Archive for April, 2010

We Have A Problem

Friday, April 9th, 2010



 Just days after the SES-1 spacecraft arrived in Baikonur from Dulles, Intelsat lost control of Galaxy-15. Both spacecraft are based on Orbital’s Star-2 bus, which means the 4-week launch campaign’s schedule may slip.

The immediate impact for Intelsat is to transition customer to an in-orbit spare, Galaxy-12, from 123° West to 133° West. Sounds simeple, but it’s not. It is likely the engineers are concerned about future Orbital spacecraft. Galaxy-12 is also a Star-2 bus, so they won’t relax until they know what the root cause of the failure was. Same goes for all who have one in-orbit or being built. Sure, Indostar-1 had some problems, but that’s probably been fixed on subsequent spacecraft.

For SES, replacing the spacecraft co-located at 101° West, AMC-4 and AMC-2, is critical. With so much at stake, it would be prudent to delay the launch if there are doubts about future performance. They’ve got enough trouble as it is. Fix it before it flies.

But here’s the real, immediate operational challenge: how do you transition customers if you don’t control one of the spacecraft? Then, how do you get it out of the way so it doesn’t interfere with adjacent spacecraft? Take, for example, C-SPAN on AMC-11 at 131°W, operating on transponder 7, 3840V. The Fox Sports mux is on Galaxy-15 at 133°W, transponder 7, 3840V. Now we’ve got a real problem: same frequencies, and the operators on the ground can’t communicate with G15, so they can’t turn it off. Get my drift?

Both SES and Intelsat have a real problem on their hands. Something always happens in time for the NAB show in Las Vegas.

STS-131 Launched

Monday, April 5th, 2010



Nice launch this morning, and‘s photo selections (by Stephen Clark) are beautiful.

I know NASA was happy about it…

During a postlaunch news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the 6:21 a.m. EDT liftoff of space shuttle Discovery was hailed as a great success.

Calling the launch, "a great start to a great mission," Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, said the successful liftoff was a tribute to the team at Kennedy that got the vehicle ready to fly.

Mike Moses, chair of the Mission Management Team, said it was, "a spectacular launch and picture-perfect countdown." He outlined a few minor technical issues that were recorded, but that the spacecraft and crew were ready to start an action-packed mission.

Expressing his happiness that they were able to launch on the first attempt, Pete Nickolenko, STS-131 launch director, said he was proud of the teams that make such a difficult job look so easy.

Also on hand was Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency President Keiji Tachikawa, who noted that this will be the first time two Japanese astronauts will be in space at the same time, as Discovery’s Mission Specialist Naoko Yamazaki joins Expedition 23 crew member Soichi Noguchi for the STS-131 mission.

Discovery and crew will spend 13 days in space on their mission to the International Space Station.


Cool video, as always…



WBMSAT Satellite Industry News Bits 04/02/2010

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Gilat is engaged to deliver its SkyEdge II-based satelli8te network technology to support a border security program of an undisclosed Latin American country.
[UPI – 04/02/2010]

European Space Policy Institute to release fourth volume in series of publications evaluating how to achieve sustainable use of space by means of respecting fairness and responsibility.
[SatNews – 04/02/2010]

Fourth annual Military Satellites Summit April 27 – 28 in Tysons Corner, VA, is announced by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement.
[dBusinessNews – 04/02/2010]

Ocean Systems Engineering will provide a wide variety of services and support relating to satellite communications to the Marine Corps under $13.1 million order.
[Washington Technology – 04/02/2010]

ARINC becomes Distribution Partner for SwiftBroadband service from Inmarsat.
[SatNews – 04/01/2010].

Gantry for Russian Soyuz rocket at Arianespace facility in French Guiana takes shape.
[SatNews – 04/01/2010]

Bolivia signs contract with China for a $300 million communications satellite.
[Reuters – 04/01/2010]

Integral Systems gets support services contract in Asia for $3+ million.
[SatNews – 04/01/2010]

DirecTV to have four 3D channels beginning in June – ESPN, N3D, a 3D pay-per-view channel, and one on-demand 3D channel.
[SatNews – 04/01/2010]

China Satellite Communications profit jumps 26.9% in 2009.
[TMCnet – 04/01/2010]

Harris comes to 2010 NAB as market leader in Mobile TV, with more than 40 sales of ATSC Mobile DTV systems confirmed to date.
[SatNews – 04/01/2010]

Sencore to introduce its first DVB-S2 modulator.
[SatNews – 04/01/2010]

Scientists funded by Astrium unveil 30 Kg nanosatellite engineered to clear more than 5,000 tons of debris in low-Earth orbit.
[Satellite Today – 04/01/2010]

Frost & Sullivan report finds inadequate satellite bandwidth impacts world VSAT market by increasing service revenues, while causing a dip in sales of equipment or hardware.
[PR Newswire – 04/01/2010]

SpaceX activates International Space Station (ISS) communications system for the Dragon spacecraft, which is to begin ISS resupply missions starting in 2011.
[Space Travel – 03/31/2010]

Shaw Direct contracts with Telesat to acquire capacity on a new satellite to be available in late 2012.
[CNN Money – 03/31/2010]

Comtech Systems gets $34.5 million contract for telecommunications transmission equipment from a North African government.
[CNN Money – 03/31/2010]

Boeing explores collaboration with Indian Space Research Organization in area of communications satellites.
[Space Daily – 03/31/2010]

Astrium is commissioned by European Space Agency to build Sentinel-2B optical satellite.
[SatNews – 03/31/2010]

DigitalGlobe announces its content library contains more than one billion square kilometers of earth imagery, 33% of which is less than one year old.
[SatNews – 03/31/2010]

India’s GSLV rocket, powered by home-made cryogenic engine for the first time, is slated to launch the GSAT-4 experimental satellite April 15th.
[Space Travel – 03/31/2010]

Russia increases security for train rollout of Soyuz rocket for launch to the International Space Station, in aftermath of suicide bomb attacks.
[Space Daily – 03/31/2010]

Documents filed by FCC indicate that Harbinger Capital Partners intends to use its recent acquisition of satellite communications company Skyterra to build out a 4G network, competing withy cellular carriers.
[Business Week – 03/30/2010]

India is developing winged reusable rocket for launching objects into space.
[Space Travel – 03/30/2010]

Singapore to have first locally-built satellite in space by middle of this year – a 120 kg micro-satellite called the X-Sat
[Space Daily – 03/30/2010]

Avanti wins government contract extension in Northern Ireland.
[Satellite Today – 03/30/2010]

CryoSat-2 satellite to be launched April 8 in program led by UK  to monitor changes in ice cover at the poles.
[Phys-Org – 03/30/2010]

NASA awards contracts to eight aerospace firms for Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition III spacecraft and related services.
[SatNews – 03/30/2010]

Norsat wins network service contract worth $1.7 million from military group based in Europe.
[SatNews – 03/30/2010]

Teal Group Corp. revises upward its Worldwide Mission Model of future space payloads, indicating there are 2,229 space payloads proposed for launch to Earth or Lunar orbits, or deep space trajectories, from 2010 – 2029.
SatNews – 03/30/2010]

SES WORLD SKIES hosts Defense Information Systems Network connection point at Manassas VA media port, enhancing U.S. government access to WORLD SKIES bandwidth and global connectivity.
[SatNews – 03/30/2010]

SatMAX, a leading provider of non-line of sight satellite communications  equipment signs letter of intent to grant exclusive domestic marketing rights to AvStar Aviation Group.
[CNN Money – 03/29/2010]

U.S. Air Force could transfer some Atlas and Delta rocket missions from Florida to California and assign U.S. military payloads to specific boosters closer to launch in effort in improve efficiencies in launch manifests.
[Space Flight Now – 03/29/2010]

Northrup Grumman stops some work on next generation of U.S. weather satellites as officials decide how to proceed under Obama administration’s decision to terminate and divide program among three government agencies.
[Spaceflight Now – 03/29/2010]

Russia Eyes bigger slice of international space market, planning to build a new space center.
[Space Daily – 03/29/2010]

AT&T and Verizon Wireless criticize FCC decision to require SkyTerra to seek FCC approval before leasing capacity to the two largest wireless providers.
[Business Week – 03/29/2010]

Globe Wireless enters agreement to supply and install two FleetBroadband satellite terminals per ship aboard approximately 350 Anlo Eastern Ship Management vessels.
[SatNews – 03/29/2010]

KVH Industries TracPhone and miniVSAT broadband systems to be installed on vessels of DSD Shipping of Norway.
[SatNews – 03/29/2010]

Arianespace Ariane 5 launch postponed several days to allow replacement of part in a launcher subsystem that caused an anomaly.
[SatNews – 03/28/2010]

Cape Canaveral new $500 million rocket launch tower unused, with Ares 1 rocket and entire Constellation program cancelled by the Obama administration.
[Space Travel – 03/28/2010]

Space shuttle Discovery to launch April 5 for 13 day mission in fourth-to-last shuttle launch.
[Discover Magazine – 03/28/2010]

U.S., Air Force responds to Iridium’s call to put hosted payloads, experiments, and sensors on the company’s next-generation satellites.
[Space Flight Now – 03/27/2010]

Air Force flight tests validate two-and-a-half year effort , successfully accessing the high-capacity Ka-band portion of the new WGS satellites from airborne 707 test bed.
[U.S. Air Force web site – 03/26/2010]

WBMSAT PS – Satellite Communications Consulting Services


DIY Friday: Steampunk Satellite Dish

Friday, April 2nd, 2010


We’ve done featured quite a few DIY projects that recycle or re-use old satellite antennas. From using an old Primestar reflector to improve WiFi, to the wireless Internet cantenna, to more physical structures such as this BUD gazebo and the ever-popular solar cooker. Not mention one for the birds.

Today, you’re on your own with the steampunk satellite dish. We’re inspired by work commissioned by Telstra in Australia and created by Martin Dolan and the mArty Gallery, near Melbourne.



Look around your shop for old pipe and things parabolic, and have at it!

Australia. Steampunk. I’m thinking Mad Max, aren’t you?


50 Years of Tracking Weather From Space

Thursday, April 1st, 2010



Nice piece in today’s Star-Ledger, marking the 50th anniversary of the TIROS spacecraft, designed and built by RCA Astro-Electronics in East Windsor, NJ:

WALL — It didn’t get the respect of Sputnik or a hit song like Telstar, but 50 years ago today TIROS redefined the space race.

For the 78 days it functioned, this engineering marvel proved America could not only put a satellite into outer space but — in a giant leap beyond the Soviet satellites — take pictures once it got there.

"It was huge. Massive. It not only did radically change the study of meteorology, but it gave us the upper hand in the Cold War by showing the Russians we could spy on them from outer space," said historian Fred Carl. "How cool is that?"

Way cool. And impossible without New Jersey’s contribution, which may be why the state appears to be the only place celebrating TIROS’s big anniversary, according to NASA officials.
TIROS-satellite2.jpgPhoto by Carolyn Russo/NASMIn 1960, TIROS I became the world’s first successful imaging weather satellite. Nine more TIROS series spacecraft followed, and they revolutionized weather monitoring and prediction. This prototype of TIROS I and II was used for ground testing.
Granted, the festivities are not exactly on par with Columbus Day.

In Princeton, the party will start Saturday with a program featuring some of the scientists who worked at RCA Astro-Electronics in East Windsor, the birthplace of TIROS. In Wall Township, home of the giant dish that received the first images sent back from TIROS, local officials will gather April 11 to sign an application to put the site on the National Historic Register.

In coming weeks there will be scholarly discussions about the future of space exploration and a dinner dance.

Primarily, however, the TIROS anniversary is an opportunity for aging scientists and engineers to reflect back on when they were there for the dawn of space travel.

"It was a time of national need and TIROS is about how one group of people responded to that need," said George Martch, 73, a retired RCA engineer who is organizing the Princeton celebration. "It’s hard now, when satellite photos are everywhere, to imagine what it was like back then before the technology existed.

"We were making it up as we went along."

Only 40 years earlier, meteorologists were still sending up kites to get weather readings, a practice that routinely caused electrocution. But World War II brought huge technological advances. By the 1950s, the basics were there.

Cameras had already gone briefly into space, attached on the backs of ballistic missiles. The military had put test satellites into brief orbit and NASA, the civilian space agency, was in place, although in its infancy.

The problem was putting it all together.

"What we had was mostly experimental. We had to adapt cameras and find a way to store images, since they could only be sent back under certain conditions," said Martch, adding they also developed a power source, antennas and a way to stabilize the orbit. "You have to remember, there really was no aerospace before this."

It was a time of flux, as systems, structural and electrical engineers, scientists, physicists, and experts in thermal dynamics and propulsion were switched back and forth, depending on the progress of each component, RCA retirees recalled.

There was drama along the way. They learned electronics will fry when subjected to the wrong pressure in a vacuum chamber. There were heated theoretical battles and even romance among two RCA scientists who later married.

The result looked like a giant hatbox and weighed less than a defensive lineman. It was aluminum and stainless steel and covered with 9,200 solar cells.

Launched April 1, 1960, out of Cape Canerval Florida, it stayed in orbit by spinning like a top, traveled 18,000 mph and could circle the earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of about 450 miles.

It was formally known as the Television Infra-Red Observation Satellite and shot 22,962 photographs before a fatal power failure ended its mission.

TIROS was the first satellite to publicly take photos of the earth, although there was a secret project launched by the U.S. military a year earlier. However, only TIROS could send photos back to Earth in real time.

The "Eye in the Sky," as TIROS was also called, needed a way to phone home, and that is where Camp Evans in Monmouth County came in.

The former property of telegraph pioneer Marconi had been absorbed by RCA. It was later sold to the military and the Signal Corps built a radar laboratory there during World War II, said Carl, a former science teacher who is leading a campaign to preserve the site.

A giant receiver that was assembled at Camp Evans, where it still exists. Minutes after TIROS sent back its first picture, it was on a jet to Washington and hand-delivered to President Eisenhower. He sent copies to the Russians and the Chinese as a "gesture of goodwill," noting TIROS busily was taking photos of both countries.

Kicking a little Communist butt at the height of the Cold War was only a side benefit of TIROS. Its real accomplishment came nine days into orbit, when it sent back a photograph of a curious cloud formation with a hole in the middle.

Planes were dispatched to the photo location, in one of the "silent spots" in the South Atlantic where it was formerly impossible to take weather readings. The "hole" was a nascent tropical storm.

Hurricane tracking was born.

"Solar cells, tape recorders, transistor tubes, phone cameras. They all are directly related to TIROS," said Carl. "But with storm tracking, TIROS is responsible for saving millions of lives, yet few people have ever heard of it. Don’t you think it’s time that changed?

The back-up can be found at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The tracking antenna on Marconi Road in Wall, N.J.? Still working…


Our friends at NOAA are marking the anniversary as well…

Fifty years ago today, the world’s first weather satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and opened a new and exciting dimension in weather forecasting. Top leaders from NOAA and NASA hailed the milestone as an example of their agencies’ strong partnership and commitment to flying the best satellites today and beyond.

The first image from the satellite, known as TIROS-1 (Television Infrared Observation Satellite), was a fuzzy picture of thick bands and clusters of clouds over the United States. An image captured a few days later revealed a typhoon about a 1,000 miles east of Australia. TIROS-1, a polar-orbiting satellite, weighed 270 pounds and carried two cameras and two video recorders. Though the satellite only lasted 78 days, its impact is still visible today.

“This satellite forever changed weather forecasting,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Since TIROS-1, meteorologists have far greater information about severe weather and can issue more accurate forecasts and warnings that save lives and protect property.”

"TIROS-1 started the satellite observations and interagency collaborations that produced vast improvements in weather forecasts," said NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. "It also laid the foundation for our current global view of Earth that underlies all of climate research and the field of Earth system science."

Throughout the 1960s, each TIROS spacecraft carried increasingly advanced instruments and technology. By 1965, meteorologists combined 450 TIROS images into the first global view of the world’s weather.



SES To Acquire Eutelsat

Thursday, April 1st, 2010



In a EUR13 billion deal that’s been brewing for years, Luxembourg-based SES (NYSE Euronext Paris and Luxembourg Stock Exchange: SESG) is acquiring Paris-based Eutelsat (NYSE Euronext Paris: ETL) to preserve its EBITDA of 80%. The deal was announced after the SES Annual General Meeting, and may be approved as early as next week in Annecy. The deal is more than twice Eutelsat’s market cap.

SES aims to be the employer of choice in the industry. The company identifies, secures, engages, develops and retains the best talent to further expand its technological reach and business objectives. With this acquisition, we have struck our target and will thus be the only employer in the industry — at least in Europe.

As a result of the merger, the satellite fleet will be renamed HOT ASS and shall henceforth be abbreviated as  "HA." The combined companies’ 2,200-headcount is expected to remain the same.

No pesky DoJ or DoD review is requited, and the EU Competition Directorate is expected to approve the acquisition by the end of April…

Ceci est une bonne idée! Competition Policy is basically applying rules to make sure that companies compete with each other and, in order to sell their products, innovate and offer good prices to consumers. How can we not approve such an ingenious deal? Enough of this senseless rivalry. The EU wants better prices for all and full employment in the satellite business.

Meanwhile, the agreement with Yahsat for a DTH service in the Middle East is expected to benefit from hundreds of new "adult" channels and will be renamed YAH BABY!


 Happy April Fool’s Day. Yeah, we’ll come up with something better next year. Google’s name change to Topeka wins. Brilliant.