Archive for December, 2006

Thuraya Reduces Cell Coverage in Iraq

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

While intense debates continue in Washington and capitals throughout the world regarding what to do about the increasing violence in Iraq, the leading cell phone provider in the region has already decided upon its course of action.

Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co. has been cutting business in Iraq due to mounting security concerns

Yousuf Al Sayed, chief executive officer of the Middle East company, t[said] on the sidelines of the ongoing Telecom World2006 show that Iraq [represented a] mere seven percent of Thuraya’s mobile satellite phone business so far this year.

Iraq boasted a 60-percent and a 40-percent business share of the company in 2004 and 2005 respectively, said the CEO.

Thuraya, based in the United Arab Emirates and founded in 1997, commands a 26 percent share in the global mobile satellite phone market. This map provides a good illustration of the scope of their coverage, which serves a region 2.3 billion people with 2 Boeing GEO-Mobile Satellites:

 "The Thuraya coverage area encompasses the Middle East, North and Central Africa, Europe, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Thuraya offers GSM-compatible mobile telephone services, transmitting and receiving calls through each satellite’s 12.25-meter-aperture reflector. The satellites employ state-of-the-art on-board digital signal processing to create more than 200 spot beams that can be redirected on-orbit, allowing the Thuraya system to adapt to business demands in real time. Calls are routed directly from one handheld unit to another, or to a terrestrial network. The system has the capacity for 13,750 simultaneous voice circuits."

Moon Base Alpha

Monday, December 4th, 2006


NASA unveiled plans for building a base on the Moon today:

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale, who is guiding the long-term strategy development effort among 14 of the world’s space agencies, said, "This strategy will enable interested nations to leverage their capabilities and financial and technical contributions, making optimum use of globally available knowledge and resources to help energize a coordinated effort that will propel us into this new age of discovery and exploration."

The Global Exploration Strategy focuses on two overarching issues: Why we are returning to the moon and what we plan to do when we get there. The strategy includes a comprehensive set of the reasons for embarking upon human and robotic exploration of the moon. NASA’s proposed lunar architecture focuses on a third issue: How humans might accomplish the mission of exploring the moon.

I can’t help it: every time somebody mentions going to the Moon, I think of the British sci-fi show from the 70’s, SPACE:1999. You can still buy the videos on Amazon.

It begins with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2008. This is going to be a pretty cool mission.

Sirius Satellite Television?

Monday, December 4th, 2006

We’ve been to the back seat to watch TV, but the antenna was a little on the big side. With a few modifications, Sirius Satellite Radio can send TV to their subscribers (probably for an extra fee). They’ve been talking about this for a while, and we heard Bell Labs was working on something for them. Some think TV in cars is dangerousSkyreport reports on CEO Mel Karmazin’s revelation at the Reuters Media Summit:

"We have three content deals that are very close to being finalized. I don’t know if they will be done by CES, but that is what we are shooting for," he said. "We will have video in the rear seat of the car up and running."

While the comments aren’t completely new – the company said in 2004 it would offer video by mid-2005, Oppenheimer’s Thomas Eagan said they are "intriguing" because Sirius could cost-effectively improve its financial and operational wellbeing with a video service.

Sirius could launch a video service with its existing satellite and repeater infrastructure without reducing its audio content, the analyst said, but consumers would need new or different handsets/in-car receivers to get the signal. Eagan said the video product would consist of three or more children’s channels (i.e. Nickelodeon, Disney and HBO Family) with a DVR downloading service sometime down the line.

"We don’t expect significant difficulties integrating a video service into OEM assembly as many of Sirius’ auto partners, such as Ford and Chrysler are already assembling SUVs with drop down LCD screens," Eagan said. "The size of the video market is clearly smaller than the audio market (and) without significant costs we expect the higher OEM conversion rate and higher ARPU would be accretive."



Watch this Reuters clip of the Karmazin interview. I found it interesting.

When the Moon Hits Your Eye and you… ask who is “Tye”?

Monday, December 4th, 2006

It seems like satellites with room for names of supporters is the new UGG boots of the space agencies — everyone’s gotta have them. But, as a savvy consumer, you know you’re better off shopping around. I mean, sure you could have your name on MIT & GeorgiaTech satellite, as we suggested a couple of weeks ago, or you could get your name on Japan’s new lunar orbiter, SELENE.

Here’s the whole story, in only the slightest "All your bases are belong to us" english:

"The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to launch the lunar orbiter ‘SELENE’ on a H-IIA Launch Vehicle from Tanegashima Space Center in the summer of 2007.

The SELENE is an artificial satellite that aims to collect closely featured scientific data on “The formation of the moon and its transitional history up to today,” which is the biggest lunar exploration project since the Apollo Project.

JAXA will accept from the public names and messages to deliver to the moon aboard the SELENE. Please send us your wishful messages."

The real question: If getting your name blasted into space on a satellite is the new in thing, which one is Brangelina going to choose?


DIY Friday: Launch Your Own Satellite

Friday, December 1st, 2006

Got a spare $80,000 and a dream of putting your own satellite into space?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. A recent article from showcases the exciting CubeSat program, based at Stanford and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, which allows students and companies from a around the world to launch tiny satellites for cut-rate prices without the bureaucratic and logistical hurdles they might experience if they tried to launch them on their own.

For around $40,000 for development and $40,000 for launch, the CubeSat program has put dozens of one kilogram, ten-centimeter cubed satellites 240-360 miles up in the heavens. Says one of the program’s principle founders Prof. Bob Twiggs:

"I kind of look at this as the Apple II. The ordinary person can get something into space. We don’t know what the ultimate use is, but look what happened to the Internet.”

So what are these mini satellites doing other than helping schools and individuals claim their own chunk of Space? Well, Stanford launch a three-cubed CubeSat in 2003, called QuakeSat, which monitors the seismic energy released over faults which could be used to predict earthquakes… a useful device if there ever was one for quake-prone California.

Students around the world have been using the CubeSat program to gain a working knowledge of spacecraft design that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage in. University students in Columbia and Romania are currently in the process of putting together their own CubeSat, as are high school students at San Jose’s Independence High.

While no word is out yet about how you could go about building your own CubeSat with the declining price of space technology, here’s $5 saying you’ll find a CubeSat in a box of Cracker Jacks in the next twenty years.