Archive for April, 2009

WGS-2 Launch Update

Monday, April 6th, 2009


Nice Atlas V launch by ULA:

"ULA congratulates the Air Force and our mission partners on the successful launch of WGS-2,” said James Bell, ULA WGS Mission Manager. “ULA is proud of its continuing role of providing reliable assured access to space for the Air Force’s critical missions. WGS is a force multiplier for our troops in the field who defend America’s freedom everyday.”

The WGS-2 mission is the second installment of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system. The WGS satellites are important elements of a new high-capacity satellite communications system providing enhanced communications capabilities to America’s troops in the field for the next decade and beyond. WGS enables more robust and flexible execution of Command and Control, Communications Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), as well as battle management and combat support information functions. WGS-2 augments the existing service of the WGS-1 satellite by providing additional information broadcast capabilities.

This mission was launched by an Atlas V 421 configuration, which uses a 4-meter diameter payload fairing, two solid rocket motors, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage attached to a single common core booster powered by the RD-180 engine. This was the 15th launch in Atlas V program history. The 14 previous Atlas V launches included two missions for NASA, two for the United States Air Force, three for the National Reconnaissance Office and seven for commercial customers. 


Satellite News Bits

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

A summary from Bill McDonald (WBMSAT PS – Satellite Communications Consulting Services)…

North Korea steps up threats to retaliate if Japan or Tokyo shoots down the rocket North Korea says will be used to launch a communications satellite – Obama warns the liftoff would be a "provocative act" that would generate a U.N. Security Council response.
[The Washington Post – 04/03/2009]

Rockwell Collins to acquire DataPath Inc., a Georgia company that designs, integrates, manages, and deploys satellite communications systems for military and commercial customers.
[Trading Markets – 04/03/2009]

SES AMERICOM-NEW SKIES announces that NSS-9 enters commercial operation, with all traffic transferred from NSS-5.
SatNews –  04/03/2009] 

Argentinian operator Velconet S.A. initiates nationwide upgrade of ViaSat LinkStar system to DVB-S2 with Adaptive Coding and Modulation and AcceleNet compression and acceleration to increase data rates and improve bandwidth efficiency.
[SatNews – 04/03/2009]

As North Korea moves forward with launch plans, U.S. military officials say United States needs to beef up its "space situational awareness," improving data about what is going on in space, monitoring satellites and debris.
[Reuters UK – 04/02/2009]

RapidEye’s imagery partners with Moscow based Sovzond, who will be only distributor of RapidEye imagery for markets in Russia and a number of other former Soviet states.
[SatNews – 04/02/2009]

BB Sat offically launches satellite broadband service in Japan.
[Satellite Today – 04/02/2009]

GMV provides active ground systems support for European Space Agency’s GOCE mission.
[SatNews – 04/02/2009]

SES ASTRA announces German pay-TV channel Premiere has contracted 1 1/2 additional expand HD offerings.
[SatNews – 04/02/2009]

Iridium-based critical safety communications for air carriers on transoceanic flights nearing approval as Radio-Technical Commission for Aeronautics finalizes key documents.
[SatNews – 04/02/2009]

SES AMERICOM-NEW SKIES announces five-year distribution agreement with Gulfcom to use AMC-3 transponder for program distribution in Caribbean.
[SatNews – 04/02/2009]

Infineon, Sky Terra, and TerreStar unveil multi-standard mobile platform based on Infineon’s Software-Defined-Radio technology.
[Satellite Today – 04/02/2009]

U.S. satellite makers may get a "bailout" of their own, as lawmakers revisit export controls which have hampered manufacturers since the Clinton administration and are blamed for American satellite exports having declined from 90% world market share to 50%.
[New York Times – 04/01/2009]

Globecast signs five transponder lease renewal with Eutelsat for broadcasting in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
[Satellite Today – 04/01/2009]

Inmarsat to buy 19% stake in Skywave Mobile Communications of Ottowa, Canada, acquiring assests relating to the GlobalWave satellite low data rate products and services business.
[Wall Street Journal – 04/01/2009]

Alcatel-Lucent to develop satellite base station sub-systems for SkyTerra and TerraStar to support 3G satellite communications.
[EarthTimes – 04/01/2009]

North Korea threatens to shoot down U.S. spy planes sent to spy on Taepodong-2  missile launch site which it maintains will be used to launch a commercial satellite – U.S. and Japan believe it is meant as a long-range missile test and promise robust diplomatic response.
[ – 04/01/2009]

U.S. space industry not yet seeing economic slowdown, as industry boosts revenues by $6b to $257b in 2008, up from $187b three years ago.
[Reuters – 03/31/2009]

SES Astra signs Croatian Broadcasting Deal with CME Group.
[Satellite Today – 03/31/2009]

SpaceX schedules Falcon 1 Flight 5 launch window for April 20.
[Satellite Today – 03/31/2009]

Global Satellite launches MCG-101, an intelligent Iridium PBX offering versatile iridium communications system for offices, remote locations, military, aircraft, oil and gas, mining, and marine applications.
[SatNews – 03/31/2009]

States not spending grant money intended to improve ability of emergency workers to talk to each other, 18 months after grants authorized.
[Kansas City Star – 03/30/2009]

Globecomm Systems Inc. launches service for GCI Village cellular network for remote villages across Alaska connected by satellite.
[Wireless Business Technology – 03/30/2009]

Stratos executes new distribution contacts with Inmarsat.
[Fox Business – 03/30/2009]

Global Supervisory, Control and Data Acquisition as well as Machine-to-Machine services, largely recession proof, depend on satellite platforms to provide reliable and ubiquitous communications in far-flung areas.
[NSR Report – May 2009}

DIY Friday: Lawnmower Tune-up

Friday, April 3rd, 2009


The lunatic is on the grass — and the grass is getting greener every day here in the northeast U.S. It won’t be long before we need to start mowing it. Got that lawnmower tuned-up? In this economy, you better consider doing it yourself.

Popular Mechanics is one source that’s always helpful:

Seasonal maintenance consists largely of cleaning and lubricating. Dirt on the inside is abrasive, while dirt on the outside traps heat–both increase wear and shorten service life. To avoid these problems, follow this four-step program, further detailed in the diagrams on the following pages.

1. Clean the underside of the deck whenever you see windrows of grass clippings on the lawn. These indicate a clogged deck.

2. Sharpen the blade at least once a year. A dull blade tears the grass instead of cutting it.

3. Install a new spark plug every year. A fouled plug and stale gas are the two leading causes of hard starts.

4. Change the oil and filter, and clean the fuel tank at least once a year.


Too much trouble? Bring it to the University of Delaware annual push mower tune-up:

Looking to save a little money on your lawn care in these tight financial times? The University of Delaware’s Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity for agriculture, the Society of Automotive Engineers Club and the Engineering Technology Club are once again offering a push lawn mower tune-up service on April 17-18, rain or shine.

Since 2000, this annual event has serviced more than 4,000 push mowers.

The tune-up — provided by trained students and alumni members of the clubs — includes an oil change, spark plug replacement, air filter check and cleaning, blade sharpening, and power washing. The cost is $35, the same as it has been for the past four years.

Drop off times are from 2 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 17, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 18.

Customers can pick up their mowers on Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. for the first 300 mowers taken on Friday, or on Sunday, April 19, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., for the remaining mowers. All mowers must be picked up by 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Lawnmowers — push lawnmowers only; no riding mowers — may be dropped off and picked up in the parking lot behind Worrilow and Townsend halls on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus at 531 South College Avenue, across from the Chrysler Plant, just north of the Fred Rust Ice Arena. Look for signs for the tune-up.


Tired of pushing that thing around or riding a boring little tractor for hours? Get a robot, like the $2,200+ Ambrogio L50.  Or build one yourself:


Tractor too slow? Modify it with a jet engine:


I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

Space Control

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009



Taxpayers for Common Sense released their "Space Security Database" the other day and some of the numbers are astounding.

Space is crucial to our national security, and we’ve got the skyrocketing budgets to prove it. The United States spends billions on military space programs each year, spread out over the military services as well as myriad offices and agencies. Yet there is no central authority for tracking defense-related space spending, either within the Department of Defense (DOD) or across other federal agencies that provide satellites, sensors and services for use in our national defense.

Without this birds-eye view on spending, those who determine our space and national security policy—in the White House, on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon—do not have a crucial tool for setting spending priorities. Priorities are necessary to make sure our military is supported and taxpayers’ dollars well spent. A transparent, accountable budget is particularly vital in light of the troubled history of space acquisitions, which has resulted in major programs running so far over budget and behind schedule that many of them still have not deployed after many years and billions of dollars.

Now Taxpayers for Common Sense has for the first time tracked military-related space spending across the federal government. Among our findings:

  • U.S. spending on space programs used for national security is steadily rising, jumping more than 40 percent between Fiscal Years 2005 and 2009;
  • More than 20 percent of military-related space spending now comes from agencies outside DOD, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA);
  • Spending on “space control,” the mission area that protects U.S. space assets, increased 37 percent over the past five years to nearly $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2009. This is notable because of the military’s recent empowerment of space control programs to destroy threatening assets.
  • Space situational awareness programs—an element of space control benefiting from many Congressional earmarks in spending bills—have jumped by 35 percent to $560 million.
  • Space and space-related missile defense programs benefit significantly from earmarks, attracting at least 75 earmarks worth $221 million in Fiscal Year 2008 alone.
  • Twelve programs have seen cost growth of more than 200 percent in the past five years, particularly space control programs such as the Air Force’s Space Control Technologies program element (570 percent) and the Army’s Ground-Based Space Control Systems project (650 percent).

We’ve blogged about many of these government programs. Probably because there’s so much at stake — and the technology is really cool. Here’s their "Top 5" of worst offenders (download the PDF):

1) Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)
SBIRS was infamously dubbed “a case study for how not to execute a space program” by DOD’s Defense Science Review Board.8 Intended to replace DOD’s decades-old system tf infrared surveillance sensors that warn of incoming missiles , SBIRS was supposed to consist of four operational satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit GEO), sensors on two classified DOD satellites in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO), and a ground-based relay station to track missile launches. The Air Force conceived the program in 1994, and it began in earnest with a $2.16 billion contract to Lockheed-Martin in 1996. The next 12 years saw numerous program restructurings, four Nunn-McCurdy breaches and a 175% cost jump. The program is now seven years behind schedule, and the first satellite has yet to

2) National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)
A joint project between the Defense Department, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NPOESS will circle the globe picking up weather and climate data with an array of sensors carried on its chassis . NPOESS was intended to save money by replacing two similar systems operated separately by the Air Force and NOAA. Unfortunately, construction and testing bungles slowed development so significantly that 14 years later, the cost of the program has doubled from $6.5 to $13.5 billion for four instead of six satellites and the initial launch has moved back 39 months to

3) Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) Satellites
The AEHF satellite system was intended to upgrade the Air Force’s Milstar II satellite communications system, ramping up speed and preventing enemies from jamming its signals. AEHF will itself be replaced by the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) currently under development, although how and when is still an open question. The program was originally comprised of five satellites, but the fourth and fifth were cut in December 2002 under the assumption that the first TSAT satellite would be ready early enough to make the system work (see below). When TSAT’s schedule began to slip, Congress asked the Air Force to fund a fourth satellite in 2009. Unfortunately, it turns out the fourth satellite will likely cost more than twice as much as the third because of the four-year gap in production and the fact that some of the components are no longer manufactured.

4) Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)
The EELV program began in December of 1996 as an industry partnership aimed at replacing current families of launch vehicles with a newer, more economical launch program. The Air Force contracted with Lockheed Martin and Boeing, who developed the Atlas V and Delta IV expendable launch vehicles, respectively. The two companies gave the Air Force overly optimistic cost estimates based on assumed growth in the commercial launch sector. But the ironic combination of a global recession with the extended life span of successful satellite designs caused a steep dive in launches in the late nineties, and the Air Force paid.

5) Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT)
The Air Force’s Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) is slated to become the single most expensive DOD space program over the next decade. TSAT will replace the AEHF system currently under development with five satellites intended to provide the military with vastly expanded communications capabilities with enough bandwidth and data to allow soldiers to view videos and pictures of activity within seconds. The system hasn’t yet formally entered the development phase and has already seen a nine-year slip in the launch of its first satellite to 2019.

Seems the DoD ought to have a top manager whose sole responsibility is "space situational awareness." Clearly, this policy vacuum needs to be filled, and President Obama’s looking into space

There may be plenty of room in space, but there far less room in the Federal budget for this kind of spend.


Name NASA’s Node 3 for the ISS

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009


Apparently, most people wrote in with the name "Colbert," and generated more than 40,000 votes than NASA’s suggested "Serenity." It’s not news, it’s CNN:

Fans of "The Colbert Report" made "Colbert" the No. 1 submission in a NASA contest to name a new wing of the international space station.

Still, NASA reserves the right to name the wing of the space station and says it will not make a final decision on the matter until next month.

"Colbert" pulled in 230,539 of the more than 1.1 million submissions in the contest, according to NASA spokesman John Yembrick. Video Watch how Colbert urged his viewers to vote »

NASA’s suggestion for the wing, "Serenity," came in second, with slightly more than 190,000 votes, he said.

Yembrick said NASA had not yet decided what to name Node 3 — a connecting module and its cupola — that will be installed on the space station.

He said NASA would likely put "Colbert" a "little higher" in the space agency’s consideration because of the high number of submissions but emphasized that the decision would likely not be made until next month.

The contest rules say NASA reserves the right to "ultimately select a name in accordance with the best interests of the agency. … Such name may not necessarily be one which is on the list of voted-on candidate names."

Other rooms on the space station are named Unity, Harmony and Destiny.


More from the Houston Chronicle:

Didn’t NASA realize that the Colbert Nation pounces on any opportunity to vote for the star of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report when a naming contest is in the works?

The name “Colbert” won the agency’s online contest to name a new room on the International Space Station. It’s not the first victory for Stephen Colbert, although it’s not yet known whether NASA will honor the write-in campaign.

Other namesakes (some were bestowed without a vote) include:

• Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle: Saginaw Spirit minor-league hockey team mascot in Michigan.

• Stephen Jr.: Bald eagle born at the San Francisco Zoo.

• Stelephant Colbert: Elephant seal that roams near Santa Cruz, Calif.

• Stephanie Colburtle: Leatherback in the Great Turtle Race from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands.

• Aptostichus Stephencolberti: Species of trapdoor spider.

• Bridge over Danube: Colbert earned a you-win document in 2006 from Hungarian officials who then said the bridge could only be named after a deceased person. It is now called the Megyeri Bridge.

• Air Colbert: The Virgin America plane was christened a few weeks before Colbert and owner Richard Branson doused each other with water during an August 2007 meeting on The Colbert Report.

• The Colbert Report fans don’t always win. In a naming contest earlier this month for a park in St. Charles, Mo., Colbert Park came in second. The winner was Vogt Brothers Park, in honor of the land’s former owners. 


This is not an April Fool’s Day prank…