Putin’s “Mafia in Space” Episode

Did Russia’s boss of bosses just bully his way through space? Reports of Russian FSB-owned spacecraft Luch/Olymp-K1 being moved to Intelsat 901’s 18.1-deg. West orbital location came to light earlier this month in a detailed report by Brian Weeden in The Space Review. Since Putin owns them, the Russian story — typically full of lies — was parroted by the BBC as “U.S. anxiety.”

Not true.

Was the old KGB club looking to intercept the Palestine Al Yawm feed? Probably not.

The spacecraft is being portrayed as a data-relay Luch payload, but it has much more — including special laser capabilities. It is a military spacecraft with multiple missions, including RPO, destroying space assets and providing satcom links to the Russian navy.

If the Luch/Olymp spacecraft came with 10 km of Intelsat’s, that’s cause for concern. Putin and his criminal state doesn’t care about anyone or any entity, and the Russians are testing the world order to see whether anyone’s able to respond with force.

Facebook, Ka-band and Africa

Using state of the art satellite technology, Eutelsat and Facebook will each deploy Internet services designed to relieve pent-up demand for connectivity from the many users in Africa beyond range of fixed and mobile terrestrial networks. Satellite networks are well suited to economically connecting people in low to medium density population areas and the high throughput satellite architecture of AMOS-6 is expected to contribute to additional gains in cost efficiency.

That quote is not from a press release issued in 1999. It’s from Eutelsat’s announcement of a partnership with Facebook on 5 October 2015, leasing Ka-band capacity on Spacecom’s forthcoming spacecraft. In 1999, satellite was seen as the “leapfrog” technology, intended to bypass old wireline or tower-based schemes to get the Internet out to the people of Africa. Although “good for data” Ka-band payloads were not widely available back then, the same disadvantages are still lingering:

  1. the high cost of space segment
  2. customer premises equipment is not cheap
  3. latency will always be an issue

Unless Facebook dollars subsidize the first two costs, we’ll only need to deal with physics.

The RF signal to and from the geosynchronous spacecraft will always require a 1/4-second to complete, then add a little bit of time to get the content, then another 1/4-second to serve it up. We’re not getting into video or any rich media — just the basics. Fine. People without any connection will be happy with whatever they get. High-throughput or not, you get what’s allocated to you.

Let’s consider reliability. First, there’s the issue of a reliable electric supply. Do we have enough of that in Sub-Saharan Africa? Next, there’s the signal itself. Even with a good link budget, and backing-off on the data rate a bit, you’re dealing with a considerable amount of rainy conditions for wider areas, so you can expect the signal to fade or experience complete outages during the rainy season.

Considering satcom’s promise hasn’t been kept for so many years, true “leapfrogging” is happening everywhere. In Rwanda, for example, 4G LTE is being built out and it kills any comparison to satcom alternatives using geo satellites. Using LEOs from O3b Networks works well, but somebody stills has to make the economics work.

So good luck to to Facebook and their internet.org effort.

I Rip Your Head Off, Comrade

What’s does “the soviet system” mean to you? Not much: it’s just one fuck-up after another.

You’ll recall the billion-dollar project to build a new Cosmodrome in Vostochny, where corruption, poor design and execution have been met with threats from the criminals in the Kremlin. Think they’re back on track?

Think again.

Seems the pride of the Russian space program’s future, the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle will not fit. So much for getting one up from Vostochny by December, bitches. The Moscow Times story from Friday has the details…

The cutting-edge facility was meant be ready for launches of Soyuz-2 rockets in December, but an unidentified space agency official told the TASS news agency late Thursday that the rocket would not fit inside the assembly building where its parts are stacked and tested before launch.

The building “has been designed for a different modification of the Soyuz rocket,” the source said, according to news website Medusa, which picked up the story from TASS.

The quote could not be found on TASS, a state-owned news agency on Friday. TASS’s report instead quoted a spokesperson for the Center for Ground-based Space Infrastructure (TsENKI) – a federal space agency organ tasked the managing with Vostochny cosmodrome.

“Work with the rocket at the integration and testing complex now can not be conducted because the facility is not ready,” the spokesperson said in the report. “There are still imperfections in the construction.”

Good thing Putin has Syria to obscure any bad news coming from within Russia.

I Fink You Freaky, Teletubbies

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Max Fury Road

Cracker-jack job, mate! One of my favorite movies, mashed-up into a trailer with Fury Road

Many thanks to Ezequiel López.

Road Trip: Kepler 452b

NASA’s timed announcement yesterday got quite the bump from social media. It’s only one of 1,030 exoplanets, so let’s not get too excited.

NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”

The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet — of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030.

“On the 20th anniversary year of the discovery that proved other suns host planets, the Kepler exoplanet explorer has discovered a planet and star which most closely resemble the Earth and our Sun,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0.”

It’s also worth noting this planet is 1,400 light years away. Pluto, for comparison, is 4 light hours away. That’s why it took 4+ hours to send commands to the New Horizons spacecraft. So if we send a signal to Kepler 452b, it would take 1,400 years to get there.

To get to Kepler 452b at the same rate it took New Horizons to get to Pluto (10 years), it would take us approximately 30 million years. Ain’t nobody got time for that! The only way we could make this kind of trip is to be able to “fold space” or change dimensions. Heim Quantum Theory may help us get there by changing dimensions. Fascinating.

Two Launches in One Day!

Both Atlas V and Ariane 5 rockets went up recently. Both were equipped with rocketcams, but the weather was better at The Cape than in Kourou, so the Atlas launch’s lookback was really cool.

Pluto Fly-by

Pretty exciting, actually.


DIY Friday: Satellite Skate Park

Old C-band dishes do make good skate park features, which showed up on this Mashable piece on skateboarders who never made to pro.

Watch this documentary on skateboarding from Boston to New York.

11+ Years of Mars Roving in 8 Minutes

Brilliant time-lapse video covering NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover’s 26-mile trip over the last 11 years.