Satellites Are Upgraded Peeping Toms

December 28, 2020

Satellites have had powerful cameras for decades. Camera technology for satellites has advanced from being able to read credit card numbers in the early 2000s to peering inside buildings. Futurism shares details about the new (possible) invasion of privacy in: “A New Satellite Can Peer Inside Some Buildings, Day Or Night.”

Capella Space launched a new type of satellite with a new state of the art camera capable of taking clear radar images with precise resolution. It even has the ability to take photos inside buildings, such as airplane hangers. Capella Space assures people that while their satellite does take powerful, high resolution photos it can only “see” through lightweight structures. The new satellite camera cannot penetrate dense buildings, like residential houses and high rises.

The new satellite can also take pictures from space of Earth on either its daytime or nighttime side. Capella also released a new photo imaging platform that allows governments or private customers to request images of anything in the world. Most satellites orbiting the Earth use optical image sensors, which make it hard to take photos when its cloudy. Capella’s new system uses synthetic aperture radar that can peer through cloud cover and night skies.

The resolution for the SAR images is extraordinary:

“Another innovation, he says, is the resolution at which Capella’s satellites can collect imagery. Each pixel in one of the satellite’s images represents a 50-centimeter-by-50-centimeter square, while other SAR satellites on the market can only get down to around five meters. When it comes to actually discerning what you’re looking at from space, that makes a huge difference.

Cityscapes are particularly intriguing. Skyscrapers poke out of the Earth like ghostly, angular mushrooms — and, if you look carefully, you notice that you can see straight through some of them, though the company clarified that this is a visual distortion rather than truly seeing through the structures.”

Capella’s new satellite has a variety of uses. Governments can use it to track enemy armies, while scientists can use it to monitor fragile ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest. Capella has assured the public that its new satellite cannot spy into dense buildings, but if the technology improves maybe it is a possibility? Hopefully bad actors will not use Capella’s new satellite.

Whitney Grace, December 28, 2020


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