Tag Archives: satellite imagery

These images may show debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

Satellite images of what could be debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were released on a Chinese government website.

The three images, published by the Chinese State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND), were taken at 11am on Sunday, Mar. 9, 2014, and may be the first ones showing the remains of the Malaysian B777 disappeared on Mar. 8.

They show three large floating objects at coordinates 105.63 east longitude, 6.7 north latitude, in the South China Sea some 141 miles from the last recorded transponder signal: according to Xinhua News Agency, the pieces measure 13m by 18m (43ft by 59ft), 14m by 19m and 24m by 22m.

Considered the satellite images were taken four days ago, there’s the risk the pieces have sunk or moved several more miles from the position they were first spotted on Sunday.

A crowdsourcing effort was launched on Monday by DigitalGlobe on its Tomnod website, where users could view hi-resolution satellite shots taken over the Gulf of Thailand and look for signs of the missing airliner. So far, with no luck.

Image credit: SASTIND


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Mystery Drone exposed by satellite imagery at Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works update: it was already there in 2009…

Do you remember the mysterious UAV quitely sitting open-air at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Program Facility at Palmdale airport, California?

Unveiled by satellite imagery dated Dec. 4, 2011, the “new” drone has a signature that reminds the one of the RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealthy drone captured in Iran (crash landed there, on the same day the satellite picture was taken).

However, Gleen Haas, a reader of The Aviationist found on Google Earth that actually there is an earlier photo of the “stealth drone” shape in the same position, and location of that tarmac.

The earlier photo (that Gleen found in Google Earth’s Historical photo’s link) identifies the same shape in the same location and position (5 months earlier, and it hasn’t moved) dated Jul. 15, 2011.

To see the same photo, look in Google Earth at the bottom of the screen, and the date 1994 in a square.  Click on that, and it will give you a timeline in your view at the top, that allows you to scroll back in time at previous photos of that same location.

Hence the mysterious ‘bot, can be spotted on the same place at least five months earlier than initially believed.

But, by going back in time using the same method described above, I’ve discovered another interesting image dating back to Jun. 6, 2009. Although a bit grainy and less defined than the most recent imagery, the satellite image seems to show the same seemingly packaged drone on a different position but on the same apron.

Therefore, the unknown drone has been exposed to satellites since 2009, meaning that it can’t be a secret project nor a recent update to the RQ-170 Sentinel.

Most probably it is just a mock-up used to evaluate the stealthiness of the RQ-170 and abandoned once all test had been completed.

In 2009 the Sentinel had already been spotted and the images of the drone on the ground at Kandahar had already been published by several magazines and websites.

This could be the reason why the once-secret robot was open-air for anyone to see.

Above images: screen dumps from Google Earth.

Eventually the answer to the question “Did Google Earth spot a top-Secret or damaged drone at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works?” is: No, it didn’t.

Wanna know where the new Chinese aircraft carrier will be in the next few days? Here it is. A website gives you the coordinates.

This time you don’t need a satellite to get a glimpse of the Varyag in the Yellow Sea. If you wish to know where the refurbished Chinese aircraft carrier will be until Dec. 29, you can simply visit this Chinese website that has just published the coordinates of the points that limit the area of operations of the carrier (most probably taken from a NOTAM or a bulletin issued by maritime authorities to inform other ships of the temporary prohibited area).

I mapped them with Google Earth and took a couple of screenshots in order to give you an idea where the aircraft carrier will operate for its third sea trial cruise.

So what those interested can do is to point their satellites towards the area and send some spyplanes and subs in the vicinity to study the ship’s onboard equipment, its radar and signals signature, and so on.

Image source: fyjs.cn

Libyan Tu-22 Blinders: are they still operative? Satellite pictures raise question

In the previous post (Why Libyan Air Force aircraft pose a risk to Italy) I explained the reasons why Libyan fighters must be closely watched by the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF). I also suggested reading another article, titled Memories of a fighter pilot, the story of the period in which the main fears of the Italian Air Defence came from the Libyan Migs and the Tupolev wearing the red star, which flew through the Otranto Channel (Southern Adriatic Sea in front of Albania) causing the frequent Alert Scrambles of F-104s in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) service, specially those belonging to the 12° Gruppo of the 36° Stormo, based in Gioia del Colle. During those years, the ItAF pilots collected many photographic evidences of the “close encounters” (like those I published in the Zombie page) some of which involved interesting Libyan planes. For example, the following ones were taken by the 12° Gruppo on Sept. 20, 1983 (and later released by the 5° Reparto of the Italian Air Force Staff) and show some Tu-22B Blinders flying next to the Italian airspace off Otranto. The Libyan Blinders (whose exact number is not clear with data reporting from 7 to 18 planes) were supersonic bombers based at Okba Ben Nafi Air Base (currently Mitiga, prior to June 1970, known as Wheelus Air Base and used by the USAF) that were used in combat against Tanzania in 1979 and Chad in the ’80s, during the Chadian-Libyan conflict. Libyan Tu-22 pictures are extremely rare. One of the most famous, taken by a USN fighter over the Med shows a desert scheme, similar to that of the Iraqi Blinders, with the former Royal Libyan Air Force insigna (later replaced by the green roundel), that is sensibly different from those in this post which show another kind of camouflage.

Dealing with roundel, rebels have begun applying new insigna to their aircraft as the following screenshots from a BBC reportage show.

All Libyan AF Tu-22 should be retired from use now (mainly for lack of spare parts). There are no reports of active Blinders from many decades. However a quick look at Google Earth unveiled a certain number of Tu-22s (7) that, from satellite, seems to be parked and apparently serviceable at a large base near Hun, in Central Libya. The timestamp on the satellite image is July 20, 2010 and the airbase 7 months ago seemed to be full of aircraft presumed to be retired from some time, like Mig-25s and G.222s.  For instance, another Tu-22 can be identified by means of Google Earth at Benina, but it is clearly an almost abandoned example wrecked next to the airport’s fence. The question is: are any of those aircraft still operative or are they retired examples aimed at deceiving satellites hiding the actual status of the LAF?  Hmmm… I think the right answer is the second one…..

Below, the images of the airbase near Hun, Central Libya.

Some Mig-25s at the same airfield.

Below, a satellite view of the wrecked Tu-22 at Mitiga.

COSMO-SkyMed satellite system provides imagery of the Abruzzo areas hit by the earthquake

The ASI (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, Italian Space Agency) has been releasing imagery of the areas hit by the earthquake that caused many buildings to collapse in Abruzzo region and in the city of L’Aquila, causing more than 290 death. The imagery are aquired by the COSMO-SkyMed (COnstellation of small Satellites for the Mediterranean basin Observation), a Earth observation satellite system funded by the Italian Ministry of Research and Ministry of Defence whose use can be for both military and civilian purposes. The 4 medium-sized satellites of the space segment of the system are equipped with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors: by comparing images captured before the seismic event struck Central Italy, it was possible to locate the areas that correspond to significant movements. The images showed also objects missing from the pre-earthquake image, probably corresponding to collapsed buildings. COSMO-SkyMed will keep providing images over the next days, allowing the Civil Protection Department to locate possible damages to be subsequently checked by air or helicopter.
The following picture (available in high-rez from the ASI website at the address http://www.asi.it/it/news/nuove_immagini_de_laquila_da_cosmoskymed_0) was obtained by comparing an earlier image, captured before the seismic event, and one taken on Apr. 7. The earlier image was artificially coloured in red, the one taken later was coloured in blue. The white areas correspond to those that were not changed by the earthquake. The red spots are objects that appeared in the pre-seismic image but not in the post-seismic one, probably corresponding to collapsed buildings. Conversely, the blue/green areas reflected the radar signal in the second image but not in the first, so they may correspond to signficant movements too.


By comparing the radar images taken on Mar. 22 and Apr. 9 (pre and post seismic event) a change detection analysis was made. The following images show L’Aquila: the green colour point at those zones that kept the previous radar signal amplitude while blue shows point at areas where radar signal changed thus suffered damages.


According to the imagery collected by COSMO-SkyMed, the entire area moved by 15 centimeters as a consequence of the earthquake.