May 12, 2009

An outer space border fence?

The Bush-Obama Administration has pledged billions of dollars to build a "virtual fence" of sensors on the Mexican border to notify the Border Patrol when and where illegal aliens cross it. As a commenter suggested, if the ungrateful public turns out to be unmollified by that, the Bush-Obama Administration would no doubt be willing to consider making the invisible fence twice as tall.

Seriously, why not use satellites with infrared cameras? Sure, they don't work in cloudy weather, but how much cloudy weather do you see on the Arizona-Mexico border?

A reader writes:
I was looking at a globe today as I dusted. If a satellite orbits over 32 to 35 degrees latitude, it flies over the Mexican border and also Iran, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. . . Do you suppose we have any satellites flying there?

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

One reason the opponents of a real border fence are so pissy is that they are hoping to install something that will be "easily reversible". Once a real fence goes up nobody is taking it back down. It will Just keep getting rustier and rustier and they will keep heaping concertina wire in the holes.

Anonymous said...

It always amazes me how the most powerful military in the world with drones that can guide a missile to a park bench and satellites that can tell what tent Qaddafi's sleeping in just throws its hands up in despair at things like Somalian pirates and, you know, actually defending the nation's territorial integrity. ("It's such a long border! And there's desert! And snakes!")

Then I remember the US is not really a nation, and I stop being amazed.

--Senor Doug

Eric said...

I'm not sure why you'd want to use a satellite for that kind of work, when a Cessna with a stabilized IR camera would work just as well.

Dave Lincoln said...

How can that satellite orbit continually over a certain latitude N. of the equator? That would not be an orbit at all. You have to take a path that is a circle about the center of the earth or an ellipse with one focus at the center of the earth. It's not possible to orbit at a certain latitude unless that latitude is the equator.

Just going back to my astronomy daze. Carry on.

Anonymous said...

It seems outer space is in the news a lot today. NJ's funniest corruption story in a while involves the legislature paying $400,000 to a dead woman and the ex-wife of an ex-governor to teach elementary school kids how to grow tomatoes in outer space.

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-13/1242104744227660.xml&coll=1

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that's how satellites work. You could put a geostationary orbit over the equator at the right longitude, but otherwise the satellite orbit is much more complicated that that. Still, I'd expect we already have decent satellite coverage of Mexico.

Dave Lincoln said...

Anonymous post # 6. That's what I'm saying. The only latitude you can stay at is the equator, and, right, in geosynchronous orbit, you can stay at one longitude over the equator.

Yes, it is fairly simple - laws of physics for 2 particles (one little one, one big one), until atmospheric effects come in for low orbits. That's the limit to the lifetimes of most of the satellites - due to fuel on board for small position adjustments.

But, this is neither helping our fight to have a Southern border nor helping out Michelle Obama's children in any way, so I'll lay off the physics for the time being.

ben tillman said...

I was looking at a globe today as I dusted. If a satellite orbits over 32 to 35 degrees latitude, it flies over the Mexican border.Even if it were possible to orbit at those latitudes, such an orbit would, at best, fly over just a small portion of the Mexico/USA border. The California border is around 32 degrees (the latitude of Dallas). The rest of the border is to the south. Brownsville, Texas, is at about 25.5 degrees.

silver said...

The emperor has no fence!

AmericanGoy said...

Hi.

Common sense here.

If there are no jobs, if there is no hiring, there will be no illegal immigration.

That polish babysitter?
That mexican laborer?

All gone if there are no jobs.


Do not target illegals - target employers.


But... that is where you hit a wall of silence.

It's as if the whole immigration policy was designed to benefit American business, to keep American emplyees wages down - as if everything the American does is for big business (and, of course, Israel).

Case in point - me.

I am in IT, a consultant.

Since the economy went down the crapper, many indian IT guys went back home.

Hell, the putrid pigs at the trough (aka Congress) revoked a not so few "work" visas.

I am making bank right now.

This will not last, of course - the putrid pigs at the trough will listen in to the donations and allow more H1B visas in, IT wages will go down again (and most Americans in IT will be overlooked in favor of an indian guy with limited experience) and everything will be back to normal.

But for now - vive la mal economy!

Eric said...

Geostationary orbits are rarely used for spy sats. The problem is the orbit distance is fixed at about 22,000 miles, which is waaaaaay too far out for taking good pictures. Also, since you never move relative to the earth's surface, you'll never get pictures of anything outside the visual cone at that orbital position. In short - great for communications, lousy for spying.

Spy sats are normally placed in low polar orbits (the NRO bird blown up by the navy in February of 2008 was only 130 miles up), so they circle the Earth many times per day and can cover the entire planet by "striping".

And yeah, orbits have to go around the Earth's center of mass. I'm guessing you could do one at a fixed longitude, but a fixed latitude? No.

AmericanGoy said...

"Then I remember the US is not really a nation, and I stop being amazed."


Yes.

It is a business interest.

Picked over by the vultures aka the lobbies, from foreign nations (Israel) to multinational corporations (Bechtel, Carlyle, etc etc etc etc etc).

It is at the point where our "elected" "representatives" are openly working for the lobbies, not even hiding it, and receiving money while they are American Congresspeople (I am looking at you, Cheney, Pelosi.... hell, all of them).

headache said...

Well, you could use geostationary satellites. But the resolution would suck. Molniya orbits are used in the northern hemisphere, but are complicated and expensive. LEO sats only last about 4-6 years so they would be expensive to maintain. Anybody remember Iridium? Sat. imaging is cool but using UAV's with camera's probably much more versatile and cheaper. Like good cop work, the border game is also a very local issue with preferred routes, geography, local clan structures, farmers, land-owners and cops playing specific local roles. So you have to tie the surveillance in with boots on the ground who know the local terrain. American Border Patrol (www.americanborderpatrol.com) use UAV with camera's and are very successful.

Anonymous said...

American Goy - My pet theory is the elites have worked out that PC allied to immigration is the dream ticket.

They can import whatever questionable labour they want and the left....the left say nothing. To attack immigrants/guest workers/migrants/whatever is, of course, racism.

In fact its way better than that. The left will actually lobby and protest to increase immigration. They dont protect the indigenous workforce, they dont even stay neutral, they actively work in the interests of businesses who want cheap 3rd world labour. The crowning glory of this is rapacious exploiters never have to stand up in public and defend their use of immigrant labour, they get their supposed class enemies do it for them!

Quite incredible, has to be one of the greatest political coups ever.

Anonymous said...

"If there are no jobs, if there is no hiring, there will be no illegal immigration."

Is it not better to be on welfare in America than to be a peasant in Mexico?

Dave Lincoln said...

"I'm guessing you could do one at a fixed longitude, but a fixed latitude? No." No way you could do that either, BTW (not like a see a reason to), but the earth is turning. Think about it.

Anonymous headache said...

"Well, you could use geostationary satellites. But the resolution would suck." Dude, am I the only one who reads the comments above before I comment? Come on, 1) as the guy said 22,000 miles is way, way above spy satellite territory, and 2) as I said, you can't "hover" over a spot, even in geo-synchronous orbit, unless its a g-s orbit over the equator.

Too many amateur scientists here on a site that is about politics. Don't commment on something if you don't know a damn thing about it, OK? You're starting to sound like lefties.

clem said...

It's as if the whole immigration policy was designed to benefit American business, to keep American emplyees wages down....As if on cue, here's an otherwise-astute East Coast businessman who wants to import 100 million Mexicans, 'cause "Hispanics for the most part integrate quite nicely into the American Culture":

Getting Rid of Immigrants Caused our Financial Crises.

We haven't imported even 10 million Chinese into Canada, but we already have enclaves in Vancouver where their children aren't learning English. The only thing that could blind an otherwise-intelligent person to such obvious effects from wholesale immigration, even among groups that "integrate quite nicely," is dollar-signs-in-the-eyes, at the thought of more customers and cheaper labor.

Art Squirer said...

The Bush Obama administration? More like the Pelosi Obama administration. Bush was not Obama's patron in any way, and Obama owes nothing to Bush.

Being unable to let go of Bush and other retired boogey-men is one sign of a hollow skull.

headache said...

Dave Lincoln,
"Don't commment on something if you don't know a damn thing about it, OK?"


So where is your rule book about what we are allowed to comment on and what not (url, pdf)? How can I decide before commenting that it will meet your high standards as somebody who obviously thinks of himself that he is in the know?

headache said...

Dave Lincoln,
If you want exclusive pundit rights on say satellites, you need to expose yourself like Steve and stake your claim. Just shooting from the background and expecting others to bow before you is naive.

Dave Lincoln said...

I shouldn't have got so mad so quickly, but listen, most of the comments on this site are about economics, politics, etc. and are therefore based on opinion. Science is fact. There is no point throwing in comments that involve scientific facts when you don't have the facts right. (I'm talking about laws of motion that were discovered 500 or more years ago.)

I like reading the comments, as most of the commenters have interesting, witty, and snarky things to say. That's why it surprised me to see BS appearing haphazardly about this subject.

Andrea Freiboden said...

"Virtual fence"? What the hell is that? Is it like virtual money that the FED keeps printing? Okay, I'm willing to accept this virtual fence as long as Mexico only sends over virtual illegal immigrants.

Eric said...

I like reading the comments, as most of the commenters have interesting, witty, and snarky things to say. That's why it surprised me to see BS appearing haphazardly about this subject.

You might be surprised what people actually know. Don't assume because Steve's interests don't (I'm guessing) include spy satellites there isn't anybody here with firsthand knowledge.

And speaking of haphazardly appearing BS, you might want to have a look at this, specifically the description of Syncom 2's "nearly constant latitude" orbit at a 33 degree inclination.

Dave Lincoln said...

"specifically the description of Syncom 2's "nearly constant latitude" orbit at a 33 degree inclination."

Eric, you idiot: I just got done (well a few days back) explaining why a satellite cannot orbit over a latitude line - excepting the equator.

READ, my friend, don't just google "satellite and latitude", skim through some text with Cntrl-F, then pick out some line that you don't understand *.

I'll do this again: an orbiting body has to orbit around the center of mass of the body it orbits around (my phraseology, a physicist could probably nitpick that, I will admit). Can you not picture this, Eric? Except for the equator, a latitude line is circle that does not have the center of the earth as it's center. It has the polar axis at it's center, but that is a line, not a point.

Picture it in your head, OK?

Here's the paragraph that you picked out to base your haphazard BS comment on:

"Syncom 2 was the first geosynchronous satellite. Although the period was 24 hours and the spacecraft remained at a nearly constant longitude, the orbit was inclined at 33 degrees so it was not truly geostationary but moved in an elongated figure eight pattern 33 degrees north and south of the equator."

So, these engineers were very clever, and they put the Syncom II into an orbit that would keep in time with the earth's rotation, hence stay near a certain longitude line, yet it would of course have to change in latitude over the day, as (READ), it's orbit is INCLINED 33 DEGREES. Inclination, in this meaning, is the angle between it's orbit and the equator (term developed for this by the engineers and astrophysicists).

You're part of the problem, Eric. I can't say anything about people commenting with opinion, even if I think they are left-wing hussies, but this stuff is fact - the laws of motion, man. You are not entitled to your own facts, even on a blog.


* Unless, of course you are a "journalist" on a beat the covers the global warming-oops-climate change hoax and don't know a lick of science. Then, it is apparently OK to do this.

Eric said...

So, these engineers were very clever, and they put the Syncom II into an orbit that would keep in time with the earth's rotation, hence stay near a certain longitude line, yet it would of course have to change in latitude over the day, as (READ), it's orbit is INCLINED 33 DEGREES. Inclination, in this meaning, is the angle between it's orbit and the equator (term developed for this by the engineers and astrophysicists).Oh, I understand perfectly what the article is saying. The latitude changes over the course of the day. So what? I never said it was fixed latitude. I said fixed longitude. This is pretty amusing stuff from a commenter repeatedly enjoining me to READ.

Now, my interest in the subject is such that I don't feel like writing out equations and figuring out why the projection of the orbit is a figure 8 instead of a straight line. That's what students are for. Is it because of non-ideal characteristics of real life (imperfect orbit, say, or the fact that the earth isn't really spherical) or is it just (as I suspect) the nature of the system? If it's the later, you could get a better match with an elliptical orbit, provided you don't need a constant altitude.

Dave Lincoln said...

"... you might want to have a look at this, specifically the description of Syncom 2's "nearly constant latitude" orbit"


Maybe I should enjoin you to WRITE too. If you meant "longitude" when you wrote "latitude", so be it, but that would mean you had no reason to respond, because my posts earlier were just to explain that you can't have the satellite orbit over a latitude line (excepting lat. 0 )

However, if you had READ your own post, Eric, you would have noticed that you wrote "latitude" - I just pasted it in above.


"The latitude changes over the course of the day. So what?" So, what? That it can't stay and observe at a certain latitude per Steve's reader's comment repeated here:
"A reader writes:
I was looking at a globe today as I dusted. If a satellite orbits over 32 to 35 degrees latitude, it flies over the Mexican border and also Iran, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. . . Do you suppose we have any satellites flying there?"

I aimed to set that straight, but readers keep putting in BS comments that show they know nothing of the subject and cannot bother to understand someone else's post.

Now, I'm not saying that a satellite can't do a job observing a spot multiple times a day (not the job of protecting the border, or course). It's just that the comment about a satellite following along the 32 N or 35N lat. line is not wrong. That's not possible.


"Now, my interest in the subject is such that I don't feel like writing out equations and figuring out why the projection of the orbit is a figure 8 instead of a straight line. That's what students are for."

I think you should do the math yourself, Eric. Mental discipline is a good thing.