earth equivalent of .15172*35,800=5431.576 kilograms. Tapering the tether can help, of course, but we still don't have any materials strong enough. For the L1 point, it's equivalent to holding 6279 kg on earth with that size cable.

      Then there's the problem that the moon isn't in a geosynchronous orbit, so you can't tether the cable at a stationary point on earth. The poles aren't stationary, so the best you can do is anchor to tower, built on a train on a huge circular track around one of the poles.

      Of course, the cable doesn't actually need to be a straight line to the moon. If you could make a tether to geosynchronous orbit, you could then have another tether from there to the moon. For that matter, you might be able to build a 60,000 mile tether that circles the earth at slightly greater than orbital speed (maintained by propellant brought up from earth on the space elevator) then attach multiple secondary tethers that loop around the earth towards the poles where they connect to smaller tether rings suspended above each pole with a station suspended in a web in the middle and a variable length tether that need only be a 100 km long or so (and could be supported by dirigibles through a good portion of the atmosphere) that tethers to a polar base station. You could take an elevator up at the pole, then down along one of the loops to the equatorial ring. From the equatorial ring, you could suspend another ring further out, or perhaps just spokes out to additional stations. From one of those, you could potentially even build a tether all the way to the moon and set it up on an orbit that jump ropes the Earth. Of course, the tether all the way to the moon would hardly be necessary. Once you're out to the orbital ring, if it's fast enough, you can just drop off and fall toward the moon, it would be a heck of a lot faster than pulling an elevator car along 400,000 kilometers of tether. At the moon end you could have another space elevator. The one at that end could use the same equatorial ring with polar elevator trick, but the moons smaller size and lower gravity mean that you could actually have a plain old space elevator right to the surface.

      Of course, the above idea might have a lot of problems. Getting that giant orbital lasso trick to actually work might be next to impossible. Also, such a long tether going around the entire Earth is going to have to be carefully designed. It could run into some really interesting electrical effects that could instantly fry it. On the other hand, they could also be used as a method of powering the whole thing. In any case, it's a massive endeavour. You would have to start

  • Why the fixation on landing on the moon? It is as if people are trying to re-live the glory days of the 1960's. Why go down another gravity well after you have so arduously climbed out of one. The moon is only marginally more hospitable than empty outer space. Mars is only slightly better. Terraforming will take too long and possibly unethical. If mankind managed to make space travel cheap and energy-efficient, then we must be truly spaceborne, the Unbound. Outerspace will be our country, the universe will
    • Because the moon has Stuff. You can build things from Stuff. The moon may not be the best place to go mining, but it's infinitely better than vacuum - and even unprocessed moonrock will make a decent radiation shield if you bury your base under enough of it.
      • by c0lo (1497653)

        Because the moon has Stuff. You can build things from Stuff. The moon may not be the best place to go mining, but it's infinitely better than vacuum

        Vacuum? Why there's plenty of matter and energy! True, dark [] ones [], but a blackhat should be able to deal with darkness.

      • by rednip (186217)
        Two words 'moon quakes', as little as we really know about the moon, one thing is for certain there is seismic activity there. Would you really trust your moon base to be underground when there is so very little knowledge about frequency or scale of them? The first based need to be above ground, perhaps under piles of excavation material, but certainly not under the surface of the moon. From NASA Science News []

        The first three were generally mild and harmless. Shallow moonquakes on the other hand were doozies. Between 1972 and 1977, the Apollo seismic network saw twenty-eight of them; a few "registered up to 5.5 on the Richter scale," says Neal. A magnitude 5 quake on Earth is energetic enough to move heavy furniture and crack plaster.

        Furthermore, shallow moonquakes lasted a remarkably long time. Once they got going, all continued more than 10 minutes. "The moon was ringing like a bell," Neal says.

        • by eyenot (102141)

          The book by that former NASA scientist, called "Moonquake", was a humongous eye-opener for me, in terms of several things:

          1. is the moon even plausible as a place to stay for very long and retain one's health while keeping any semblance of normal, uninterrupted operations? -- of course, if you can excavate your entire basement with radio controlled Tonka trucks, maybe anything's possible

          2. whether or not NASA is capable of doing anything beyond putting a man on the moon. they weren't capable of carrying out

      • by Megane (129182)

        Because the moon has Stuff. You can build things from Stuff.

        ...and they're going to bring their Makerbot 3D printer!

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Yeah, that's cool and everything, but you are ignoring a couple of things: (1) we are about as far off creating liveable, large scale long term habitats as we are terraforming and (2) only certain people would want to live in a floating caravan in space for their whole lives anyway.
    • Terraforming will take too long and possibly unethical.

      Oh, c'mon, with what the Europeans did to the Native Americans, the Chinese to the Tibetans, the Australians to the Aborigines, the whole damn world to the Hawaiians, the human race is running out of indigenous cultures / life forms to abuse, it's time we moved on to new horizons.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @06:01AM (#39108493)
    Don't think of this as 'free internet in space.' The internet model, with it's simple dumb-endpoint packet-switching, isn't going to work. It's massively inefficient: Every time someone in the UK wants to view a webpage on a US server it gets send, possibly billions of times, through the oceanic fiber. If there is to be hope of getting any more than text through bidirectionally (And it must be bidirectional: Having one operator decide who gets precious capacity isn't in the hacker spirit) then it's going to mean some serious rethinking of networking fundamentals.

    There is an advantage to be had with modern technology though. Storage is cheap. Cheap as dirt. Want to put a few gig in every ground station? Easy. Want to put a few terabytes in the larger ones? Compared to the cost of the radio gear you need anyway, barely adds anything. So I think what should be looked into is trying to shift the internet further towards content-addressible networking and caching (Proper content-addressible hash-based caching, not the evil that is trying to cache HTTP where every access needs to ask the server if the content has changed). Such technologies would reduce the need for expensive bandwidth by orders of magnitude, at the expense of consuming far cheaper storage at every caching node. Magnet links are a good place to start.
    • I meant to say dumb-router, not dumb-endpoint. Kept getting distracted by work.

      Anyway, to clarify, I'm thinking something like this: If there is demand for a particular file (be it a short video, an image from a popular website protesting the latest oppression of insert-government-here, a software update, etc - the network itsself would be content neutral), it shall be broadcast by the sat. Every listening ground station then picks in up and stores it, indexed by hash. Should any user then want it, they
      • by washort (6555)
        Some people are working on this already: [] []
        • Not the only ones. Content-addressible networking has enjoyed on-and-off support for years by pirates - as a community that has a desire to shift massive amounts of data with limited resources and in a decentralised manner, they do put a lot of work into appropriate technologies. For a time the ed2k link was king, before the rise of bittorrent, and now magnet links are starting to be seen more and more. Freenet runs on the idea. The pirates and the free-sat-network people have the same problem: How to distr
        • There, watched. What he discusses is something similar to what I was envisioning, only he takes it further. Too far, in my view - he wants to make everything content-addressable, while I believe that existing transports are better suited to all things real-time and 1-to-1 and so current packet switching and content-addressable models should coexist. I do like his idea of CAN nodes as ubiquitous appliances, and that is exactly what I am calling for: Put them in the sat downlinks, put them in mobile phones, p
  • This sort of stuff is great as science fiction, but just pathetic when it's taken seriously.

    Getting people onto the moon is serious engineering work, extremely time consuming and, above all, incredibly fucking expensive.

    Nothing like hacking at all, IMHO.
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Nothing like hacking at all, IMHO.

      Do the hacking on the correct subjects and the expense matter is solved, I imagine.

  • by Megane (129182) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @07:27AM (#39109071) Homepage

    "At the Chaos Communication Camp 2011 Jens Ohlig, Lars Weiler, and Nick Farr proposed a daunting task: to land a hacker on the Moon by 2034.

    I'll be more impressed if they can get someone back from the moon.

    • I'll be more impressed if they can get someone back from the moon.

      Ya, Kennedy was pretty visionary with that "and bring them back safely" thing...

  • by koan (80826)

    If we should get over sending humans into space and focus on telepresence, humans are so inadequately designed for space travel and low gravity living.

    At least stay out of space until robots can build a viable environment that can be spun up for simulated gravity, properly shielded against micrometeorites and radiation with 90% self sustaining capabilities, those tin cans they have strung together in orbit and called a space station are pathetic.

    We are capable of so much more.

    • Telepresence is fine for orbital work, but light-lag will get really awkward if you go further out. Though I suppose it might help on mars... you can send your ship of operators out there, have them operate the science robots, then return home. Saves the problem of having to achieve a launch from planet surface and the uncomfortably deep gravity well.
  • I believe that hackerdom should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the next three decades are out, of landing a hacker on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in 2034 and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because we p0wn...

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