Air Force Space Command leaders are working on plans to share data from satellites controlled by the military, bringing new opportunities that could allow firefighters to get images on their smartphones to help stamp out wildfires, and allow nonmilitary organizations to keep a better eye on the weather.
The civilian world is working on how infrared pictures could be used, with Colorado Springs software firm Braxton Technologies leading the pack.
“It will be a game-changer,” said James Flemer, who is working on a Braxton infrared project.
Civilian environmental monitoring firms are already involved in gathering infrared imagery, but what the Air Force can bring is different — a constant, staring view from orbit.
The military uses information from the satellites to track missile launches around the world and relay it to their commanders. Many of the capabilities of the satellites to scan the Earth is still kept secret, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported (http://tinyurl.com/jwxn6m8 ).
Flemer said no matter the quality that will be made public, the infrared images from the Air Force could spur technology leaps similar to the last time top-secret space technology was unleashed in the civilian sphere.
GPS, developed in the 1970s and first used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, was designed for warfare, giving troops in the desert and bombers in flight an accurate fix on their positions. But the navigation and timing signals from space, accurate to a billionth of a second, are now used in more minivans than Humvees.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton issued an executive order laying the groundwork for widespread civilian use of the navigation and timing signals. Now, GPS satellites are used to synchronize data on the Internet and mobile phones and provide accurate timestamps for global banking.
It’s estimated there are now 3.2 billion GPS-equipped devices on the planet.