Archive for December, 2007

DIY Friday: Parade!

Friday, December 28th, 2007

It’s the final DIY Friday of 2007…. so what should you be working on?

A float for your local New Year’s Day parade, of course.


Few places are better for community parades then Santa Cruz, California, which holds the Last Night Santa Cruz DIY Parade every year. You can check out the highlights from previous years here.

Meanwhile, we’re waiting in anticipation to see NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Rose Bowl parade float on Tuesday, which will honor the 50th anniversary of the launch of Explorer 1:

 On the parade float, Explorer 1 fires off the launch pad at the center. In its wake arises a collection of historic JPL robotic explorers, as well as planetary ports of call. On one of the solar panels displays a floral “photographic” representation of the Explorer pioneers whose vision ignited the spark for U.S. space exploration — William Pickering, then director of JPL, scientist James Van Allen and rocket designer Wernher von Braun. Ascending from Explorer’s fiery plume are a Martian orbiter and a six- wheeled Mars Science Laboratory, which in 2010 will carry on the tradition of NASA/JPL robotic exploration. On the other edge of the plume, climbing beyond the garland of rings surrounding the planet Saturn is JPL’s Voyager 1 — humanity’s most distant emissary — which is now on its journey headed into interstellar space.

The 25-foot-tall float is jacketed by everything from black seaweed, eucalyptus leaves, split pea and ground walnut shells to daisies, roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, carnations, strawflower and cut everlasting.

From all of us at Really Rocket Science — Happy New Year! 

Remembering Bhutto

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Not the news any of us wanted as we ease out of our holiday break. Benazir Bhutto was a brave, courageous woman, with a vision for a better Pakistan — a Pakistan that could democratize, that has greater respect for human rights, that has an eye towards modernization and economic progress. Despite repeated exiles, death threats, and assasination attempts, she always returned to her country with the well-being of Pakistan paramount.

Bhutto beleived in the democratizing force of information and media. She condemned Musharraf’s crackdown on Pakistan’s emerging independent television stations, including the government’s import ban on satellite dishes. As we discussed last month and Bhutto was shrewdly aware of, the rise of Satellites and the Internet has made state control much trickier for autocrats.

Bhutto will be missed by Pakistan and by the world.

Love the Laptop in Peru

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Here’s an AP story via CNN:

Doubts about whether poor, rural children really can benefit from quirky little computers evaporate as quickly as the morning dew in this hilltop Andean village, where 50 primary school children got machines from the One Laptop Per Child project six months ago.

These offspring of peasant families whose monthly earnings rarely exceed the cost of one of the $188 laptops — people who can ill afford pencil and paper much less books — can’t get enough of their "XO" laptops.

At breakfast, they’re already powering up the combination library/videocam/audio recorder/music maker/drawing kits.

At night, they’re dozing off in front of them — if they’ve managed to keep older siblings from waylaying the coveted machines.

"It’s really the kind of conditions that we designed for," Walter Bender, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff, said of this agrarian backwater up a precarious dirt road.

Founded in 2005 by former MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte, the One Laptop program has retreated from early boasts that developing-world governments would snap up millions of the pint-sized laptops at $100 each.

In a backhanded tribute, One Laptop now faces homegrown competitors everywhere from Brazil to India — and a full-court press from Intel Corp.’s more power-hungry Classmate.

But no competitor approaches the XO in innovation. It is hard drive-free, runs on the Linux operating system and stretches wireless networks with "mesh" technology that lets each computer in a village relay data to the others.

Mass production began last month and Negroponte, brother of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, says he expects at least 1.5 million machines to be sold by next November. Even that would be far less than Negroponte originally envisioned. The higher-than-initially-advertised price and a lack of the Windows operating system, still being tested for the XO, have dissuaded many potential government buyers.

Peru made the single biggest order to date — more than 272,000 machines — in its quest to turn around a primary education system that the World Economic Forum recently ranked last among 131 countries surveyed. Uruguay was the No. 2 buyers of the laptops, inking a contract for 100,000.

Negroponte said 150,000 more laptops will get shipped to countries including Rwanda, Mongolia, Haiti, and Afghanistan in early 2008 through "Give One, Get One," a U.S.-based promotion ending December 31 in which you buy a pair of laptops for $399 and donate one or both.

The children of Arahuay prove One Laptop’s transformative conceit: that you can revolutionize education and democratize the Internet by giving a simple, durable, power-stingy but feature-packed laptop to the worlds’ poorest kids.

"Some tell me that they don’t want to be like their parents, working in the fields," first-grade teacher Erica Velasco says of her pupils. She had just sent them to the Internet to seek out photos of invertebrates — animals without backbones.

Antony, 12, wants to become an accountant.

Alex, 7, aspires to be a lawyer.

Kevin, 9, wants to play trumpet.

Saida, 10, is already a promising videographer, judging from her artful recording of the town’s recent Fiesta de la Virgen.

"What they work with most is the (built-in) camera. They love to record," says Maria Antonieta Mendoza, an Education Ministry psychologist studying the Arahuay pilot to devise strategies for the big rollout when the new school year begins in March.

Before the laptops, the only cameras the kids at Santiago Apostol school saw in this population-800 hamlet arrived with tourists who visit for festivals or to see local Inca ruins.

Arahuay’s lone industry is agriculture. Surrounding fields yield avocados, mangoes, potatoes, corn, alfalfa and cherimoya.

Many adults share only weekends with their children, spending the work week in fields many hours’ walk from town and relying on charities to help keep their families nourished.

When they finish school, young people tend to abandon the village.

Peru’s head of educational technology, Oscar Becerra, is betting the One Laptop program can reverse this rural exodus to the squalor of Lima’s shantytowns four hours away.

It’s the best answer yet to "a global crisis of education" in which curricula have no relevance, he said. "If we make education pertinent, something the student enjoys, then it won’t matter if the classroom’s walls are straw or the students are sitting on fruit boxes."

Indeed, Arahuay’s elementary school population rose by 10 when families learned the laptop pilot was coming, said Guillermo Lazo, the school’s director.

The XOs that Peru is buying will be distributed to pupils in 9,000 elementary schools from the Pacific to the Amazon basin where a single teacher serves all grades, Becerra said.

Although Peru boasts thousands of rural satellite downlinks that provide Internet access, only about 4,000 of the schools getting XOs will be connected, said Becerra.

Negroponte says One Laptop is committed to helping Peru overcome that hurdle. Without Internet access, he believes, the program is incomplete.

Teachers will get 2½ days of training on the laptops, Becerra said. Each machine will initially be loaded with about 100 copyright-free books. Where applicable, texts in native languages will be included, he added. The machines will also have a chat function that will let kids make faraway friends over the Internet.

Critics of the rollout have two key concerns.

The first is the ability of teachers — poorly trained and equipped to begin with — to cope with profoundly disruptive technology.

Eduardo Villanueva, a communications professor at Lima’s Catholic University, fears "a general disruption of the educational system that will manifest itself in the students overwhelming the teachers."

To counter that fear, Becerra said the government is offering $150 grants to qualifying teachers toward the purchase of conventional laptops, for which it is also arranging low-interest loans.

The second big concern is maintenance.

For every 100 units it will distribute to students, Peru is buying one extra for parts. But there is no tech support program. Students and teachers will have to do it.

"What you want is for the kids to do the repairs," said Negroponte, who believes such tinkering is itself a valuable lesson. "I think the kids can repair 95 percent of the laptops."

Tech support is nevertheless a serious issue in many countries, Negroponte acknowledged in a phone interview.

One Laptop is currently bidding on a contract with Brazil’s government that Negroponte says demanded unrealistically onerous support requirements.

The XO machines are water resistant, rugged and designed to last five years. They have no fan so they won’t suck up dust, are built to withstand drops from a meter and a half and can absorb power spikes typical of places with irregular electricity.

Mendoza, the psychologist, is overjoyed that the program stipulates that kids get ownership of the laptops.

Take Kevin, the aspiring trumpet player.

Sitting in his dirt-floor kitchen as his mother cooks lunch, he draws a soccer field on his XO, then erases it. Kevin plays a song by "Caliente," his favorite combo, that he recorded off Arahuay’s single TV channel. He shows a reporter photos he took of him with his 3-year-old brother.

A bare light bulb hangs by a wire from the ceiling. A hen bobs around the floor. There are no books in this two-room house. Kevin’s parents didn’t get past the sixth grade.

Indeed, the laptop project also has adults in its sights.

Parents in Arahuay are asking Mendoza, the visiting psychologist, what the Internet can do for them.

Among them is Charito Arrendondo, 39, who sheds brief tears of joy when a reporter asks what the laptop belonging to ruddy-cheeked Miluska — the youngest of her six children — has meant to her. Miluska’s father, it turns out, abandoned the family when she was 1.

"We never imagined having a computer," said Arrendondo, a cook.

Is she afraid to use the laptop, as is typical of many Arahuay parents, about half of whom are illiterate?

"No, I like it. Sometimes when I’m alone and the kids are not around I turn it on and poke around."

Arrendondo likes to play checkers on the laptop.

"It’s also got chess, which I sort of know," she said, pausing briefly.

"I’m going to learn."

It’s in situations like these where the SES "one dish per village" idea will make an impact.

Big GPS Gift

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Gorgeous day at the Cape last week, punctuated by a spectacular Delta launch for the USAF by the United Launch Alliance:

United Launch Alliance successfully launched a Delta II expendable launch vehicle today from Space Launch Complex 17-A at 3:04 p.m., EST carrying the Air Force’s GPS IIR-18(M) satellite. This launch marks the fifth mission for the Air Force this year and the 13th and final mission for ULA in 2007.

Following a nominal 1 hour and 8 minute flight, the rocket deployed the GPS IIR-18(M) spacecraft, the fifth modernized NAVSTAR Global Positioning System Block II R-M military navigation satellite. GPS is a space-based radio-positioning system nominally consisting of a minimum of 24-satellite constellation that provides navigation and timing information to military and civilian users worldwide.

"With the launch of GPS IIR-18(M), ULA completes a tremendously successful first year of operation and demonstrates its commitment to 100 percent mission success," said Mark Wilkins, vice president of Delta Programs. "As we continue to provide safe, cost-effective, reliable access to space, we are privileged to serve an important role in critical missions, such as GPS, which are force multipliers for our men and women in uniform serving our country throughout the world."

Designed to operate for 10 years, GPS satellites orbit the Earth every 12 hours, emitting continuous navigation signals. With the proper equipment, users can receive these signals to calculate time, location and velocity. In addition to its military use, GPS satellites provide directional assistance to civilian users around the world.

The ULA Delta II 7925-9.5 configuration vehicle featured an ULA first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and nine Alliant Techsystems (ATK) strap-on solid rocket motors. An Aerojet AJ10-118K engine powered the second stage. A spin-stabilized Star-48B solid-rocket motor built by ATK boosted the third stage. The payload was encased by a 9.5-foot-diameter metallic payload fairing.

ULA began processing the Delta II launch vehicle in Decatur, Ala., nearly two years ago. In August 2007, the first stage arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station from Decatur, followed by the second stage Sept. 19. The vehicle was erected on the stand at Pad 17-A, Nov. 5, with solid rocket motor installation completed by mid-November. Hundreds of ULA technicians, engineers and management worked to prepare the vehicle for the GPS IIR-18(M) mission.


Here’s the video: 

Space Bump

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

With all the space debris out there, especially in the lower orbits, its a wonder we don’t hear about this type of news more often. Big news a year ago was the Chinese missile taking out one of its own weather satellites, causing a space junk controversy (watch the video simulation here). You can track this debris yourself.

But I reckon it’s called "space" for a reason — there lots of it up there.

The news, via the Daily Press in Virginia:

An unknown object apparently collided with a satellite with NASA Langley Research Center connections in November, sending several broken pieces flying into orbit.

The satellite was decommissioned in December 2005, but was one of NASA’s largest and brightest in low-Earth orbit, and popular among amateur sky watchers. Called UARS, Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, it was launched in 1991 and carried a NASA Langley instrument called HALOE that captured data about the chemistry of the atmosphere.

On Nov. 10, something apparently hit the school bus-sized orbiter. It could have been one of the many pieces in a growing field of "space junk." It could have been a meteoroid. Space debris often leaves pings and dents in satellites and even the space shuttle, and aging satellites decay over time. But a collision that actually creates new pieces of debris is more rare.

"When I heard this, I was shocked," said Jim Russell, a Hampton University professor who was the project lead for HALOE. "This is very unexpected. That’s not normal decay."

Nicholas L. Johnson, chief scientist for NASA’s Orbital Debris Program, said it remains unclear what happened to UARS. Four pieces bigger than 4 inches in diameter — roughly the size of a trackable piece of space junk — were sent into orbit, but it is unclear how large those pieces are.

A collision from a meteoroid or another piece of debris is the best hypothesis, Johnson said. The core of the spacecraft appears to still be intact.

"Unfortunately, we might not ever learn what caused the event," Johnson said.

Mark Matney, who works with Johnson in the Orbital Debris Program, said satellites with still-functioning pressurized systems sometimes eject new debris if a tank explodes. But UARS had no such systems, so a collision is the best explanation.

Only three known collisions between two satellites have ever occurred, Matney said. But these "anomalous" events, where it’s not clear what one of the colliding objects was, do happen occasionally, he said.

"It’s very hard to determine," what might have hit UARS, Matney said.

Decommissioned satellites typically continue to orbit for years before losing energy and falling toward Earth, usually to burn up. UARS was expected to fall out of orbit around 2011, Russell said.

UARS weighed about 13,000 pounds and measured 35 feet long and 15 feet wide, perhaps making it a better target than most.

The U.S. Space Surveillance Network, run by the Air Force, estimates there are about 10,000 objects in low-Earth orbit that are larger than 4 inches. The network’s sensitive ground-based instruments can track those objects. The objects range from communication satellites to the International Space Station to junk — pieces of decaying satellites and the remnants of rocket boosters.

The field of debris has become an increasing concern as the number of pieces continues to increase. The debris field was also significantly expanded in January of this year, when China angered the U.S. and other nations by testing an anti-satellite missile. The Chinese destroyed their FY-1C satellite, an aging weather observer.

The missile test exploded the satellite into more than 1,000 pieces of debris, and U.S. intelligence and defense analysts almost immediately deduced what had happened, before the Chinese government admitted it a few weeks later.

The UARS collision created only a handful of new pieces of debris, but still, "You hope it’s not anything sinister," said Ellis Remsberg, a Langley scientist who worked on HALOE with Russell.

Two of the "large" pieces that broke off UARS have apparently already burned up in the atmosphere, Johnson said. The other two pieces will likely do the same.

What remains of the craft’s core will continue to orbit for some time — barring another collision.


DIY Friday: Travel Tips

Friday, December 21st, 2007

So you’ve been thinking that this would be a nice year to give that special someone a DIY project, to demonstrate your skills and show that a gift made with love is more valuable than one bought with cash.

But who are you kidding?  Time is running out. If you don’t have your holiday shopping mostly wrapped up by now, a DIY project is probably out of the question.

Get thee to a gift certificate, and quickly.

But you can utilize your DIY skills if you’re traveling this season.  And you may need that take-charge gene over the coming days. As Wired reports, "The year 2007 was the worst for flight delays since the government began keeping stats more than a decade ago. In 2002, 17 percent of flights arrived late (defined by the FAA as delayed 15 minutes or more)."


Here are four travel tips to help you navigate the holiday airport nightmare. 

  1. Google has a new feature that you may not know about: flight-tracking. Just type your airline and flight number into the search box, and get the departure and arrival location and estimated time.
  2. So your flight is on time, but you’re wondering if you’ll be able to make that connecting flight at O’Hare? Well, first of all — what were you thinking flying through O’Hare during the holidays!? But okay, the plans are set. Use Wired magazine’s handy Google  map of airport delays (pictured above) to see how long you’ll be on the tarmac.
  3. When you’re on the way to the airport — and thinking that the sudden snow squall you’re driving through might cause a delay — use 4INFO from your cell phone to get the latest update. Simply text your airline and flight number  to the mobile search service at 4INFO (44636) to get the latest. And slow down! Snow is slippery to drive through.
  4. Are you worried that the bad kids up to no good? Check out the Global Incident Map if fears of terrorism are giving you the holiday heartache.

From all of us at Really Rocket Science, have a safe and happy Holiday Season!

What happens in Vegas, shouldn’t stay in Vegas

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Mobile TV is starting to take off. As networks get faster, phones get smarter, and consumers become more demanding, mobile tv may become the central front in the mobile market wars. So, not surprisingly, the Consumer Electronics Association Conference in Vegas next month will be a hot show on this subject.

ICO Global and Alcatel-Lucent will demonstrate a new standard in mobile broadcasting – Digital Video Broadcasting, satellite to handhelds (DVB-SH).

In the demonstration, ICO and Alcatel-Lucent will deliver mobile high-resolution live television programming to display terminals located in a moving vehicle outfitted with DVB-SH receivers. In addition, ICO will demonstrate high-resolution DVB-SH video reception by delivering pre-encoded content to portable monitors in ICO’s exhibit suite at the Venetian hotel. ICO and Alcatel-Lucent will also be demonstrating at the CES “ShowStoppers” press event on Monday, January 7 from 6:00 until 10:00 pm at the Wynn Hotel.

These standards-based demonstrations are the first displays of the cutting-edge solution being developed for the ICO alpha trial of mobile interactive media (mim) services, which will take place in 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

The ICO mim™ product is a converged mobile media service that addresses a wide variety of consumers’ entertainment, information, and two-way communication needs: live and stored mobile TV in vehicles, interactive navigation, and roadside assistance, all with nationwide coverage. ICO mim will provide multiple channels of high-quality mobile video to portable, larger-screen (4.5 to 10 inch) user devices.

Last spring, ICO announced agreements with Alcatel-Lucent and Hughes Network Systems (Hughes) to develop key architecture and technology for use in ICO’s alpha trial based on ICO’s next-generation geostationary satellite (ICO G1) and the deployment of an Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) using the mobile multimedia DVB-SH open standard. ICO G1 is scheduled for launch in March 2008, and the alpha trial will take place in Raleigh-Durham and Las Vegas after the launch of ICO G1.

SES AMERICOM’s IP-PRIME service is providing the programming for this test, along with another test at the Las Vegas conference—Hiwire—this one using Digital Video Broadcasting to handheld (DVB-H, see image). This will utilize the 700mhz spectrum through Aloha Partners – the largest licensee of this spectrum in the country. It promises to have “the largest channel lineup of high-quality multicast television mobile TV ever trialed with consumers anywhere around the globe. The trial will also deliver up to three times as many channels as any similar mobile TV network in the United States, giving consumers the depth of programming that satisfies their appetite for TV.” The programming:

Hiwire will leverage Aloha Partners’ sizable 700 MHz spectrum capacity to deliver this unprecedented channel lineup of high-quality, full-frame rate TV to consumers. The channel lineup, procured by SES AMERICOM, includes top, leading programmers and networks, with seven channels from Discovery Communications (including Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Kids and Discovery’s dedicated mobile network, Discovery Mobile), six channels from MTV Networks (including CMT, COMEDY CENTRAL, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike TV and VH1), two channels from Turner Broadcasting – CNN Mobile Live and Cartoon Networks/Adult Swim Mobile, Anime Network, E!, Fox News Channel, Travel Channel, The Weather Channel, MavTV and The parties are in discussions to add other programming services as well which will be finalized prior to the consumer launch, scheduled to begin this month.

So, should carriers move towards DVB-SH or DVB-H? Europe is already having the debate:

But can DVB-SH gain traction? It has struggled to find support among handset vendors, especially as DVB-H, the only globally used mobile TV standard, is backed by an industry consortium that includes Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and Motorola. In a controversial move, the EU has also recently endorsed DVB-H as its mobile TV tech standard of choice and has placed the technology on its list of “official standards.” Starting in February, member states will be required to support its use and implementation—though this doesn’t mean they have to ban other standards.

There’s also a question on whether its use may be more costly. As Reuters (NSDQ: RTRSY) reports, in Europe there is a current shortage of spectrum for mobile TV, which means the telecoms industry—just as Alcatel Luncent has done—has been looking at higher frequencies. DVB-SH sits just above current 3G airwaves. But these higher frequencies are usually costlier since the higher the frequency, the shorter the distance radio signals travel, meaning operators have to build denser networks. Rival DVB-H standard uses much lower frequencies, the same as traditional television’s UHF band.

This will be just part of the fun at the CES show next month. Check out the “March of the CES Press Releases.” Perhaps a clip from Laurel & Hardy’s “March of the Wooden Soldiers” is appropriate:

90 Orbits Around The Sun

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

What does it feel like to have completed 90 orbits around the Sun? I don’t feel a day older than 89.

I still can’t quite believe that we’ve just marked the 50th anniversary of the Space Age.


The golden age of space is only just beginning… Space travel and space tourism will one day become almost as commonplace as flying to exotic destinations on our own planet.

Boeing Hands Spaceway 3 to Hughes

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007


After four months of in-orbit testing, Boeing has handed over the Spaceway 3 satellite (pictured above in an artist’s rendition) to Hughes Network Systems. Hughes will utilize the Boeing-built satellite to provide HughesNet broadband satellite services throughout North America.

Launched via an Ariane 5 that lifted from the Ariane Launch Complex 3 in the tropics of Kourou, French Guiana on August 15th of this year, Spaceway 3 is Boeing 702 — a huge satellite weighing in at 6075 kg, with a 132-foot solar array span.

So what will it do? The press release from the launch gives us an overview:

"Boeing is helping Hughes in its vision to ‘Connect to the Future’ through satellite-based Internet services," said Howard Chambers, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. "Flying more than 22,000 miles above North America, the Spaceway 3 satellite will allow Hughes Network Systems to provide existing and new customers with high-speed, two-way communications for Internet, data, voice, video and multimedia applications."

Boeing manufactured the high-power, 702 satellite operating in Ka-band to enable Hughes to provide customers a new range of broadband-via-satellite services throughout North America. The Boeing-built technology that will enable these services includes a digital processor, downlink phased array antenna, microwave switch matrix, and flight hardware and software that will provide point-to-point and point-to-multi-point connectivity to Hughes’ customers. 

The Hughes Spaceway site, meanwhile, provides additional technical details:

SPACEWAY will enable a full-mesh digital IP network that will interconnect with a wide variety of end-user equipment and systems. This North American broadband satellite system will enable a range of innovative applications, enterprise-wide.

The SPACEWAY satellite features innovative, onboard digital processors, packet switching, and spot beam technology. Spot beam technology will enable the satellite to provide services to small terminals, while onboard routers will enable mesh connectivity. Users of the system will be able to directly communicate with any other user of the system without requiring connection through a central hub.

What does this mean for the approximately 325,000 current HughesNet subscribers?  Spaceway-3 uses Ka band spotbeams (at 20/30 GHz) and cannot be used by current subscribers, who are using Ku-band (11/14 GHz). So the handover of Spaceway is all new business for Hughes, and, according to a discussion on DSLreports, subscribers will need an entirely new outdoor unit (ODU) to tap into Hughes’ next generation model.

But with throughput as high at 16 Mbps expected from Spaceway, many HughesNet subscribers may decide switching out their outdoor unit is worth it. 

Dude, Where’s My Satellite?

Monday, December 17th, 2007

My grandmother used to say that a good scare could take five years off someone’s life. Is that what happened to India’s Insat-4CR satellite?



"One of the best-kept secrets of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)" is that Insat-4CR (the launch of which we blogged about in September) "’disappeared’ in space about a month later," according to Daily News Analysis:

The satellite, which has 12 transponders meant for defence applications, direct-to-home (DTH) services and news gathering for television channels, was, however, “spotted” again with the help of the US-based National Aeronautics & Space Administration (Nasa) and brought back to a near geosynchronous orbit (36,000 km above earth). This took 15 days of manoeuvres, which consumed fuel normally meant for five years. This means the life of the satellite has come down from 10 years to five years.

A satellite’s life is determined by its fuel supply. As it keeps drifting in space, it has to be propelled back to the desired orbit using precious fuel.

A highly-placed source told DNA that Insat-4CR “disappeared” some time in October, almost a month after its orbit was raised for the fifth time to a near-geosynchronous orbit from the master control facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka on September 7. The GSLV-F04 launch carrying Insat-4CR was critical for Isro after it lost Insat-4C #one minute after launch on July 10, 2006. Insat-4CR had a perfect launch, but the unusual drift in space was totally unexpected. Insat-4CR, weighing 2,130 kg, is identical to Insat-4C.

When its tracking systems failed to locate the satellite, Isro sought help from Nasa. The Nasa Orbital Debris Program Office located it a few days later. “Reclaiming the satellite was no mean achievement,” said the source, “but in the process, the satellite lost fuel meant for five years.” 

ISRO’s satellites are tracked from a giant 32 meter antenna installed at the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu, 40 km from Bangalore.

ISRO has denied the report that Insat-4CR went missing: "It’s totally false and baseless. We totally deny it," ISRO spokesperson S Satish said.