Archive for August, 2010

DIY Friday: Solar LED Navigation Lights

Friday, August 13th, 2010



Ahoy, rocket scientists. Got your boat out on the water? You’ll appreciate this project from Jim Harrington, via Sail World

A sailor and inventor who just eighteen months ago won a prestigious Premier’s Award from Loyalist College in Ontario Canada for his work in inventing a hydrogen assisted sailing boat, has come up with an idea for a set of do-it-yourself navigation lights for the bow.

While Sail-World couldn’t recommend these for crossing oceans, and we don’t know if they comply with rules for visibility from a distance, but for Jim’s use they have proved ideal.

With his previous record of achievement, one has to listen to this astro- and geo-physics and oceanographic design engineer, who, like many of us, likes ‘mucking about in boats’.

Here Jim describes how he was inspired to get creative about navigation lights, and then, below, the video describes in graphic detail just how to create these navigation lights for yourself.

The process is super-simple, using solar powered ‘garden lights’ that can be purchased from most hardware stores.

Jim describes:

‘Using solar powered LED garden lights, I have modified them for use on my sailboat as navigation lights. I found myself out on the water a few times at dusk with failing batteries or looking for my clamp on running lights and asked is there a simpler way.

The modification is very simple and easy to do by changing to ultra bright LEDs of the appropriate colour. What is nice is it is low cost, reliable, no special wiring of the boat system required and they come on by themselves as dusk deepens.

It costs about $25 or less to do your self. I liked what I did so much that I acquired a US provisional patent but individuals can copy it, no problem. 

Here’s the video…


Perseids Over Chickamauga

Friday, August 13th, 2010




Composite Perseids view on the night of Aug. 11, 2010, combined from 39 single station events over Chickamauga, Ga. (NASA/MSFC/D. Moser, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office) 

Thanks, Bill.

The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s debris. These bits of ice and dust — most over 1,000 years old — burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year. The Perseids can be seen all over the sky, but the best viewing opportunities will be across the northern hemisphere. Those with sharp eyes will see that the meteors radiate from the direction of the constellation Perseus.


Death Near Dillingham

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010




We were about to write about GCI‘s loss of Internet access for 35,000 users in Alaska, as their service on Galaxy-18 was about to be interfered with by G15, the world’s favorite zombie satellite.

As many as 35,000 people in rural Alaska may lose Internet access, long-distance phone service or both for hours at a time this week because of a "zombie" satellite that has wandered off course and is expected to scramble the signals of the Bush’s main telecommunications provider.

"Almost every single person out in rural Alaska uses one of those services somehow," said David Morris, spokesman for General Communication Inc.

GCI is airing radio ads, posting fliers and plans to send text messages to cell phone customers warning residents in roughly 100 communities — mainly in Western and Northern Alaska — of the potential outages.

The disruptions to GCI service are expected to begin Wednesday morning and continue until Saturday morning in blocks of time that will last 90 minutes to 5 1/2 hours, mostly in the morning and at night.

Picture the YouTube droughts. The silent cell phones and unanswered e-mails. Virtual "FarmVille" gardens withering and neglected on Facebook.

For Gordon Brower Jr., the 19-year-old son of a whaling captain, the outages mean exile from the online battlefields of what he calls Barrow’s favorite Xbox game — "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2."

"It makes me a couch potato anyways," Brower said.

Instead, we hear news of a deadly plane crash near Dillingham, AK. On board the aircraft, owned by GCI, was former Senator Ted Stevens and former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe. Five of the nine people were killed, and KTUU is reporting that one of them was indeed Ted Stevens…

Dave Dittman, a former aide and longtime family friend of former Sen. Ted Stevens, says Stevens was killed in a plane crash near Dillingham Monday night. Dittman says he received a call overnight Monday that said the former senator was dead, but no official confirmation has been made.

Nine people were on board, including former NASA Chief Sean O’Keefe. Five people were killed in the crash, but other identities were not known, nor are the conditions of the survivors.

GCI released a statement Tuesday morning that confirmed it owned the plane that went down, but did not confirm or deny any fatalities.

Late through the night rescue crews were battling bad weather conditions to reach the scene, where Good Samaritans had already arrived and were providing medical assistance, said Air National Guard spokesperson Maj. Guy Hayes.

A military C-130 and a Pave Hawk helicopter were waiting in Dillingham for the weather to break and reached the site just after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The Air Guard received the call about the crash 17 miles north of Dillingham at about 7 p.m. Monday night.

Many will remember Mr. Stevens for what he did for Alaska while he served in the U.S. Senate. I’ll always remember him from the time I worked for the Smithsonian. Sen. Stevens, a harsh critic of the Enola Gay exhibit, lashed out at Smithsonian Secretary Adams in 1992: "I’m going to get people to help me make sense of what you’re saying."

Stevens received the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying behind enemy lines, the Air Medal, and the Yuan Hai Medal awarded by the Chinese Nationalist government. Peace.



Virgin Galactic Spaceship 2

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Nice flight footage via Wired


Hmm, a six-minute flight will cost $200,000? Somebody’s ready to pay.


Make Sure It Goes

Monday, August 9th, 2010



How do they do it? How does the Pentagon make absolutely sure their space missions go as planned?

Well, they pay for it. Take, for example, the good people at Aerospace Corp. in El Segundo, CA. They’re part of every major mission and they make sure it goes.

Nice piece by W.J. Hennigan of the LA Times on the company…

 Aerospace also helps the Air Force monitor rocket launches. Engineers pore over data and the fine print to make sure everything is in its right place. A misplaced decimal point can turn billions of dollars’ worth of intricate hardware into blazing debris in just a fraction of a second.

The company’s 41-acre campus sits across the street from Los Angeles Air Force Base, which oversees military rocket development. The two complexes are linked by a 135-foot bridge over El Segundo Boulevard.

Aerospace recently built a $66 million building with a space launch center in the basement. Resembling NASA’s mission control center in Houston, the facility allows Aerospace engineers to keep real-time tabs on rocket launches at Cape Canaveral, Fla., or California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. They monitor incoming data looking for anomalies and can order the launch to be scrubbed if there are any.

Since Aerospace has kept a close watch, the Pentagon has had a string of 65 consecutive successful launches stretching back to 1999.

"That kind of reliability is unprecedented," said Gary Payton, who retired in July as deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs.

It may cost $20 million to $30 million more in launch costs for the type of "mission assurance" that Aerospace provides, but it’s well worth it, he said. "I would like to save money on a launch. But if the launch vehicle fails, I splash a $2 billion satellite."

On the commercial side, where customers may not be ready to pay for this kind of help, you may not see such a high mission success rate.

WBMSAT Satellite Industry News Bits 08/06/2010

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Thales Alenia Space delivers Globalstar next-gen satellite to Arianspace.

[Satellite Today – 08/09/2010]


Arianespace wins contracts to launch the Intelsat 20 satellite and the Indian GSat-10 satellite.

[Satellite Today – 08/09/2010]


Boeing gets contract worth about $600M to build satellites for Inmarsat.

[L.A. Times – 08/07/2010]


SES WORLD SKIES SES-2 satellite will host U.S. Air Force Infrared Payload sensor.

[Market Watch – 08/05/2010]


O3b chooses Europe Media Port in Greece to be first provider of Gateway Teleport services for O3b’s global network.

[SatNews – 08/05/2010]


Egypt launches its third satellite, Nilesat-201, expected to intensify media battle for Middle Easterners.

[UPI – 08/05/2010]


Eumetsat images reveal widespread smoke over Russia from recent wildfires.

[Satnews – 08/05/2010]


Ukraine postpones delivery of Taurus-II launch vehicle’s first stage to U.S.for "technical reasons."

[Space Daily – 08/05/2010]


Indian Space Research Organization selects Arianespace to launch its GSAT 10 communications satellite in 2012.

[SatNews – 08/05/2010]




TerreSAR-X images acquired over the Gulf of Mexico 9 July 2010 showing the oil spill from the Deep Horizon catastrophe resemble an artist’s work.

[Space Daily – 08/04/2010]


Qwest buyer, CenturyLink, switches from Dish Network to DirecTV for its voice, video, and internet bundles.

[Business Journals – 08/03/2010]


Galaxy 15 continues its threatening journey, expected to pass near Galaxy 18 August 11th through 14th, possibly interfering with service provided to Alaska customers by GCI.

[the Dutch Harbor Fisherman – 08/03/2010]


China launches its fifth satellite, GPS satellite BeiDou-2, on a chang Zheng-3A (Long March) vehicle.

[International Business Times – 08/01/2010]


WBMSAT PS satellite communications consulting services


Air Traffic From Space

Friday, August 6th, 2010


This is a 24 hour observation of all of the large aircraft flights in the world, condensed down to 1:11. From space we look like a bee hive of activity. What you will see is a video showing air traffic around the world for 24 hours taken from a satellite. You won’t believe this! The yellow dots are airplanes in the sky during a 24 hour period. Stay with the picture. You will see the light of the day moving from the east to the west, as the Earth spins on it’s axis. Also you will see the aircraft flow of traffic leaving the North American continent and traveling at night to arrive in the UK in the morning. Then you will see the flow changing leaving the UK in the morning and flying to the American continent in daylight. You can tell it was spring time in the north by the sun’s foot print over the planet. You could see that it didn’t set for long in the extreme north, and it didn’t quite rise in the extreme south. I have never seen this before. We are taught about the earth’s tilt and how it causes summer and winter, and we have had to imagine just what is going on. With this 24 hour observation of aircraft travel on the earth’s surface we get to see the daylight pattern move as well. Remember watch the day to night. Day is over in Australia when it starts.

African Spacecraft Launched

Thursday, August 5th, 2010


Another fine Ariane 5 launch from French Guiana, both variants of Thales-Alenia Space’s Spacebus 4000. The report, via Space Daily

 The 52nd launch of an Ariane 5, and the 38th successful mission in a row, clearly confirms the launcher’s reliability and availability. Arianespace’s launch Service and Solutions continue to set the global standard and guarantee independent access to space for all customers, including national and international space agencies, private firms and governments.

With this evening’s mission, Arianespace has now orbited six out of eleven commercial communications satellites launched worldwide since the beginning of the year, or more than half of the total. At the same time, Arianespace has signed nine new launch contracts for geostationary satellites to be orbited by Ariane 5, and five contracts for dedicated Soyuz launches, a new record.

NILESAT 201, based on a Spacebus 4000B2 platform, weighed nearly 3,200 kg at launch. Fitted with 24 Ku-band and four Ka-band transponders, it will provide broadband direct-to-home (DTH) television broadcast services to North Africa and the Middle East. It will be positioned at 7 degrees West and offers a design life exceeding 15 years.

RASCOM-QAF1R, based on a Spacebus 4000B3 platform, is a high-power satellite equipped with 12 Ku-band and eight C-band transponders. It weighed 3,050 kg at launch, and will offer end-of-life power of 6.6 kW. Positioned at 2.85 degrees East, its footprint will cover the entire African continent, as well as parts of Europe and the Middle East, with a design life of 15 years. It will provide communications services in rural parts of Africa, including long-distance domestic and international links, direct TV broadcasts and Internet access.

Given the lack of satcom capacity in Africa, they should fill up quickly. They may even get paid for it.