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Monday, June 7, 2010

South African ham/amateur satellite chaser deemed "threat to US national Security"

Well it seems like ham operators, when they're NOT breaking the law, are apparently threats to national security here in the US. Even when they're not American!

Greg Roberts (ZS1BI) is a ham operator in South Africa. When he's not on the air, he's looking into the air. More specifically, into the night sky, chasing "birds", or satellites.

6 weeks ago NASA launched the super-secret X-37B space plane in cooperation with the Air Force. The launch was not announced ahead of time and the orbit of the space plane was kept quiet.

However, Greg and some other observers were able to determine it's orbit based on a chance encounter by one observer, and then reviewing past launches of top secret spacecraft and theorizing when the plane would pass over his location. Sure enough, he was able to not only confirm it's orbit, but he was able to determine it's altitude and orbital inclination, and published his calculated orbital elements online. Satellite observers around the world were able to confirm these predictions as the space plane circled over their locations.

Within days, publications around the world, from the New York Times and others all were agog over how an "amateur" (Greg is actually a retired professional astronomer) was able to accurately predict NASA's new toy.

Well apparently Sector 7 isn't too thrilled with Greg's "amateurish" antics. An article in the South African Times informs us that Greg is now labeled as a "threat to U.S. National Security".

I find it amazing how the US is so concerned with how an amateur from South Africa found the super-secret X-37B, yet they didn't seem too concerned that perhaps the Chinese, or North Koreans, or even our modern-day ally Russians might have found the satellite using the exact same methods employed by Greg, albeit more sophisticated (expensive).

And yet HE is the problem.

Perhaps the CIA and whatever other national security agencies should focus on real threats to US national security, and not worry about the petty observations of people like Greg who are just providing a service to people who might not get access to such information.

I mean, I am a taxpayer after all, so this is my space plane too, is it not?