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US and Germany allegedly developing secret spy satellites

The Local · 3 Jan 2011, 20:52

Published: 03 Jan 2011 13:28 GMT+01:00
Updated: 03 Jan 2011 20:52 GMT+01:00

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The project, named HiROS, envisions the construction of an undetermined number of high-resolution observation satellites capable of spotting any object on the planet down to a size of just 50 centimetres (about 1.5 feet), according to classified cables from the US embassy in Berlin leaked to WikiLeaks and obtained by Norwegian daily Aftenposten.

The satellites will have the capacity to take infrared images at night and to send images much quicker back to earth than the satellites currently in service, the cables showed.

Due to the controversial nature of the programme, US and German officials have decided it should be presented as a civilian project with environmental aims, run by commercial entities.

But in reality it is "under the total control" of German intelligence service BND and the German aerospace centre DLR, the cables showed.

A DLR spokesman on Monday denied HiROS, which stands for High Resolution Optical Satellite System, was a spy satellite.

"The purpose of HiRos will be to transmit data for public services, for example for crisis management in natural catastrophes," Andreas Schuetz told AFP in an email.

"HiROS is not a spy satellite nor a secret project," he said.

The US embassy cables quoted in Norwegian by Aftenposten cover a period from February 2009 to February 2010. They also show that some countries, "especially France," have tried to stop the project with every means possible.

The opposition from Paris however appears to have been brushed aside by German officials, who according to the cables, said they were sick of being "outmanoeuvred by France."

"Absolutely no cooperation is planned with France or any other EU country when it comes to the HiROS project," DLR executive Andreas Eckart was quoted as saying.

According to Aftenposten, the satellites would cost an estimated €205 million ($274 million) and were scheduled to enter service between 2012 and 2013.

Officially, France and Germany are involved in the common Multinational Space-based Imaging System (MUSIS), along with Belgium, Spain, Greece and Italy.

Story continues below…

Contacted by news agency AFP, the US embassy in Oslo refused to comment on any information emerging from the some 250,000 US diplomatic cables leaked to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. The German embassy also refused to comment.

WikiLeaks has so far only made public around 2,000 of the cables in its possession, in cooperation with publications El Pais, The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde and Der Spiegel.

Aftenposten, however, said last month it had obtained all the diplomatic documents and would publish stories based on them independently of WikiLeaks' own releases.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

01:27 January 4, 2011 by Prufrock2010
I guess the secret isn't so secret any more.
04:13 January 4, 2011 by DOZ
Too bad Germany evolved into a U.S.A.R. Satellite of evil. What ever happened to the Germany that stoodfast with pride by not allowing itself to carry the Coattails of the West. What a discrace Germany has become.
10:49 January 4, 2011 by storymann
DOZ how else are they to know when the Red Army is approaching their border.
01:03 January 5, 2011 by Prufrock2010
I stand in solidarity with WikiLeaks. Keep 'em coming, WikiLeaks.
14:49 January 5, 2011 by CPT/USA
I believe it is in the interest of national security of both Germany and the US to know what color of bloomers I may have on.
05:14 January 8, 2011 by Wireless.Phil
Nope, not so secret.

Search News for "HiROS" and several sites have the store, including you know who that has been in the news releasing "secret cables".

Gee, maybe the new Internet satellite they just put up isn't really for Internet only?
23:21 February 6, 2011 by jrepka
I hate to pee on everyones parade , but the United States already has spy satellites also has a far superior space program, so why in the heck would they need Germany for? I do not mean this offensively. I mean this as a point of objectivity. Cost sharing? Unlikely. Technology? Hardly. What exactly would Germany gain from it also? The Americans are going to put it up regaurdless and you really don't think they would share any relevant information with Germany? Doesn't sound a bit logical.
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