Archive for November, 2011

The Thrilla is Gone

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Well, at least one of them.

Smokin Joe Frazier passed away. Why does it matter to rocket scientists? He was one of the two boxers who fought in the Thrilla in Manila on 30 September 1975 (1 October locally, for all you international dateliners). The other was Muhammad Ali and it was their third fight, carried via satellite for closed-circuit viewing in the U.S. and, most importantly, to cable systems experimenting with using C-band satellites for distributing video to their cable headends.

It worked. HBO went from tower-to-tower distribution to full national availability via satellite. In fact, it was their commitment to RCA Americom that incubated, nurtured and grew the domestic satellite system to be the best in the world.

Without the Thrilla in Manila, I doubt so many fine rocket scientists would be employed today. Although that’s changing, too.

Here’s a fitting video tribute to that boxing match…

Asteroid 2005 YU55

Monday, November 7th, 2011

A 400-meter wide Near-Earth asteroid will be cutting it close tomorrow. Will you be able to see it? Yes, but it won’t be easy.

Astro Guyz explains…

Closest approach to Earth occurs at 11:29 UTC/06:29 EST at about 202,000 miles distant, placing it high to the south west for observers on the US Eastern Seaboard. (Don’t forget to “fall back” to Standard time on Sunday, November 6th; you wouldn’t want to miss seeing the asteroid because of  an anachronistic convention, but I digress..)  At its closest approach, 2005 YU55 will glide along at one degree every 7 minutes, easily noticeable after a few minutes of observation at low power. I plan to target selected areas with my GOTO mount, sketch the field, then watch for changes. I may also take some wide-field piggyback stills with the DSLR, but mostly, this one will just be fun to watch. The asteroid will pass through the constellations Aquila, Delphinus, and Pegasus as it heads westward. Interestingly, 2005 YU55 passes within a degree of Altair centered on 6:07:30PM EST only 27 minutes after local sunset, and also makes a very close pass of the star Epsilon Delphini during closest approach. These both make good visual “anchors” to aim your scope at during the appointed time and watch. Keep in mind, the charts provided are rough and “Tampa Bay-centric…” on an approach as close as this one, two factors muddle the precise prediction coordinates of the asteroid; one is the fact the gravitational field of the Earth will change the orbit of 2005 YU55 slightly, and two is that the position will change due to the position of the observer on the Earth and the effect of parallactic shift. Many prediction programs assume the Earthly vantage as a mere point in space, fine for positioning deep sky objects but not so hot for ones passing near the planet. A good place to get updated coordinates is JPL Horizons website which lets you generate an accurate ephemeris for your exact longitude latitude and elevation.

Big Bang Monday: Super-energetic Millisecond Pulsar

Monday, November 7th, 2011

I like pulsars and I love how our friends at NASA GSFC explain it — with animation.

An international team of scientists using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has discovered a surprisingly powerful millisecond pulsar that challenges existing theories about how these objects form.

At the same time, another team has located nine new gamma-ray pulsars in Fermi data, using improved analytical techniques.

A pulsar is a type of neutron star that emits electromagnetic energy at periodic intervals. A neutron star is the closest thing to a black hole that astronomers can observe directly, crushing half a million times more mass than Earth into a sphere no larger than a city. This matter is so compressed that even a teaspoonful weighs as much as Mount Everest.

“With this new batch of pulsars, Fermi now has detected more than 100, which is an exciting milestone when you consider that, before Fermi’s launch in 2008, only seven of them were known to emit gamma rays,” said Pablo Saz Parkinson, an astrophysicist at the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics at the University of California Santa Cruz, and a co-author on two papers detailing the findings.

One group of pulsars combines incredible density with extreme rotation. The fastest of these so-called millisecond pulsars whirls at 43,000 revolutions per minute.

Millisecond pulsars are thought to achieve such speeds because they are gravitationally bound in binary systems with normal stars. During part of their stellar lives, gas flows from the normal star to the pulsar. Over time, the impact of this falling gas gradually spins up the pulsar’s rotation.

The strong magnetic fields and rapid rotation of pulsars cause them to emit powerful beams of energy, from radio waves to gamma rays. Because the star is transferring rotational energy to the pulsar, the pulsar’s spin slows after this transfer is completed.

Typically, millisecond pulsars are around a billion years old. However, in the Nov. 3 issue of Science, the Fermi team reveals a bright, energetic millisecond pulsar only 25 million years old.

The object, named PSR J1823−3021A, lies within NGC 6624, a spherical collection of ancient stars called a globular cluster, one of about 160 similar objects that orbit our galaxy. The cluster is about 10 billion years old and lies about 27,000 light-years away toward the constellation Sagittarius.

Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) showed that eleven globular clusters emit gamma rays, the cumulative emission of dozens of millisecond pulsars too faint for even Fermi to detect individually. But that’s not the case for NGC 6624.

“It’s amazing that all of the gamma rays we see from this cluster are coming from a single object. It must have formed recently based on how rapidly it’s emitting energy. It’s a bit like finding a screaming baby in a quiet retirement home,” said Paulo Freire, the study’s lead author, at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

J1823−3021A was previously identified as a pulsar by its radio emission, yet of the nine new pulsars, none are millisecond pulsars, and only one was later found to emit radio waves.

Despite its sensitivity, Fermi’s LAT may detect only one gamma ray for every 100,000 rotations of some of these faint pulsars. Yet new analysis techniques applied to the precise position and arrival time of photons collected by the LAT since 2008 were able to identify them.

“We adapted methods originally devised for studying gravitational waves to the problem of finding gamma-ray pulsars, and we were quickly rewarded,” said Bruce Allen, director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, Germany. Allen co-authored a paper on the discoveries that was published online today in The Astrophysical Journal.

WBMSAT Satellite Industry News Bits 11/04/2011

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Recently launched Eutelsat satellites Atlantic Bird 7 and W3C will  provide capacity to support growth in fast developing markets.
[Broadband TV News – 11/04/2011]

Astrium selected by DIRECTV to design and manufacture high power DIRECTV 15, with 30 Ku-, 24 Ka-, and 18 Reverse-band transponders.
[4-traders -11/04/2011]

Launch of NigComSat-1R on December 19 in China may be jeopardised unless  Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited comes up with N1.8 billion by November  5.
[This Day Live – 11/04/2011]

United Continental selects Panasonic Avionics to provide Wi-Fi connectivity  on more than 300 United Airlines and Continental Airlines mainline aircraft  beginning in 2012.
[Market Watch – 11/04/2011]

New House of Representatives legislation to reform U.S. satellite export  controls, removing satellites and related components from U.S. Munitions List,  gets strong endorsement from Satellite Industry Association.
[Satellite Today – 11/03/2011]

Chinese spacecraft successfully dock in orbit, moving China closer to manning  its own space station in about a decade.
[R&D Magazine – 11/03/2011]

ViaSat-1 reaches destined orbit following successful completion of all  maneuvers, to begin in-orbit testing.
SatNews –  11/03/2011]

Inmarsat subsidiaries Stratos Government Services and Segovia are awarded  Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract by DITCO for U.S. Navy Military  Sealift Command’s Next Generation Wideband commercial satellite communications  infrastructure and service.
[Sacramento Bee – 11/03/2011]

SES fleet extension program through 2014 to increase global capacity by 23%  over year-end 2010, with 85% of capacity dedicated to highly dynamic emerging  markets including Asia, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa; SES-7 and SES-8  represent $400 million program for South Asia and Asia-Pacific region.
[SatNews –  11/03/2011]

Spacecom satellite AMOS-5, to be launched December 11, is transported to  Baikonur Spaceport.
[SatNews – 11/03/2011]

Next Soyuz launch from Kourou, set for mid-December, to carry six satellites,  including Astrium Pleiades1 Very High Resolution Earth observation satellite,  Chilean satellite SSOT, and the four satellites of the Elisa constellation.
[SatNews –  11/03/2011]

GMV is awarded Euro 3 million contract to provide control center of new  Spanish satellite Paz, due for launch at end of next year.
[SatNews –  11/03/2011]

JITC certification of Thales Joint Tactical Radio System Enhance Multiband  Inter/Intra Team Radio allows users access to ultra high frequency SATCOM IW on  their fielded radios via software upgrade.
[SatNews –  11/03/2011]

Thuraya and Al Aan TV provide media feeds for starving Somalia.
[SatNews –  11/03/2011]

International Conference on Student Small Satellites CSSS2012 will bring  together young engineers and scientists in telecommunications, electronic  devices and systems for small satellites around the world.
[SatNews –  11/03/2011]

Congressional Budget Office urges U.S. Department of Defense to abandon  current GPS network upgrade plan and focus on upgrading GPS receivers; endorses  Iridium’s satellite constellation as potential alternative.
[Satellite Today – 11/02/2011]

Small Business Committee Republicans ask FCC to withhold LightSquared  approval.
[Nextgov – 10/31/2011]

Cobham announces two six-year contracts for ground antennas worth up to  $72.7M with U.S. Navy and Thales, following acquisition of antenna manufacturer  Trivec-Avant.
[Space News – 11/03/2011]

Though Inmarsat’s overall business has been flat, the company will have  record-breaking year in revenue and profit on cash coming in from LightSquared.
[Space News – 11/03/2011]

Federal government will conduct first nationwide test of Emergency Alert  System Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 1 P.M., interrupting television, radio, cable, and  satellite shows for up to 3 1/2 minutes.
[The Advertiser – 11/03/2011]

NSR report expects satellite capacity leasing revenues will reach US$17.2  billion by 2020, up from US$10 billion in 2010, as satellite operators continue  to buck global economic malaise.
[Market Watch – 11/02/2011]

China may be tinkering with U.S. satellites, and experts say other countries  are likely doing the same – some say that technological Cold War is well  underway.
[Discovery News – 11/01/2011]

Satellite communications evolved from use of C-band to use of Ku-band to  address demand for more bandwidth – Ka-band high throughput satellites are the  next step in the evolution, promising a revolution in satellite services.
[Voice &  Data – 11/01/2011]

Canadian satellite hardware and services provider MDA reports core business  doing well, but puts innovative satellite-servicing project on hold while  waiting for U.S. government contract.
[Space News – 11/01/2011]

Fleet Management Solutions is selected by U.S. Justice Department Federal  Bureau of Prisons to equip fleet vehicles and mobile assets with Fleet Director  Global Iridium-base asset tracking system.
[Sacramento Bee – 11/01/2011]

Boeing to manufacture and test its Crew Space Transportation spacecraft at  Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility-3, as NASA and Space Florida  partner for exclusive use of the facility, with Space Florida leasing it to  Boeing.
[SatNews – 11/01/2011]

China plans to launch 20 carrier rockets with 25 satellites into space by end  of the year.
[SatNews –  10/31/2011]

Space X’s and Tesla’s Elon Musk recognized as Innovator of the Year in  Technology by Wall Street Journal Magazine.
[SatNews –  10/31/2011]

Arianespace signs for launch of Optus 10 in 2013.
[SatNews –  10/31/2011]

Intelsat signs capacity agreements with Turner Broadcasting for Latin  American coverage.
[Satellite Today – 10/31/2011]

United Arab Emirates re-opens negotiations with France regarding acquisition  of military surveillance satellite to monitor Iranian activity.
[SatNews –  10/31/2011]

MBC group picks Eutelsat’s Atlantic Bird 7 to support HDTV roll-out across  Middle East and North Africa.
[Market Watch – 10/31/2011]

NGA selects Har to participate in mentor-protégé program with Spatial Data  Integratoins, designated as women- and minority-owned small business in  geospatial industry.
[SatNews –  10/31/2011]

Soyuz-U rocket with Progress M-13M cargo spacecraft successfully launches  from Baikonur with supplies for International Space Station.
[SatNEws –  10/30/2011]

Satellites built by Utah State University students successfully launched  aboard rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
[HJ News – 10/29/2011]

Turkmenistan to launch satellite to escape Russian dependency.
[Euraisanet – 10/29/2011]

WBMSAT satellite communications systems consulting services

Extreme UV Flash

Friday, November 4th, 2011

From our friends at, report of a huge sunspot…

NOAA forecasters have upgraded the chance of X-class solar flares today to 20%. The source would be AR1339, one of the biggest sunspots in many years. The active region rotated over the sun’s eastern limb two days ago and now it is turning toward Earth. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.

The sunspot has already unleashed one X-flare on Nov. 3rd around 2027 UT. A movie from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the extreme ultraviolet flash.

The flare created waves of ionization in Earth’s upper atmosphere, altering the normal propagation of radio waves over Europe and the Americas. In Ireland, the flare’s effect was felt even after dark.

A cloud of plasma or “CME” raced away from the blast site at 1100 km/s. The CME is not heading for Earth. It is, however, heading for Mercury and Venus.

Check out the storm track.