From the Editor: April 2005 - The Linux of Satellites

A hardware design from an unmanned aircraft project, along with Linux and other free software, got this project done quickly at a bargain price.

By the time you read this, TacSat-1 might already be in orbit. We're all in suspense as our cover project prepares to ride the first launch of the new SpaceX Falcon-1 launch vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

TacSat-1 aims to do for task force commanders what commodity hardware and open-source software can do for business managers. With the new satellite capability, commanders in the field will be able to track individual enemy radars and transmitters, and get visual and infrared imagery, with minimal bureaucracy.

It's a high-profile space version of what's been happening on Earth for a long time. Information technology is becoming faster and more responsive to real business needs. Road maps, customer-hostile business models, and anything else that gets in the way are obsolete. In this issue, we're celebrating the projects that don't merely get the job done and more cheaply and reliably, but those that open up new information technology avenues for people who otherwise would be locked out by pointless restrictions.

Have a look at Charles Curley's “Finding Your Way with GpsDrive” on page 50. Unlike a monolithic GPS mapping product, you can combine your choice of maps with public GPS data to get the navigation you need. Yes, you can cruise for wireless Net access and plot it. Please be nice. Meanwhile, if you're worried about other people getting on your wireless network, Mick Bauer has some good news for you in the form of a new security standard and a way to integrate Wi-Fi security with your existing infrastructure. Get started with WPA on page 36.

Paul Barry had a problem converting his data into the promised Microsoft PowerPoint slides. Fire up the “productivity” application? No thanks—not enough time. Run everything through a script and OpenOffice.org, and the job's done and the carpal tunnels in Paul's mouse hand are safe, see page 58. Keeping up with vendors who try to lock in customers with undocumented formats is tough. Thanks, OpenOffice.org.

Sometimes you need to convert a system to Linux, or to a special-purpose Linux distribution, temporarily. On page 54, Daniel Barlow gets you started with modifying Knoppix to create your own personal live CD. Render Farm? BZFlag Zone? The choice is up to you.

Our Web columnist, Reuven Lerner, is celebrating his 100th column (page 22). Thanks, Reuven, for breaking through the wild and woolly mess of the Web to bring us ideas and technology that really work, for Linux users and everyone else. There's plenty of other great technical stuff in this issue, too. But even if you don't use any of the specific advice—which I doubt, considering we could all use a couple more shell tricks, as Prentice Bisbal brings us on page 76—remember the reason why all this stuff is so great. With Linux and the other software we cover, you have the freedom to make your project happen the way you want. See you at the launchpad.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.

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Hard.

Devid Mone's picture

A hardware design from an unmanned aircraft project, along with Linux
and other free software, got this project done quickly at a bargain price.

Tac|Sat and force commanders

Anonymous's picture

You write:
"TacSat-1 aims to do for task force commanders what commodity hardware and open-source software can do for business managers. With the new satellite capability, commanders in the field will be able to track individual enemy radars and transmitters, and get visual and infrared imagery, with minimal bureaucracy."

This has already been demonstrated in the field at Vandenberg Air Force Base in May June 2004, with the Virtual Mission Operation Center interface software used to access and task the UK-DMC Disaster Monitoring Constellation satellite built by SSTL (which has a Cisco router onboard). VMOC was intended for use with TacSat-1 and 2, but the TacSat launch delays meant that testing with UK-DMC was first here.
See:
http://www.ee.surrey.ac.uk/Personal/L.Wood/publications/
Lloyd Wood, 'Testing a router onboard a satellite in space',
Proceedings of IEE Seminar on the end-to-end challenges of broadband via satellite, pp. 83-85, IEE Savoy Place, London, 26 January 2005.
ISBN 0-86341-491-5.
B. P. Conner, L. Dikeman, V. Osweiler, D. Schoenfelt, S. Groves, P. E. Paulsen, W. Ivancic, J. Walke and E. Miller, Bringing Space Capabilities to the Warfighter: Virtual Mission Operations Center (VMOC), paper SSC04-II-7, 18th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Logan, Utah, 9-12 August 2004.

Some perspective

Mike Hurley's picture

The June 2004 demo mentioned was a good first step emphasizing initial operator interactions and recommendations with the VMOC software. In addition, next generations (already available) of the CISCO router used in the demo have great promise. However this multiple day demo had ability to focus primarily on operator feedback with out having to handle real spacecraft constraints, multiple users on terminals outside of admin control, unknown users operating without demo support personnel, and the realities of day-to-day operations. TacSat-1 will operate for one year allowing tactical users the ability to request spacecraft collections, recieve data, and collaborate with data from multiple sources. Orbital and spacecraft constraints are modeled so that user requests can be scheduled on the web site in real-time. TacSat-1 and TacSat-2 (6-12 months later) will provide the next steps toward giving commanders direct access to space capabilities by testing the next iterations of the VMOC software in a semi-operaitonal (one year, continuous) setting.

TacSat-1

Anonymous's picture

It's another year later, and TacSat-1 still hasn't been launched.

Don't hold your breath.

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