Archive for May, 2011

Cornell’s Cracker in Space

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

How small can a satellite get? The answer, my rocket scientist friend, in blowing in the solar wind. It’s not big or red, but it is from Cornell University

The thin, 1-inch-square chips, in development for three years in the lab of Mason Peck, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will be mounted to the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE-8) pallet, which will be attached to the space station, exposing them to the harsh conditions of space to see how they hold up and transmit data.

Although grapefruit-size satellites have been launched before, they have functioned much like larger satellites. The flight dynamics of a chip satellite are fundamentally different from these larger “CubeSats.”

“Their small size allows them to travel like space dust,” said Peck. “Blown by solar winds, they can ‘sail’ to distant locations without fuel. … We’re actually trying to create a new capability and build it from the ground up. … We want to learn what’s the bare minimum we can design for communication from space,” Peck said.

When the MISSE-8 panel is removed and returned to Earth in a few years, the survival of the prototypes will be assessed.

The trip to space is the result of a phone call about a year ago, when one of Peck’s colleagues called to ask if he had anything small that could be ready within a few weeks time to put on the MISSE-8 pallet, as a small patch of space had opened up.

“He didn’t know that we had been working on the satellite-on-a-chip program for a long time, and over the next week we put together these prototypes,” Peck said.

The three prototypes were built entirely by three Cornell students when they were undergraduates — Ryan Zhou ’10 and doctoral candidates Zac Manchester ’09 and Justin Atchison ’10.

The prototypes are physically identical, but each transmits differently. “They all emit at the same frequency … [but] they are different and distinct from each other in ways that we can recognize on the ground,” said Peck. “That’s very important because it’s a pathfinder for something we hope to do in the future. We want to launch a huge number of these things simultaneously but still sort out which is which.”

The current prototypes are mostly made of commercial parts, but Peck’s group has partnered with Draper Lab in Boston to work on making a more space-ready prototype.

“We’re seeing such an explosion in personal electronics … all these components are super high performance, and they have far outstripped what the aerospace industry has at its disposal,” said Peck, noting that these technologies were used on the small satellites.

Cornell, he added, plays a leading role in the field of chip satellites. “We are definitely the first to launch something, and we are the first to be looking at the flight dynamics as a way to enable new ways to explore space,” he said.

Watch the local news report on this “Sputnik on a chip” from Newschannel 9/WYSR-TV

STS-134 Launch: “Good Stuff”

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Endeavour lifted-off beautifully on its final mission. Commander Mark Kelly exchanged wedding bands with Rep. Gabby Giffords, just so she could wear one from “out of this world” upon his return.

Here’s the MECO (main engine cut-off) and separation…

In the report by Al Jazeera, Gabby was reported to have said “good stuff.”

WBMSAT Satellite Industry News Bits 05/13/2011

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Import-Export bank provides financing allowing Inmarsat to purchase Boeing satellites.
[SatNews – 05/14/2011]

At Global Space and Satellite Forum in Abu Dhabi, a call for an international space traffic management body.
[Gulf News – 05/14/2011]

Smart Communications lends Smart Link $-190 satellite phones and provides airtime to keep group in touch during 7-day trek through deep forest in Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park in the Phillipines.
[Phillipine Star – 05/14/2011]

Thaicom sees IPStar bandwidth business booming in first quarter.
[Satellite Today – 05/13/2011]

Astrotech wins $16.2M contract to fabricate, install, and test satellite Ground Support Equipment for U.S. government.
[SatNews – 05/13/2011]

Congressman Mike Turner successfully includes language in National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress in case of widespread interference with military’s use of GPS satellites.
[POB online – 05/13/2011]

Integral Systems chosen by SES to provide global geolocation services to help protect its global fleet of satellites from effects of radio frequency interference.
[SatNews – 05/13/2011]

Second-Generation Orbcomm satellites delayed until late 2011.
[Space News – 05/13/2011]

MDA selected by Thales Alenia Space to provide 486 high-performance Ka-band cross link and feeder link antennas for Iridium NEXT satellites.
[SatNews – 05/13/2011]

C-COM Satellite Systems receives its largest order in history for its iNetVu mobile satellite antenna systems from Telemann Communications Company, a reseller in Japan.
[TechZone360 – 05/13/2011]

National Broadband Network of Australia reaches agreement with Optus to provide Internet Satellite Services as part of its rollout.
[Broadband Expert – 05/13/2011]

Lockheed Martin wins $105M WIN-T contract to deliver on-the-move broadband networking capability using satellite and radio links.
[Satellite Spotlight – 05/12/2011]

Arianespace begins initial build-up at French Guiana Spaceport for its fourth heavy-lift mission of 2011, to launch BSAT-3c/JCSAT-110R and ASTRA 1N.
[SatNews – 05/12/2011]

Guardian Mobility intends to acquire Alakai Technologies in order to incorporate its data monitoring technology into Guardian’s open platform satellite communications and data management systems.
[Satellite Spotlight – 05/12/2011]

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency decides to send halt command to DAICHI infrared earth observation satellite after three weeks of unsuccessful attempts to communicate with it.
[SatNews – 05/12/2011]

Vizada adds VSAT capability to Universal Card prepaid voice service.
[Satellite Today – 05/12/2011]

iDirect VSAT platform chosen for Iridium Next ground-control upgrade.
[Satellite Today – 05/12/2011]

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft obtains first image of giant asteroid Vesta.
[SatNews – 05/12/2011]

Northrop Grumman and Applied Minds announce success of recent launch and orbit of a Mayflower test microsatellite.
[SatNews – 05/12/5011]

Israel’s Defense Ministry to invest millions in upgrading country’s space communication capabilities.
[Space News – 05/11/2011]

Florida’s governor and legislators commit more than $43M for growth of space industry in Florida.
[SatNews – 05/11/2011]

Northrop Grumman wins $372M Air Force contract to provide satellite antenna system for B-2 stealth bomber that will help it send and receive information up to 200 times faster than now.
[Business Week – 05/11/2011]

Pau Pyrenees in southern France becomes Europe’s first airport to use new EGNOS Safety-of-Life Service to guide aircraft in for landing using only this space-based navigation signal.
[SatNews – 05/11/2011]

Afcom Satellite Network deploys first dual mode Satellite/TETRA communications system for emergency response vehicle in Niger Delta.
[Business Wire – 05/11/2011]

Hughes deploys HX System broadband satellite networks for Microcom in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
[Satellite Today – 05/11/2011]

Russian Satellite Communications Company and Eutelsat announce signing of MOU to launch new satellite at 36 degrees East.
[Traders Huddle – 05/10/2011]

Arianespace’s third Ariane 5 mission enters final preparations, readying for May 19 launch of GSAT-8 and ST-2.
[SatNews – 05/10/2011]

Landsat images capture Memphis, Tennessee flooding.
[SatNews – 05/10/2011]

GlobeCast and JIB launch NHK World HD on Eurobird 1.
[Satellite Today – 05/10/2011]

RapidEye works with SST Software to integrate its precision farming maps into SST’s information management products and services.
[SatNews – 05/10/2011]

NewCom International develops Emergency Communications Response Network to provide instant, cost-effective contingency or back-up communications for government and law enforcement personnel.
[SatNews – 05/10/2011]

Sky Italia orders IP video solutions from T-VIPS.
[Satellite Today – 05/10/2011]

Syria blocks satellite phone communications.
[Financial Times (MENA) – 05/09/2011]

United Launch Alliance launches Space-Based Infrared System Satellite into orbit for U.S. Air Force.
[Military Aerospace – 05/09/2011]

Gilat wins Australia NBN satellite contract.
[Satellite Spotlight – 05/09/2011]

Mitec of Montreal sells satellite communications business to Quebec-based provider of microwave components.
[Montreal Gazette – 05/09/2011]

At Global Space and Satellite Forum, UAE’s DubaiSat-1 seen as part of focus on space technology as new common ground for organisations, governments, and individuals in the region and globally.
[AMEinfo – 05/09/2011]

Yahsat’s new satellite, Y1A, reaches orbital position.
[7DAYS – 05/09/2011]

Use of Ka-band along with L-band satellites with 400 narrow beams (planned Alphasat 1-XL by Inmarsat) and use of lighter materials allow very compact, lightweight satellite systems for the warfighter.
[Defense Systems – 05/09/2011]

DigitalGlobe cooperates with two German companies to provide new range of high quality 3D data maps.
[SatNews – 05/09/2011]

MDA signs multi-year contracts to supply oil field monitoring products utilizing advanced RADARSAT-2 surveillance capabilities covering entire Canadian oil field.
[SatNews – 05/09/2011]

U.S.-based Space Adventures offers to equip Soyuz launch vehicle with additional living space for eight-day commercial flights around the moon.
[SatNews – 05/09/2011]

Mercury Computer Systems to provide leading prime contractor with Ensemble and Echotek products for use in high-speed satellite communications system to transfer ISR data from UAVs to ground forces.
[SatNews – 05/09/2011]

Norsat satellite terminals used by U.S. military as part of relief efforts in Japan following earthquake and tsunami.
[SatNews – 05/09/2011]

Arianespace receives “keys” to Soyuz launch complex at Guiana Space Center from the European Space Agency.
[SatNews – 05/08/2011]

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo hits another milestone on way to beginning commercial operations in suborbital space.
[Satellite Spotlight – 05/06/2011]

WBMSAT PS satellite communications systems services

DIY Friday: X-Wing Fighter

Friday, May 13th, 2011

What is that made of? Looks like a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter made of…OFFICE SUPPLIES!

Yes, rocket scientists, it’s that time between Cinquo de Mayo and Memorial Day weekend. You’re in a party mood on Fridays and it’s too early to wear white. Make the day more productive with these common office supplies:

  • 1 chisel sharpie
  • 4 pen lids
  • 1 small pencil sharpener
  • 4 2″ brass fasteners
  • 2 medium binder clips
  • 2 large binder clips
  • 1 defunct memory chip or similar
  • 1 strip of staplesepoxy or hot glue (hot glue works a LOT better)
  • poster putty

Thank Instructables for this diversion and may The Forces be with you.

Americom Pie

Thursday, May 12th, 2011




A couple of years ago, the Americom name went away. That’s when owner SES S.A., having bought out GE’s stake via a creative asset & cash transaction, decided to combine Americom’s Princeton-based operation with the New Skies organization in Den Haag. All got mashed up into a thing called SES WorldSkies.  A dozen employees were let go, including yours truly. All of them in the U.S.

Recently, just prior to the Satellite 2011 show in Washington, a call went out from Betzder Schlass, headquarters for SES S.A., that the companies are slated for a re-org and “right sizing.” Yeah, heads were going to roll. Officially, it was not about “headcount,” only a justification of expenses. The networking among long-time U.S. employees immediately preceding this news was darkly startling: never have I seen more activity from former Americom colleagues on

Ironically, the corporate rattling started just as the Society of Satellite Professionals International announced their 12th induction into the SSPI Hall of Fame. Three of the seven inductees were past CEOs of SES Americom: Dean Olmstead, Ed Horowitz and Rob Bednarek.

To many “old pros,” this wasn’t really news. They’ve seen the writing on the wall and concluded there would be less and less people running the business in the U.S., with the possibility of shutting down the Princeton office once the lease expired in 2014.  Earlier this month, a couple of dozen people lost their jobs, the lion’s share in New Jersey. Some were happy to “get a package” and move on, others not so much.

The office in Den Haag will likely be shut down, with most of the jobs moving to Luxembourg. Princeton jobs will likely be moved to Washington. Remaining will be token offices to satisfy licensing requirements.

What does this say about the state of the satellite business in the U.S.? Are EchoStar and DirecTV the only true American commercial satellite operators? Both SES and Intelsat are based in Luxembourg, Telesat’s based in Ottawa, Canada, and Eutelsat’s in Paris. And they’ve all benefited from the U.S. government’s need for satellite bandwidth in the Middle East and Central Asia (Iraq & Afghanistan). How much of the profits from U.S. sources, commercial and government, are used toward economic benefit in the U.S.? Perhaps a few satellite builds with Space Systems/Loral and Orbital Sciences.

Makes for an interesting argument. Bring it.

CHIRP Baked, Ready to Shake

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

The Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP), set to piggy-back on the SES-2 spacecraft later this year, passed thermal vacuum chamber testing. According to DefPro, all is nominal and you can’t get any better than that in the space business…

SES-USG today announced that the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP) and its host spacecraft, SES-2, have completed thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing.
The experimental wide field-of-view sensor was designed by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. After integration onto the SES-2 spacecraft, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., the TVAC tests were conducted to demonstrate the sensor’s ability to withstand the space environment it will experience following the launch this August. A preliminary review of the test data indicates the CHIRP payload thermal performance was as expected.
Victoria Kennedy, CHIRP Program Manager at SES noted, “The TVAC was a key milestone for CHIRP, and puts the program well on track for the remaining environmental tests.”
The TVAC is one of a series of recent successful tests completed by the CHIRP program. In January, the payload was integrated onto the SES-2 spacecraft and passed what is known as the initial post-mate electrical checkout. Following this milestone, an integrated ground-to-payload test was completed where the sensor was commanded from SAIC’s Mission Analysis Center in Seal Beach, CA through Orbital’s Mission Operations Center in Dulles, VA. Through this process, payload data, including images and state-of-health data were successfully transmitted. This demonstration was a key risk reduction activity in the development and testing of the CHIRP Ground Segment.
Brent Armand, CHIRP Program Manager at Orbital Sciences Corporation remarked, “The team is very pleased with the payload performance during TVAC. We are all systems go as we look forward to the upcoming vibration test campaign and the near-term completion and delivery of the SES-2 spacecraft.”

To simulate the hot and cold extremes possible in space, the thermal vacuum chamber can reach temperatures in a 600-degree F range from 302° F all the way down to minus 310° F. Wow, the best we can do as humans on earth is the 300-degree Club in Antarctica.

What’s next? Vibration testing, which includes random vibration, base-drive modal and quasi-static load tests – all conducted while the spacecraft is mounted on a shaker.

This NASA video does an excellent job of explaining these critical tests…

Big Infrared

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Nice video edit from the launch service provider, United Launch Alliance. The payload, an interesting missile defense spacecraft. The report, via Aviation Week

Sbirs GEO-1 is based on Lockheed Martin’s A2100 satellite bus and carries two payloads capable of collecting in the short- and mid-wave infrared (IR) bands, as well as one “wider, more open shortwave band” that can “see through to the ground,” Jeff Smith, Lockheed Martin Sbirs program manager told Aviation Week late last year. One of the payloads is a scanning IR detector. It is designed with shorter revisit times than those offered by DSP, which operates using a spinning scanner.

Additionally, Sbirs GEO-1 will have a staring sensor that can focus on different geographical areas than the scanner. The Air Force currently hopes to buy six Sbirs satellites.

Sbirs GEO-1 vehicle separation from the Atlas V’s Centaur upper stage took place 43 min. into the flight. At that point, the spacecraft was at 100 nm altitude heading for an apogee altitude of 19,323 nm.

A series of six liquid apogee engine burns are planned over nine days to reach a geosynchronous orbit slot 22,000 mi. over the Earth for initial checkout and operations, says Lt. Col. Ryan Umstattd, an Air Force Sbirs official. At this point, the satellite will deploy its light shade (designed to protect the sensor payload), antennas and payload doors, he says.

Thirty-five days after launch, officials expect to turn the IR payloads on and begin transmitting raw data from the satellite. Full integrated tactical warning and attack assessment certification, allowing the satellite to officially tip missile defenses in the event of a threat, is expected within 18 months of launch.

More about the system here.

WBMSAT Satellite Industry News Bits May 6, 2011

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Spectacular light show over Russia’s Ural mountains not Aurora Borealis or
UFO, but a Russian military rocket launching a military communications
[Mail Online – 05/06/2011]

U.S. to finance Azerbaijan’s first communications satellite, AzerSat, from
Orbital, despite objections from some U.S.-based Armenian groups that it could
be used for military purposes.
[eurasianet – 05/06/2011]

Hughes Communications adds 613,000 satellite broadband subscribers in first
quarter, and credits governments broadband stimulus package for much of the
[Space News – 05/06/2011]

Telesat CEO silent on acquisition rumors during first quarter report.
[Satellite Today – 05/06/2011]

NASA Earth Observatory images created using Landsat data from US Geological
Survey illustrate extensive Mississippi River flooding.
[SatNews – 05/06/2011]

Gilat Satellite Networks to initiate hubs and VSATs in Australia under new
contract with Optus Networks Pty Limited.
[SatNews – 05/06/2011]

OmniGlobe EMEA assets acquired by satellite communications start-up iSat.
[Satellite Today – 05/06/2011]

Slovenia National TV renews broadcast relationship with Eutelsat with new
10-year contract for the Hot Bird neighbourhood.
[PR Newswire – 05/06/2011]

Data gathered by the Gravity Probe B satellite during 16 month mission
confirms two previously unproven subtle physical affects predicted by
Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
[SatNews – 05/06/2011]

U.S. Air Force’s GEO-1 SBIRS satellite scheduled for launch May 6 is delayed
due to weather.
[Aviation Week – 05/06/2011]

BGAN from Stratos Connectivity plays vital role in expanding archaeological
study in remote Mongolia.
[PR Newswire – 05/05/2011]

Satellites made Osama bin Laden raid possible.
[Spaceflight Now – 05/05/2011]

Russian Meridian series military communications satellite is placed in orbit
aboard a Soyuz-2.1a rocket with a Fregat booster.
[RIA NOVOSTI – 05/05/2011]

Newtec is awarded acclaimed Trends Gazellen award.
[SatNews – 05/05/2011]

Mercury Computer Systems selected to deliver multiple high-speed satellite
communications subsystems for transferring ISR data from UAVs to ground forces.
[Bradenton – 05/05/2011]

Integral Systems, with signal processing systems used by more than 85% of
U.S. space missions, is awarded more than $30M  in multiple contracts
during past three months.
[SatNews – 05/05/2011]

Newsat signs new contracts in April worth $1.7M in additional revenue,
providing satellite communication services in Australia and internationally.
[SatNews – 05/05/2011]

Research fleets choose Mini-VSAT broadband from KVH for onboard Internet and
data connections.
[Globe Newswire – 05/05/2011]

KVH downgrades future outlook though VSAT sales increase 59%, because of
losses in other divisions affected by rising fuel prices and decline in new
boat sales.
[Satellite Today – 05/02/2011]

At Global Space and Satellite Forum in Abu Dhabi May 9-11, leading experts
will discuss how satellite communications play important role in disaster
[AME info – 05/04/2011]

Telenor Satellite Broadcasting signs agreement with Elektrikom for IS 10-02
Spot 1 capacity, to deliver VSAT services for oil, gas, and cruise ship
industries throughout Europe.
[SatNews – 05/04/2011]

Australian communications regulator warns that more spectrum (to come from
satellite, broadcast, or government agencies) must be allocated to mobile
companies to support traffic growth by end of decade to 1000 times that at end
of 2007.
[Sydney Morning Herald – 05/04/2011]

NTD Asia Pacific Television files appeal at Taiwan’s National Communications
Commission charging that Chunghwa Telecom Company is unlawfully refusing to
renew satellite capacity lease.
[NTD Television – 05/04/2011]

Intelsat reports antenna reflector deployment delay with Intelsat New Dawn
[Business Wire – 05/03/2011]

Charlie Ergen says acquired DBSD North America should be viewed as asset
whose existing S-band satellite and U.S. operating license are sufficient for
Dish Network and EchoStar to create wireless broadband business.
[Space News – 05/03/2011]

SES Astra’s German HD Plus service subscriber gains exceed expectations.
[Satellite Today – 05/03/2011]

Gilat Satcom launches iDirect Evolution-based service in Nigeria to deliver
high-speed C-band satellite service throughout the country.
[SatNews – 05/03/2011]

Pakistan will have its first satellite broadband service by the end of this
year using Yahsat YahClick satellite broadband product using satellite launched
April 23.
[TMCnet – 05/03/2011]

United Arab Emirates launches fifth communications satellite, the first to
provide secure and independent telecommunications for its armed forces as Persian Gulf Arab state boosts its military capabilities against Iran.
[UPI – 05/02/2011]

Arianespace wins launch contract for ABS-2 satellite for Asia Broadcast
[Satellite Today – 05/02/2011]

Dish Network and Echostar settle with TiVo for $500M as chances dwindle in
DVR patent suit.
[CED Magazine – 05/02/2011]

iDirect Government Technologies to resell Riverbed Technology products to
maximize bandwidth efficiencies and increase satellite network performance.
[marketwire – 05/02/2011]

Find loved ones anytime, anywhere, with new GPS bracelets.
[Satellite Spotlight – 05/02/2011]

Myanmar sets up central committee and working committee for launching a
satellite, the first for Myanmar.
[TMCnet – 4/30/2011]

Satellite images taken by GeoEye the day after tornadoes blasted through the
South, in an interactive display, show before and after the tornadoes.
[NY Times – April 29, 2011]

More competition, new entrants, fluctuating levels of usage in a slow and
uncertain recovery, and a flurry of new products with High Throughput
Satellites hitting the market in the coming years, all keep the Mobile
Satellite Services sector dynamic.
[NSR Mobile Satellite Services report – June 2011]

WBMSAT PS satellite communications systems services


Multiplexing: Wavelength-Division or Spatial Division

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Satcom needs the kind of attention fiber gets from the corporate research community. They’ve reached a new record: 100 Tbps. Dude, that’s huge!

Via New Scientist

Today’s fibre optics use several tricks to enhance bandwidth. Like the radio band, the optical spectrum can be sliced into many distinct channels that can simultaneously carry information at different frequencies. The laser light is pulsed on and off rapidly, with each pulse further sliced up into different polarities, amplitudes and phases of light, each of which contains a bit of information. The trick is to pack all these signals together in one fibre so that they hit the receiver as one pulse without interference.

At the Optical Fiber Communications Conference in Los Angeles last month, Dayou Qian, also of NEC, reported a total data-sending rate of 101.7 terabits per second through 165 kilometres of fibre. He did this by squeezing light pulses from 370 separate lasers into the pulse received by the receiver. Each laser emitted its own narrow sliver of the infrared spectrum, and each contained several polarities, phases and amplitudes of light waves to code each packet of information.

At the same conference, Jun Sakaguchi of Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Tokyo also reported reaching the 100-terabit benchmark, this time using a different method. Instead of using a fibre with only one light-guiding core, as happens now, Sakaguchi’s team developed a fibre with seven. Each core carried 15.6 terabits per second, yielding a total of 109 terabits per second. “We introduced a new dimension, spatial multiplication, to increasing transmission capacity,” Sakaguchi says.

Multi-core fibres are complex to make, as is amplifying signals for long-distance transmission in either technique. For this reason, Wang thinks the first application of 100-terabit transmission will be inside the giant data centres that power Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Project Blue Box

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

We love this stuff. NASA’s just given us more love, thanks to Gravity Probe-B.

Einstein was right again. There is a space-time vortex around Earth, and its shape precisely matches the predictions of Einstein’s theory of gravity.

Researchers confirmed these points at a press conference today at NASA headquarters where they announced the long-awaited results of Gravity Probe B (GP-B).

“The space-time around Earth appears to be distorted just as general relativity predicts,” says Stanford University physicist Francis Everitt, principal investigator of the Gravity Probe B mission.

“This is an epic result,” adds Clifford Will of Washington University in St. Louis. An expert in Einstein’s theories, Will chairs an independent panel of the National Research Council set up by NASA in 1998 to monitor and review the results of Gravity Probe B. “One day,” he predicts, “this will be written up in textbooks as one of the classic experiments in the history of physics.”

Time and space, according to Einstein’s theories of relativity, are woven together, forming a four-dimensional fabric called “space-time.” The mass of Earth dimples this fabric, much like a heavy person sitting in the middle of a trampoline. Gravity, says Einstein, is simply the motion of objects following the curvaceous lines of the dimple.

If Earth were stationary, that would be the end of the story. But Earth is not stationary. Our planet spins, and the spin should twist the dimple, slightly, pulling it around into a 4-dimensional swirl. This is what GP-B went to space in 2004 to check.

Read on, rocket scientists.