Hackers blast off into space

'Hackers in space' sounds like a cheesy plot for a film, but a group of different computer hackers have outlined the concept in Berlin as an ideal way to bypass internet restrictions and censorship laws. The idea was first reported upon by the BBC, and was reported to us by Neowin user Snoopy2005uk.

The organizers responsible for the suggestion refer to their idea for space-based internet as the Hackerspace Global Grid. In the future they also hope to put an 'amateur astronaut' into space. The difficulty of this is, obviously, budgeting. Some hobbyists have already been able to send devices into space but tracking their progress and keeping them in space is proving too much of a challenge, so substantial funding would be needed to make the concept work.

'Hacktivist' Nick Farr first called for support to the idea in August 2011, with the following quote:

"The first goal is an uncensorable internet in space. Let's take the internet out of the control of terrestrial entities,."

The ideals behind the Hackerspace Global Grid are in direct competition with those of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States, which seeks to allow controversial censorship online. Already, the Chaos Computer Club in Germany are working on finding support, in the form of the German aerospace research project 'Constellation'. The idea, to quote hobbyist Armin Bauer, from Stuttgart, would involve something along the lines of a 'reverse GPS' to track satellites orbiting the earth.

One suggestion has been to sell stations, for roughly 84GBP each. While this may seem expensive, they claim that it is about the maximum people would be willing to spend on owning a space-tracking device. Professor Alan Woodward at the University of Surrey is not sure if their low orbiting satellites would be as effective as hoped, with the following quote:

"That's not to say they can't be used for communications but obviously only for the relatively brief periods that they are in your view. It's difficult to see how such satellites could be used as a viable communications grid other than in bursts, even if there were a significant number in your constellation."

Since space is not controlled by one government, it would be difficult to censor material, meaning restrictions could be bypassed and illegal activity could thrive online. At the same time it means countries with extremely strict laws, such as China and the United Arab Emirates, could access materials they may not otherwise be able to. Diplomatic crises could erupt should one of the satellites be disabled by a nation in an attempt to censor the internet once more, though this means that the concept would have to work.

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