The World Satellite Directory, 14th edition (1992), lists about a thousand companies concerned with satellites in one way or another. Many are merely in the broadcasting business, but there are also product headings like “remote sensing imagery,” which includes Earth Observation Satellite Co. of Lanham, Maryland, Downl Inc. of Denver, and Spot Image Corp. of Reston, Virginia. There are five product categories referring to transponders. Other product categories include earth stations (14 types), “military products and systems,” “microwave equipment,” “video processors,” “spectrum analyzers.” The category “remote sensors” lists eight companies, including ITM Systems Inc., in Grants Pass, Oregon, Yool Engineering of Phoenix, and Satellite Technology Management of Costa Mesa, California. Sixty-five satellite associations are listed from all around the world, such as Aerospace Industries Association, American Astronautical Society, Amsat and several others in the U.S.
Spy satellites were already functioning and violating people’s right to privacy when President Reagan proposed his “Strategic Defense Initiative,” or Star Wars, in the early 80s, long after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 had demonstrated the military usefulness of satellites. Star Wars was supposed to shield the U.S. from nuclear missiles, but shooting down missiles with satellite lasers proved infeasible, and many scientists and politicians criticized the massive program. Nevertheless, Star Wars gave an enormous boost to surveillance technology and to what may be called “black bag” technology, such as mind reading and lasers that can assault someone, even someone indoors. Aviation Week & Space Technology mentioned in 1984 that “facets of the project [in the Star Wars program] that are being hurried along include the awarding of contracts to study...a surveillance satellite network.” It was bound to be abused, yet no group is fighting to cut back or subject to democratic control this terrifying new technology. As one diplomat to the U.N. remarked, “‘Star Wars’ was not a means of creating heaven on earth, but it could result in hell on earth.”