Many have been shocked by revelations of U.S. military surveillance of the internet. But military surveillance is becoming more extensive and advanced in many areas. Germany in recent years has built up its own satellite surveillance that downloads data in the Arctic in violation of international law.
It was the German military experiences of the Kosovo war it was decided that Germany should have its own satellite-based intelligence information. The United States has strong restrictions on sharing satellite intelligence with other countries, and therefore did Germany got no to the question of access to U.S. satellite intelligence. German military units said this put the German soldiers’ lives in unnecessary danger, and it was decided that Germany should have their own satellites. Now U.S. buy satellite surveillance from Germany.
Imagine that you want to scan the globe with an Earth observation satellite. Which path of the satellite is best to created images of all the earth? The best path is a fixed orbit over the North Pole and South Pole. As known Earth rotates around its own axis in the course of a day, and satellite covers new areas each time it goes around the Earth. The satellite uses about 90 minutes around the Earth. Thus, satellites produce images from all regions of the world within 24 hours. It was decided to go for polar-orbiting satellites.
The problem was getting the downloaded data from the satellite to military facilities in Germany because satellites can not communicate directly. They are dependent on download stations just below the satellite to transmit data. It is only possible cliose to the North Pole. On a group of islands between mainland Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard, Norway and the United States have worked together to build a satellite station that can take the data from all 14 satellite passes over the North Pole in 24 hours. No other satellite stations in the world can do it. German satellite interests want Svalbard.
Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean belonged to no country until 1920. As part of the Versailles negotiations after World War I it was signed an international agreement on the archipelago, giving Norway sovereignty, but with some clear limitations. The archipelago should be used for peaceful purposes and could not be used for war purposes. For this reason, the Norwegian authorities refused the first application of the German satellite TerraSAR-X, built in a partnership between the German Aerospace authorities, DLR and EADS Astrium private company GmbH. TerraSAR-X produces images using a radar and is not dependent on sunlight to create images. It can create images with one meter resolution of areas with thick cover or areas that are in complete darkness.
The United States has no separate radar satellites and U.S. military intelligence has entered into an agreement to purchase images from the TerraSAR-X. After German pressure on the Norwegian Foreign Ministry did TerraSAR-X permission to download data on Svalbard. The German RapidEye satellittsystement – which consists of five satellites – loads data on Svalbard, and sells data to the U.S. Military Intelligence National Geospational-Intelligence Agency.
Arctic has become important for global military surveillance from space. It is not only in relation to internet military surveillance is becoming more extensive and advanced.