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Kyle Reese: What day is it? The date!
Cop in Alley: 12th – May – Thursday
Kyle Reese: WHAT YEAR?
The Terminator

Computer hackers have reportedly gained control of the British SkyNet military communications satellite which has triggered a “frenetic” security alert, says the UK’s Daily Telegraph. The hackers have been traced to the south of England.

A security source said hackers found a “cute way” into the control system for one of the Ministry of Defence’s Skynet satellites, up to a month ago, and “changed the characteristics of channels used to convey military communications, satellite television and telephone calls”.

The hackers intercepted the link between the Skynet’s control center and the ground station. The source said the hackers “managed to reprogram a satellite control system. In many ways, the clever thing was not to lose the satellite.”

Skynet 4 provides SHF and UHF services using whole earth coverage, wide area and spot beam coverage. Skynet 4A, 4B and 4C provide “jam-proof” communications between fixed and mobile land and sea-based ground stations. They were made by British Aerospace Dynamics.

NATO adapted the design for the NATO IV-A and IV-B communication satellites, also manufactured by BAE Dynamics. Astrium is the prime contractor for the design and build of the Skynet 5 system which comprises three Skynet 5 spacecraft

The group did not move the satellite, nor did it attempt to blackmail the MoD, and the Serious Fraud Office is not involved in investigations. Geoff Bains, editor of What Satellite?, said: “It has always amazed me that more people have not done this. You just have to learn a few control codes and send up your own signal to play around with a satellite yourself.”

This isn’t the first time someone has claimed to hack into SkyNet. Back in 1999, Scotland Yard’s Fraud Squad investigated allegations of blackmail after hackers reportedly demanded a ransom payment to stop interfering with Skynet. Paul Beaver, group spokesman for the Jane’s Information Group, told BBC News Online, “I cannot see how it is possible for someone to hack in – it is a closed loop system, not connected to the Internet“.

Britain has three satellites in the Skynet 4 system. The satellite that was infiltrated is believed to cover Scandinavia, the North Sea and northern England. Like all the MoD’s satellites, and the two others Britain operates for Nato, it is controlled by the Royal Air Force. The SKYNET 4 antenna farm was designed by Marconi Space Systems (now Astrium).

I wonder how far that is from the University of Surrey or whether it could affect funding for microsats like UoSAT-12. You can track the location of ESA’s Earth-orbiting spacecraft and other ESA-related missions in real-time using a Google map mashup.

Christopher Boyce was made famous in The Falcon and the Snowman. I’ve always thought there was alot more to that story.


RAY MARTIN: Boyce and his espionage accomplice, Andrew Dalton Lee,
sold the Russians the codes and other secret details of both the
Rylite and Argus projects. According to Boyce, that is much more
than America’s partner, Australia, ever got.

CHRISTOPHER BOYCE: When the Rylite project was first put in place,
the Executive Agreement meant that all information was to be shared
between the American government and the Australian government. And
along came Mr Whitlam. . .

The TDRSS system was deactivated shortly after that little episode with a “new, improved” version. Boyce was paroled in 2003 from a halfway house he hated in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. He will remain on parole until Aug. 15, 2046, his original release date.

Meanwhile, the Orbital Express mission seems to be going well. The two autnomous satellites will conduct another rendezvous operation from up to 200 feet before ASTRO performs a circumnavigation of NextSat later this month.

These scenarios will lead to the mission’s grand finale, a daring sequence taking ASTRO and NextSat more than four miles apart. ASTRO will close back in on NextSat, dock, and then complete another string of fuel and ORU transfers.

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