Archive for May, 2009

Satcom Stimulus

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Good idea, rocket scientists. Get together and propose a joint solution for broadband stimulus’s $7.2 billion:

 Hughes Network Systems (News – Alert) says it has a "shovel ready" way to wring lots of value out of broadband stimulus spending. Though nothing is formalized yet, it is likely Hughes Network Systems and WildBlue Communications will submit a joint proposal to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for grants to underwrite the cost of end user customer premises equipment (which could include satellite terminals, receivers and installation).

Doing so would provide "an order of magnitude greater deployment if just the CPE is subsidized," says Mike Cook, Hughes Network Systems SVP. "That’s very realistic; we can move now." As HughesNet now has 400,000 or so customers, an order of magnitude potentially would represent four million new broadband subscribers.
By way of comparison, a recent wired broadband build cost $5,000 to pass a rural home. If you assume penetration is 60 percent (six out of 10 homes buy broadband), the cost per activated home is $8333. All of the CPE and installation and activation cost should not come to more than several hundred dollars per activated home.
"Our recommendation is that stimulus funds should be used to subsidize CPE," says Cook." What we want is for subscribers to get systems with no upfront capital outlay and just pay for their service plans."
Currently-available plans range from 1 Mbps downstream up to 5 Mbps downstream.
Given that HughesNet now is available in virtually every zip code, it doesn’t need to build infrastructure, or spend much time on demand stimulation. "Awareness is the limitation, not even so much demand," says Cook. "Frankly, we will have all the incentive we need to dramatically spend more marketing dollars if CPE subsidies are approved, because we get a good yield."
Going forward, as it builds and launches a new next-generation satellite, Hughes plans to offer faster speeds. One way of comparing potential end user bandwidth is to compare the current SpaceWay satellite service with the new satellite.
"SpaceWay delivers data today at 440 Megabits per second," says Cook. That data of course is a shared resource between some number of users, he says. As a financial matter, it is uneconomic to offer end-user speeds faster than 5 Mbps downstream, he says.
But future satellites have much-bigger capacity, allowing HughesNet to "probably can get into 20 to 30 Mbps on download speeds," says Cook, who says the advancements come from a variety of advances, including the additional spectrum, use of multiple spot beam, advanced coding techniques and higher-power transponders.
"If SpaceWay is a 10 Gbps platform, the new satellite will offer 70 to 100 Gbps," says Cook. "We are approaching an order of magnitude increase of capacity," he says.

 Hmm. Gilat’s Spacenet is missing. What gives?

Satcom News Summary

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Satcom news for the week, courtesy of Bill McDonald

Ariane 5 lifts off with Herschel and Planck on board – two of the most ambitious missions ever attempted to unveil secrets of remote parts of the Universe.
[SatNews – 05/14/2009]

Intelsat revenue increased 10% over previous year, while 1st quarter loss increased from $412.7m to $557.6m.
[Satellite Today – 05/14/2009]

TACSAT-3 team at Wallops Flight Facility almost gets the launch late in the window, but last minute Flight Termination System anomaly forces delay of launch to May 19.
[SatNews – 05/14/2009]

The European Union picks communications companies Inmarsat Ventures and Solaris Mobile (jointly owned by SES Astra and Eutelsat) to provide high-speed internet services from satellites to remote parts of Europe.
[Wireless Week – 05/14/2009]

DirectTV ordered by judge to temporarily stop running ads that use Charter bankruptcy to imply that Charter is liquidating in order to win over customers.
[CED Magazine – 05/14/2009]

Astronauts on space shuttle Atlantis grab Hubble Space Telescope, passing another milestone on the thus far impressive mission.
[SatNews – 05/13/2009]

Astronauts discover 21-inch stretch of nicks on shuttle Atlantis, but NASA says the damage does not appear to be serious.
[SatNews – 05/13/2009]

Russia’s Federal Space Agency and NASA agree on a new price for ferrying U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station after 2012.
[SatNews – 05/13/2009]

Loral Space and Communications reported slight decrease in revenues, while Telesat realized growth from Nimiq 4.
[Satellite Today – 05/13/2009]

MetaVR builds 3D geospecific terrain covering 9,600 square kilometers in Afghanistan featuring high-resolution virtual village with over 500 buildings using SatImagery.
[SatNews – 05/13/2009]

Orbcomm loses $7m in quarter due to failure of one of its U.S. Coast Guard Quick Launch satellites in March.
[Satellite Today – 05/13/2009]

Pakistani religioius network leases AsiaSat C-band capacity.
[Satellite Today – 05/13/2009]

Al Jazeera English uses BGAN X-Stream from Stratos Global to broadcast live television news coverage of military developments from Pakistan and news from throughout Middle East.
[SatNews – 05/13/2009]

U.S. Government Accountability Office releases repoart that U.S. Air Force 2F program is over budget, and GPS service may be interrupted by delay in acquiring new 2F satellites.
[Satellite Today – 05/12/2009]

 U.S. Air Force working with Lockheed Martin to "harvest" government owned property, ground stations, and other technologies developed for cancelled TSAT for future programs.
[Reuters UK – 05/12/2009]

Iridium OpenPort new-generation global marine satellite communication system successfully completes sea trials, drawing positive reviews; commercial rollout now underway.
[PR Newswire – 05/12/2009]

SES AMERICOM-NEW SKIES selects International Datacasting Corporation’s SFX 3102 DVB-S/S2 receivers for its customers who will be upgrading to DVB-S2  via the company’s IPsys IP trunking service.
[SatNews – 05/12/2009]

TeleCommunications Systems, Inc. receives U.S. patent for encapsulation of encrypted data, enabling secure communications over IP network, allowing deployable systems such as satellite terminals to transmit secure data by having only an internet connection.
[EarthTimes – 05/12/2009]

Iridium pursues Russian market for mobile satellite services, forming "Iridium Communications Russia, OOO" to pursue a license there.
[Washington Business Journal – 05/11/2009]

Dish Network subscriber loss exacerbated by end of AT&T deal, even as Dish beats Wall Street estimates with 21% rise in profit, partly based on equipment sales.
[Associated Press hosted by Google – 05/11/2009]

Liberty Media Corp. CEO Greg Maffei says DirecTV may be sold to a telephone company.
[CED Magazine – 05/11/2009]

DataPath shareholders approve merger with Rockwell Collins.
[Satellite Today – 05/11/2009]

Europe will get a step up on the U.S. and NASA in space based astronomy when Planck and Herschel are launched virtually at the same time as the NASA mission to improve Hubble.
[Miami Herald – 05/10/2009]

EchoStar and DirecTV fight taxes in Ohio courts because cable competitors are not similarly taxed.
[CED Magazine – 05/08/2009]

Dish Network announces availability of free Remote Access service that allows its customers nationwide to program their DVRs with any Internet-connected device.
[CED Magazine – 05/08/2009]

Satellite broadband services grew solidly in 2008 following a strong 2007; a wide range of broadband networking, internet access services, and cellular backhaul, continued to exhibit their viability.
[NSR Report – Broadband Satellite Services, 8th Edition – May 2009]

Advance satellite coding and modulation techniques generate optimism about prospects for SCPC sales  in 2009 and beyond.
[NSR Report – Advanced Satellite Coding and Modulation, 2nd Edition – May 2009]


Mobile Planetarium

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009


Yeah, the iPhone apps get all the attention. Here’s one from Google for the Android:

We were able to play around with a T-Mobile G1 test device in the office and were intrigued by all of the sensors that were available. The GPS and clock allowed us to generate maps for the exact time and location, but the compass and accelerometer were what made Sky Map truly interesting. Using these two sensors, the app can determine the exact direction that your phone is facing and display the stars that are visible. If you want to identify that bright star in the west, all you have to do is point the device in that direction and you’ll see "Venus" appear on your screen.

 Very cool.

Gilat’s Stimulus

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

So there’s $7.2 billion set aside for "broadband stimulus" in the U.S., and €1 billion in Europe for 100% connectivity. Spend it.

Satcom service providers have been barking at this "no broadband for us" market for years. Along comes Wildblue and blows the incumbents away with their success (Hughes/DirecWay and Spacenet/Starband). Game-changing technology? Not really.

Can satcom really get a piece of these stimuli? After reading the Gilat earnings call transcript, don’t hold your breath:

 Jonathan Ho – William Blair

In terms of this Obama and the European stimulus that you guys were mentioning, can you give us a little bit more color on maybe the potential opportunities there and maybe the timeframe that you keep, something flowing out of that opportunity?

Amiram Levinberg

You have similar things in US, the way we begin are not clear. So at this point of time, we have so many people who have to give suggestions and comments and show often advantages to different committees. And we are part of this process. In part, we are cooperating with other companies in our industry and in part obviously at the end of the day, different companies will come with different applications.

We are not at the application stage at this point of time as the rule we begin or not, completely clear at this point, but we’ve definitely lost the [share point], lost opportunity by many people including ourselves.

In Europe, with stimulus for broadband is somewhat smaller, not to be small money, but it is somewhat smaller, it’s €1 billion and I have to say that because, unlike the situation in the US where we have a subsidiary on the job namely Spacenet, in the US, our activity is somewhat more remote because we need to get connected with local sales providers, so we are bit more remote in that situation in Europe.




Does he really know what’s going on?  Sounds like a Family Feud contestant: "show me, clueless CEO!"

STS-125 Launch

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Time to tune up the Hubble…


Satellite News Bits

Monday, May 11th, 2009

All your satcom news is mine, via Bill McDonald:

TacSat 3 launch scrubbed May 7 due to bad weather in Wallops Island area.
[Satnews – 05/08/2009]

Russia successfully places Express AM44 satellite, named after A.S. Popov, into operation at 11 West within the Russian Satellite Communications Company satellite constellation.
[Satnews – 05/07/2009]

Pathfinder Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) Advance Technology Risk Reduction (ATRR) satellite successfully launched from Vandenberg AFB by the Missile3 Defense Agency, supported by NASA and commercial firm United Launch Alliance.
[Satnews – 05/07/2009]

Planned acquisition of DataPath by Rockwell Collins receives approval of stockholders.
[Satnews – 05/07/2009]

El Corte Ingles will distribute Eutelsat’s Tooway satellite broadband service to retail customers in Spain.
[Satellite Today – 05/07/2009]

Space Systems/Loral  is selected to provide new communication s satellite, AsiaSat 5C, to Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited.
[Satnews – 05/07/2009]

TacSat-3 is  scheduled for May 7 launch from Wallops Island; features 3 revolutionary trials including Raytheon’s advance imaging spectrometer, Air Force avionics experiment, and Office of Naval Research’s satellite communications package.
[NASA – 05/06/2009]

DirecTV merger with John Malone’s Liberty Entertainment results in simplification of DirecTV’s ownership, setting the stage for future deals.
[Satnews – 05/06/2009]

KVH debuts TracPhone FB150, 10.5" in diameter and 12" high, to offer small, cost effective broadband internet package for maritime applications, suited for boats as small as 40 ft.
[TMC Net – 05/06/2009]

C2SAT, actively working to establish a new presence in China covering local production facilities and product sales, is rewarded by largest single order to date, seven C2SAT 2.4m C-band antennas within six months.
[Satnews – 05/06/2009]

HD DTH satellite service to be offered in Phillipines by the Phillippine Long Distance Telephone Company and MediaQuest.
[Satellite Today – 05/06/2009]

Echo Satellite, offering satellite communications "hotspots" enabling wireless coverage for multiple users in any non-line-of-sight environment, changes name to SatMax in response to request from EchoStar Corp.
[Houston Business Journal – 05/05/2009]

Spacenet Inc. provides transportable satellite communications solutions to Erie Insurance for mobile claim centers.
[Globe Newswire – 05/05/2009]

Australian government’s national high-speed national broadband strategy, "Ruddnet", focusing on 100mbps fiber connectivity to 90% of the population, and 12 mbps satellite connectivity to the rest, divides the nation.
[The Australian – 05/05/2009]

NASA officials lobby for extension of shuttle program to close gap between shuttle program and debuting of the Ares/Orion manned flight capability.
[R&D magazine – 05/04/2009]

U.S. military to launch experimental tactical satellite to demonstrate inexpensive user-friendly space technologies.
[ – 05/04/2009]

AT&T CruiseCast car satellite system for in-car video, currently offering 22 channels, is soft-launched at select retail outlets.
[twice-com – 05/04/2009]

Giga-Com delivers satellite broadcast solutions to Kuwaiti government.
[Satellite Today – 05/04/2009]

French Airline installs Panasonic satellite in-flight entertainment system.
[Satellite Today – 05/04/2009]

Australian satellite company Codan acquires Locus Microwave.
[Satellite Today – 05/04/2009]

KVH announces promotion to make it easier for "big dish" maritime users to "move down" to the KVH "mini-VSAT" broadband service using the TracPhone V7(R) hardware.
[PR Newswire – 05/04/2009]

China Electronics Technology Group chief engineer states that China will be able to provide free global navigation and positioning services by 2020 with its own constellation of satellites named "Compass."
[Satnews – 05/04/2009]

Abu Dhabi or Dubai targeted to be host of new spaceport for space tourism in talks between Virgin Galactic and parties in the UAE.
[The National – May 3, 2009]

SatMagazine interviews Rob Bednarek, President and CEO of SES AMERICOM-NEW SKIES.
[SatMagazine, May 2009]

Finding the Next Generation Aerospace workers for the U.S. Satellite Industry (a crisis in looming in the workforce).
[SatMagazine feature – May 2009}

SatMagazine interviews Charlie Maloney, GOES N-P Program Manager for Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, responsible for final systems test and launch preparations for next generation GOES satellites.
[SatMagazine – May 2009]

SatMagazine interviews Dr. Jesus Villasenor of M.I.T. and Mr. Luke Volpe of Dynamics Research Corp., about NASA’s HETE mission.
[SatMagazine – May 2009]

NSR Report – Supervisory, Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) as well as Machine-to-Machine (M2M) services largely recession-proof; satellite platforms providing reliable ubiquitous communications to widely separated areas becoming increasingly important in these vertical markets.
[NSR Report – May 2009]

C2SAT – technology for the future – 4 axis antenna designed to increase reliability, precision, and accuracy of maritime terminal tracking of satellites for all vessels.
[SatMagazine feature – May 2009]


DIY Friday: Get Your Stinking Paws Off My iPhone

Friday, May 8th, 2009


Remember the movie "Planet of the Apes?" Of course you do. Actor Charlton Heston’s zinger one-liner "Get your stinking paws off her you damn dirty ape" can be used as an alarm to ward off an iPhone thief. Or use PhoneSCREAM instead.


That and other preventive measures were published by iSmashPhone the other day and is worth a look:


1. Turn On Passcode Lock

Sure, this is an amateur tip – but let’s face the facts. Most people out there do not implement a passcode lock on their iPhones. And they should. While it won’t prevent anyone from snatching your phone, it’ll keep your private information private. Here’s how you do it.

1. Go to "Settings".
2. Go to "General".
3. Go to "Passcode".
4. Enter a 4 digit password.
5. Remember it.  
2. Auto-Lock

Your iPhone has an auto-lock option, which (obviously) automatically locks your phone after a chosen period of time, and requires the previously mentioned 4 digit passcode to unlock it. It would be best to have the auto-lock set on either one or two minutes to ensure that the amount of time your iphone spends unlocked is minimized. 
3. Record Your iPhone’s IMEI Number and Serial Number

Your iPhone’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is a fifteen digit number used by wireless carriers to identify your phone. You can find it on the back of your iPhone along with your serial number and FCC ID. Both are important to have when reporting a lost or stolen device.

You can assign a PIN (personal identification number) to your SIM (subscriber identity module) card, so it can’t be used in other phones without the PIN. It must be entered only when you turn the iPhone on, or replace the SIM card. 

1. Go to "Settings".
2. Go to "Phone".
3. Turn on "SIM PIN".
4. You are prompted to enter the current PIN, at which point you must enter the default PIN number. If you are an AT&T customer in the US, the code is "1111". Go here for a list of international default SIM PINS.
5. After entering the default, you can change the code and make it whatever secret combination your heart desires. 

5. Frequently Back Up Your iPhone

Backing up your device is crucial in all situations. Whether you lose your phone, are the victim of a theft, or simply have a buggy iPhone that decides to crash one day, backing up your iPhone is a simple, necessary step to insure the safety of your data. 

6. GadgetTrak

Gadgettrak icon

Price: Free

This application is brilliant in its simplicity. It dupes the burglar into inadvertently sending you his precise location. Here’s how it works.
  1. Download the application.
  2. Go to "Settings" on your iPhone, and go to "GadgetTrak". Choose a browser homepage. (The default is Yahoo.)
  3. Enter your iPhone’s serial number. 
  4. Open the application and register for free with your email and password.
  5. Go to and log in to activate tracking. 
  6. When you open the application, it opens your homepage just like Safari, but the magic happens in the background. It sends out the location of your iPhone, along with GPS coordinates, maps, IP address, carrier, and ISP data.
  7. Notice the near identical resemblence between the "GadgetTrak" homepage icon and the "Safari" homepage icon.  
  8. The Safari icon is typically on the bottom panel on most iPhones. Swap GadgetTrak in place of Safari. 
  9. When an unsuspecting iPhone burglar decides to browse the web on your dearly missed gadget, he will unknowingly give away his location – and you’ll get your iPhone back safe. (You should probably have the police come with you.)  

Private-I works with 3G iPhones in sending the location of a stolen phone to you. Many others, too.

And remember to protect your identity on any mobile phone:

First off you want to password protect your phone, it’s a hassle, but something that is often overlooked and a first, simple security solution you can activate to make your phone safer.  That way anytime you turn your phone on for use, it will require a password entry, this way if you lose your cell phone the data is still password protected from anybody that might try to look into your information.

Secondly, if your phone has Wi-Fi capabilities, never transmit any personal data over public Wi-Fi connections.  This means you don’t want to conduct a whole lot of personal business using a coffee house’s internet connection, because being a public connection it’s not safe for personal data.  Anybody could easily intercept your signal and steal any information you receive or send over a public Wi-Fi network, so you should limit your use not to include anything vital, like a credit card number or information about you.

Finally, there is some information you shouldn’t store on your phone, no matter what security precautions you are already taking.  Information like bank account numbers, or the PIN number associated with your account is a big don’t.  Social Security Numbers, and credit card numbers, also a very bad idea, as that information just isn’t secure enough on your cell phone, even with limiting Wi-Fi usage and password protecting.  A smart phone is a great tool, but never forget to respect how easily the information contained within could be stolen and used against you.

I like the GadgetTrak app:


Protect your devices as you would your keys.

Moon Shot’s a Longshot

Thursday, May 7th, 2009


Not sure if this is a 50-1 longshot, but President Obama will be reviewing the new lunar mission, via Florida Today:

President Barack Obama will order a comprehensive review of NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon when the agency’s proposed 2010 budget is released Thursday.

Expected to last 60 to 90 days, the independent review will examine designs for the launch and exploration vehicles proposed for use by the Constellation program and the timeframe for flying lunar missions, according to sources familiar with the budget planning but not authorized to speak publicly about it.

Norman Augustine, a retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp. and former president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is the likely candidate to lead the study, the sources said.

Augustine could speak publicly about the review as early as Friday.

Current NASA plans call for missions to the moon by 2020, a target set by the space exploration vision established in 2004 by former President George W. Bush.

But the agency last month put on hold contract awards for preliminary designs of the Ares V heavy-lift rocket and Altair lunar lander, pending release of the budget.

We shouldn’t abandon plans to visit the Moon again. It’s good for NASA and the USA.

Delta Does It Again

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009


Nice launch. What was it? Aviation Week tells us:

A NASA-supervised mission carrying a satellite with a prototype sensor technology for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) was put into a low-Earth polar orbit Tuesday one hour after liftoff by a United Launch Alliance Delta II from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The $400 million Space Tracking and Surveillance System Advanced Technology Risk Reduction (SSTS-ATRR) mission, originally called the Block 2010 space Risk Reduction, was launched at 1:24 p.m. PDT and achieved orbit at 2:22 p.m. from a two-stage Delta II 7920-10L.

The goal of the partially classified satellite is to demonstrate sensor technology to track ballistic missiles (Aerospace DAILY, April 29). MDA turned to NASA for launch assistance because the space agency had two ordered two Delta II launchers at a time when the defense agency had switched to larger Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles, according to NASA Launch Manager Chuck Dovale.

In this part of California, it’s a tailgate party:


Extreme Solar Activity

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009


 We all depend on the Sun for life. Whether we know it or not, those of us who watch TV depend on communications satellites for efficient distribution. Broadcast television networks, cable TV, and, of course, direct broadcast satellite — they all depend on satcom systems to get their programming to us, 24x7x365.

Now, more than ever, people are personally dependent on GPS satellites to find their way. Hosted a party over the weekend, and it was the first time nobody asked for direction. "We got GPS," was the response.

Us rocket scientists — and various "sat nuts" who follow these activities — have know the Earth’s magnetic fields are greatly affected by the Sun’s activities, such as sunspots.

The European Space Agency published a report measuring such extreme solar events last week:

“With these detailed observations, we’ll be able to plug in data and better estimate what happens to the inner magnetosphere and near-Earth space during such explosions on the Sun”, said Iannis Dandouras, lead author of the results published recently, and Principal Investigator of the Cluster Ion Spectrometer.

“Looking at such a large-scale physical phenomena with a single satellite is akin to predicting the impact of a tsunami with a single buoy,” added Matt Taylor, ESA’s Project Scientist for Cluster and Double Star. “With Cluster and Double Star we have monitored both sides of Earth simultaneously, and obtained valuable in-situ data.”

Get deeper here. And be sure to check out the animations and images.