Hackers developing satellite system for ‘uncensorable Internet in space’

The threat of Internet censorship has spurred some to seek refuge in space. Hackers at the Chaos Computer Club’s Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin this year proposed an initiative called the Hackerspace Global Grid (HGG).

This initiative aims to create and freely make available satellite based communication as a fallback or to bypass stuffy legislation.

The bunch of “hobbyist hackers, tinkerers and part time scientists” are predominantly based in Stuttgart, Germany. They say their ultimate goal is to put a hacker on the moon in 23 years, but right now they’re keeping their goals small. They want to keep their freedoms safe from threats like the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), by creating an “uncensorable Internet in space.” The project builds off of an earlier idea by Nick Farr in August for a Hacker Space Program.

The BBC interviewed 26-year-old Armin Bauer from Stuttgart who is working on the communications infrastructure for the project with his team. Bauer is currently working with Constellation, which is a platform that uses Internet-connected computers for aeropsace related research. The team is developing an idea for a network of low-cost ground stations for when the project gets those low-orbit satellites up there. The stations would be there to pinpoint satellites and facilitate sending data back to earth.

Bauer said, “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 coordinates but also improve on them by using fixed sites in precisely-known locations.”

Three prototypes are in development, and the team hopes to have them in place in the early half of 2012. Prices for individual ground stations will be 100 euros ($129). The team is exploring other sources for time and position data such as Galileo, GLONASS and ground-based surveying, but they are starting with GPS because it is simple and reasonably priced.

As the project is in the early stages, the hackers stress that they will have to deal with problems as they occur. “We’re trying to concentrate on reasons why this will work, not why it won’t,” they say on the HGG page.