Changes: The George C. Marshall Institute

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As Monty Python would say, “And now for something completely different.”

I am delighted to announce that I have been appointed as the Executive Director of the George C. Marshall Institute, in Arlington, Virginia. I have big shoes to fill. The current president, Jeff Kueter, has ran the Institute for over 12 years now, and has garnered it a strong reputation. I hope to be able to continue Jeff’s good work, as well as add my own imprint on the Institute’s work in the coming months and years.

This is an opportunity that presented itself in a very short period of time, but I have been affiliated with the Marshall Institute for six years as a Fellow, and so I am very familiar and supportive of its work and ethos. As many of you know, I own and operate the Torridon Group LLC consulting company, which is doing very well, and I shall be continuing that venture as before.

Whether it be with the Marshall Institute or with the Torridon Group – or both – I look forward to working with many of you in the future!




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When is a space race not a space race?

 The Economist’s Graphic Detail blog posted a chart (see above) on February 18, 2014, on the spending by emerging space powers. It’s a cool chart and very informative.
Less informative is the usual media guff about a so-called space race. The Economist piece is titled “Ye Olde Space Race” while not mentioning who is racing who. Why? Because it is far from obvious that any race is happening between any of the countries cited.
I would say that we should expect better from The Economist, but unfortunately they are among the worst offenders of this nonsense.
Unless, of course, one really believes that when more than two countries develop an interest in acquiring satellites this immediately constitutes a space race…

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Filed under Emerging Space Powers, Spacepower, The Economist

Global Space News for Friday, February 14, 2014

Today’s selection of space news from around the world:

1. “GPS pioneer warns on network’s security,” Financial Times (London).

2. “Azerbaijan and Japan to cooperate in production and export of innovative products,” APA News (Baku).

3. “US-French deal gives green light to UAE observation satellites,” Space News (Alexandria, VA).

4. “Global spending on space programs dips,” (New York City).

5. “US Space Wars: Military space plane aims for 2017 lift off,” The Voice of Russia (Moscow).

6. “Defunct Soviet reconnaissance satellite may hit Earth,” RIA Novosti (Moscow).

7. “China’s Jade Rabbit rover comes ‘back to life’: reports,” The Straits Times (Singapore).

8. “Yutu’s fate unclear as China’s space program rises,” China Digital Times (Berkeley, CA).

9. “Geoimage + Skybox Imaging – FMV + High Resolution Agreement,” SatNews Publishers (Sonoma, CA).

10. “HAL delivers crew module for space program to ISRO,” Outlook (New Delhi).

11. “Scientists use satellites to track whales,” Business Standard (Mumbai).

12. “ISS launches low-cost earth-imaging micro-satellites,” Gizmodo Australia (Sydney).

13. “Turkey’s fifth communications satellite to be launched Friday,” (Istanbul).

14. “Iran satellite case in NY takes complex turn,” The Times of Israel (Jerusalem).

15. “Report: NASA needs agency-wide rules for foreign access to centers,” Space News (Alexandria, VA).

1. “GPS pioneer warns on network’s security,” Financial Times (London):


The Global Positioning System helps power everything from in-car satnavs and smart bombs to bank security and flight control, but its founder has warned that it is more vulnerable to sabotage or disruption than ever before – and politicians and security chiefs are ignoring the risk.

Impairment of the system by hostile foreign governments, cyber criminals – or even regular citizens – has become “a matter of national security”, according to Colonel Bradford Parkinson, who is hailed as the architect of modern navigation.

“If we don’t watch out and we aren’t prepared,” then countries could be denied everything from ‘navigation’ to ‘precision weapon delivery’, Mr Parkinson warned.

2. “Azerbaijan and Japan to cooperate in production and export of innovative products,” APA News (Baku):

Azerbaijan intends to cooperate with Japan in production and export of innovative products, as well as in satellite technology, the Minister of Communication and Information Technologies Ali Abbasov told journalists.

Today, cooperation issues will be discussed with Japan leading company NEC (Nippon Electric Corporation).

The minister said that company’s delegation will hold a seminar at the Ministry on introduction of the company, improvement of broadband internet and other issues.

3. “US-French deal gives green light to UAE observation satellites,” Space News (Alexandria, VA):

The U.S.-French summit in Washington has produced a U.S. agreement on the export of U.S. satellite components for a French contract to provide two high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), European industry officials said.

The decision, which they said came only after the U.S. State Department agreed to the deal and then withdrew its agreement and passed the subject to the White House, should enable the $1.1 billion Falcon Eye contract to begin its production phase.

Nonetheless, the Feb. 12 U.S. approval for the export to France of satellite components used in the two satellites came about two weeks after a contractually agreed deadline of Jan. 29.

4. “Global spending on space programs dips,” (New York City):

Global spending on government space programs dropped for the first time in almost two decades in 2013, a report showed on Thursday, as rising investment among emerging nations failed to offset cuts by the United States.

An annual report by consultancy Euroconsult showed global budgets for space programs dropped to $72.1 billion from $72.9 billion in 2012, the first drop since 1995.

The United States invested $38.7 billion in civil- and defense-related space projects, $8.8 billion down from its 2009 peak but still more than half of the global total.

5. “US Space Wars: Military space plane aims for 2017 lift off,” The Voice of Russia (Moscow):

The US Defense Department is attempting to develop a new unmanned spacecraft that could enter low Earth orbit faster and with more frequency than ever before.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to award the first design contracts for the vehicle project — known as Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1— in May or thereabouts, officials said. Current schedules call for the vessel to get off the ground for the first time in late 2017 and make an orbital test flight the following year.

DARPA has high expectations for the XS-1 program, which it hopes can eventually launch 3,000- to 5,000-lb (1,361 to 2,268 kilograms) payloads to orbit for less than $5 million per flight — and to do it at least 10 times per year.

6. “Defunct Soviet reconnaissance satellite may hit Earth,” RIA Novosti (Moscow):

A decommissioned Soviet military satellite will burn up in the atmosphere Sunday in an uncontrolled descent and surviving fragments may hit Earth, according to an aerospace defense official.

The military is actively monitoring the satellite using its space tracking network, which has indicated that it will impact the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin said Friday.

“As of February 7, 2014 the fragments are expected to fall on February 16. The exact impact time and location of the fragments from the Kosmos-1220 satellite may change due to external factors,” Zolotukhin said.

7. “China’s Jade Rabbit rover comes ‘back to life’: reports,” The Straits Times (Singapore):

China’s troubled Jade Rabbit lunar rover, which experienced mechanical difficulties last month, has come “back to life”, state media reported on Thursday.

“It came back to life! At least it is alive and so it is possible we could save it,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for the lunar programme, as saying on a verified account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

The probe, named Yutu or Jade Rabbit after the pet of Chang’e, the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology, had experienced a “mechanical control abnormality” last month, provoking an outpouring of sympathy from weibo users.

8. “Yutu’s fate unclear as China’s space program rises,” China Digital Times (Berkeley, CA):

Communication was established with Chang’e-3 [the lander module] but today, the ECNS news agency reported efforts to reactive the rover were unsuccessful. “China’s first lunar rover, Yutu, could not be restored to full function on Monday as expected, and netizens mourned it on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. Yutu experienced mechanical problems on Jan 25 and has been unable to function since then.” No other details were given.

The rover’s mechanical problems are likely related to critical components that must be protected during the cold lunar night. When temperatures plunge, the rover’s mast is designed to fold down to protect delicate instruments, which can then be kept warm by a radioactive heat source. Yutu also needs to angle a solar panel towards the point where the sun will rise to maintain power levels. A mechanical fault in these systems could leave the rover fatally exposed to the dark and bitter cold.

9. “Geoimage + Skybox Imaging – FMV + High Resolution Agreement,” SatNews Publishers (Sonoma, CA):

Geoimage has been selected by Skybox Imaging (Skybox) to distribute Skybox’s high-resolution imagery and full motion HD video to the Australasian region and Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

SkySat-1 is a high-performance satellite capable of providing 4-band, high-resolution, sub-metre class imagery. Operating in a sun-synchronous orbit of 600 kilometers, SkySat-1 also provides the first commercial high-resolution, full-motion video from space at 30 frames per second. SkySat-1 is the first of Skybox’s planned 24-satellite constellation, which will enable revisit of up to four times per day.

“Geoimage has extensive local expertise in providing Australian customers with superior support and augmented geospatial solutions,” said Matt Wood, Skybox Senior Director of Enterprise Solutions. “Selecting key partners in the industry is fundamental to our strategy of making our imagery accessible, timely, and easy-to-use. We are proud to announce our partnership with Geoimage to introduce our products to the Australasian market.”

10. “HAL delivers crew module for space program to ISRO,” Outlook (New Delhi):

Defence major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited today said it has handed over the first “Crew Module Structural Assembly” for the “Human Spaceflight Program” to Indian Space Research Organisation.

HAL handed over the Crew Module to ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, in Bangalore, recently, the company said in a release.

The first Crew Module will be further equipped with systems necessary for crew support, navigation, guidance and control systems by ISRO for experimentation in the forthcoming GSLV-MK3 launch, the release said.

11. “Scientists use satellites to track whales,” Business Standard (Mumbai):

Scientists are using a new high-resolution satellite technology to track whales, count their numbers and estimate their population size.

Using Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery, alongside image processing software, researchers were able to automatically detect and count whales breeding in part of the Golfo Nuevo, Peninsula Valdes in Argentina.

The new method could revolutionise how whale population size is estimated, researchers said.

12. “ISS launches low-cost earth-imaging micro-satellites,” Gizmodo Australia (Sydney):

Since the launch of the Landsat program in 1972, generating images of Earth from space has been the near-exclusive domain of enormous, multi-million dollar satellites sponsored by nations and major defence corporations. But these new micro-satellites, recently launched from the ISS, aim to make real-time imaging available for a fraction of the price.

Designed, built, and operated by San Francisco-based Planet Labs, the micro-satellite (aka “CubeSats”) system consists of 28 imaging satellites, individually known as Doves, and collectively known as Flock 1.

These CubeSats are constructed largely from low-cost, non-traditional components, which drastically reduces the cost of each unit. The Flock was first delivered to the ISS last December aboard Orbital Sciences’ robotic Cygnus vessel, and were released from the ISS using the station’s on-board cube cannon.

13. “Turkey’s fifth communications satellite to be launched Friday,” (Istanbul):

The TURKSAT 4A Communication Satellite – Turkey´s fifth to be put into orbit – will be launched on Friday from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.

The Turksat 4A telecommunication satellite was jointly produced with Turkish and Japanese engineers who arrived at the Baikonur on January 16.

Turkey’s Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Lutfi Elvan travelled to Kazakhstan to follow the launch of the satellite.

14. “Iran satellite case in NY takes complex turn,” The Times of Israel (Jerusalem):

Federal agents intercepted the wealthy Iranian entrepreneur at a US airport, questioned him about his business and charged him with illegal export of American-made satellite equipment to his native country.

Seyed Amin Ghorashi Sarvestani pleaded guilty soon afterward, but changed circumstances now have encouraged him to challenge his 30-month prison sentence.

Since his plea, the federal government has approved for export to Iran the very products he was convicted of helping ship, his lawyers say. Then federal prosecutors in New York told a judge after the sentencing hearing that they had mistakenly exaggerated the equipment’s capabilities. The judge hasn’t moved to change the sentence, though lawyers for both sides are continuing to press their arguments.

15. “Report: NASA needs agency-wide rules for foreign access to centers,” Space News (Alexandria, VA):

NASA should centralize the patchwork of security procedures and personnel governing foreign access to its U.S. field centers, an independent panel recommended in a report triggered by allegations of security breaches at the centers.

“There is no systematic approach to [foreign national access management] at NASA,” said the report from the National Academy for Public Administration. “[T]he result is a broad range of outcomes, many of which are insufficient.”

The report, “An Independent Review of Foreign National Access Management,” is the result of an investigation NASA requested back in March 2013 after Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) went public with allegations of security breaches involving foreign nationals at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Wolf is chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that funds NASA.



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Adam Baddeley, 1972-2013


I received very sad and shocking news today that my old friend Adam Baddeley died aged 40 on Tuesday, 2 April 2013.

Adam and I were at the University of Hull together in the early- to mid-1990s, and with his geeky obsession with all things military, insightful intelligence and wicked sense of humor, we soon became good friends. I especially remember his fantastic Colonel Blimp impressions and skits that would have us all in tears of laughter, and his obvious discomfiture upon visiting a … okay, that one I’ll tell over a beer, but it was funny – believe me!

As well as being one of the funniest people I’ve known, Adam was also one of the kindest and most thoughtful friends I’ve had the privilege to know. I greatly regret that over the past few years we both kept in touch only occasionally.

During his time at university Adam met and married Andrea, and was utterly devoted to her. I attended their beautiful wedding in East Anglia, where they made their home, and remember seeing him as the happiest and luckiest guy on the planet.

Adam went on to become an iconic defense journalist, and at the time of his untimely passing was editor of the Asian Military Review.

Adam left us all far too soon, and my thoughts and prayers are with Andrea, and their children Martha and Rufus.

Rest in Peace my friend …


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Realism Endures: Why States Seek Digital Arms and Will Continue to Do So


I posted earlier today about my forthcoming participation in the Citizen Lab’s Cyber Dialogue 2013 in Toronto, 17-18 March. The Director of the Citizen Lab, Ron Deibert, invited a number of participants (including yours truly) to write blog posts for the Dialogue in order to spur discussion and debate.

My contribution, “Realism Endures: Why States Seek Digital Arms and Will Continue to Do So,” can be found here. In this short essay I make a classical realist argument that states are the primary actors in cyberspace, and that cyberspace compounds state insecurity. So long as insecurity persists in international politics it is only logical – and tragic in the spirit of the Ancient Greeks – that states will continue to seek out digital arms in order to mitigate the anarchy.

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Cyber Dialogue 2013, Citizen Lab/University of Toronto, 17-18 March

Cyber Dialogue 2013

I shall be participating in this year’s Cyber Dialogue, hosted and organized by the University of Toronto‘s Citizen Lab, on 17-18 March.

The event is put together by my friend and colleague Ron Deibert, and is one of the most unique and fruitful get-together’s in the cyber community.

I hope to see you there!

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Filed under Canada, Cyberpower, Cyberspace, Cyberwar, Events, Ron Deibert, Shameless Self-Promotion, Speaking Engagements, The Citizen Lab, University of Toronto, Web/Tech

Defense News: A New Opportunity for US-Asian Space Cooperation

Japan IGS

My Tokyo associate Lance Gatling and I are now three for three. A shortened version of the Space News opinion piece by us, published on February 11, is published in this week’s edition of Defense News, and can be read here.

Opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region for U.S. space industry abound!

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