No leakage of data, says ISRO

Arrested scientist visited Blore twice


On the arrest of American space scientist Stewart David Nozette for espionage, Satish said:  “He (Nozette) was involved in Chandrayaan-I, but we have no reason to think that any of our information was leaked,” Satish told Deccan Herald.

But any information, if accessed, need not have come from visiting critical installations. As a Principal Investigator of the American Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Co-investigator on Mini-SAR, a payload aboard Chandrayaan-1, Nozette would have had access to comprehensive data acquired by the payload.

 Data from the payloads are available to the principal scientists of that particular payload (apart from ISRO scientists) and they can share with someone at their discretion during the lock in period which could be anything from six months or more than a year.

What has emerged is that Nozette visited Bangalore twice in the last three years in connection with the development and integration of mini-SAR (miniature synthetic aperture radar) instrument on-board Chandrayaan-I. ISRO sources said that his visits were limited to the ISRO Satellite Centre and not to any other critical installation and facility.

Nozette, who who worked extensively on the Clementine and LRO missions, was issued a security clearance after proper verification of his passport by Department of Space security officials. A senior ISRO official was always attached to him to ensure he was not left alone with any document or instrument at the ISRO Satellite Centre. This is standard security protocol, which ISRO, the Department of Atomic Energy and the DRDO adheres to while attending to foreign scientists visiting their establishments.
But, ISRO sources said, that did not bar Nozette or any other American scientist from accessing data which he could have procured by be-friending other colleagues. In Chandrayaan-I, Nozette’s role was in developing mini-SAR, an instrument which looks for water under the surface at lunar poles.

Nozette was closely involved with NASA’s 1994 Clementine mission whose objective was to test sensors and spacecraft components under extended exposure to the space environment and to make scientific observations of the moon and the near-earth asteroid 1620 Geographos.

Incidentally, Clementine mission was a joint space project between NASA and the Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation. Later Nozette worked on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission that brought the US space agency back to the moon, almost four decades after the Apollo missions. This is the second instance of espionage in space in the last two years. In July 2008, Dongfang “Greg” Chung, a former engineer with Rockwell and Boeing, was convicted of “economic espionage” for acting as an agent of China.

A resident of Orange country in California, Chung has reportedly stolen restricted Boeing trade secrets including information related to the Space Shuttle programme and Delta-IV rockets.

Nozette was born in 1957 in the same year when Sputnik was launched creating the space rivalry between the US and the erstwhile USSR. He grew up with Apollo missions which shaped his interests in space.

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