Hobby terrorists ....More views
on the asinine Lautenberg-Schumer attack on the hobby rocketry legislation:
Fumbling tech issues .... The
destructive bombast of Democrats Lautenberg and Schumer illustrates
how Congresspersons will happily exploit public ignorance of a technical
issue for short term political gain. A few years ago Republicans
in Congress had a wonderful time attacking the Clinton administration
for laxity in protecting US technology when it became known that
Hughes and Loral, in separate instances, had given the Chinese advice
on correcting problems in launching communications satellites that
might help with Chinese missile applications. The incidents involved
fairly low level systems and there was never any proof the companies
intentionally sought to bypass export restrictions. They later paid
some modest fines and that should have been the end of the issue.
Unfortunately, Congress wildly overreacted and placed all satellite
technology under strict export controls governed by the State Department
rather than the Commerce Department. Furthermore, the restrictions
dealt not only with China but all countries and for all levels of
hardware and information. So whether a corporation wants to sell
a $200 million dollar satellite to China, a British satellite insurance
company asks for details about a satellite for which a US company
needs coverage, an American company wants to sell a satellite component
to a Japanese satellite company, or a university researcher wanted
to talk about an instrument going onto a German scientific satellite,
all exchanges must get prior approval from Washington bureaucrats.
Not surprisingly, this has had a devastating impact on the US space
industry, especially since it came into effect just as the telecommunications
recession hit. As this commentary discusses - What's
Shooting Down Satellite Sales: Congress needs to refine strict licensing
rules meant to keep unfriendly states from buying U.S. technology
- Business Week - Aug.4.03 issue - the Congress has damaged
US space technology development far more than any foreign spys could
ever hope to do.
Demagoging rocketry .... Hopes
were dashed today for a reversal soon of the onerous regulations
recently imposed on hobby rocketry by the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms) under the Homeland Security Act. Various rocketry
groups have spent several months attempting to educate members of
Congress to the fact that the rules are based on ATF's incorrect
categorization of the most common rocketry fuel, non-detonable ammonium
perchlorate, as an explosive.
Senator Mike Enzi (R - Wyoming) introduced a bill a few months
ago to exempt hobby rocketry ompletely from the restrictions. Unfortunately,
this ran into resistance in committee and instead some progress
was made towards a compromise bill that would set a limit below
which the background checks and permit requirements would not apply.
An attempt in Congress was made to pass this compromise version.
Unfortunately, today Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and
Charles Schumer (D-NY) decided they would get some publicity from
the issue by releasing a shrill press
release claiming that Enzi and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
were attempting to "Make it Easier for Terrorists to Build
Missiles in US".
Geesh!! Almost everything in the statement is either misleading
or totally wrong. See Sen.
Enzi's response. However, now that the bill has become a political
football, it will be extremely difficult to get anything passed.
It isn't high on the agenda of many in Congress, so causing indefinite
delays will be very easy.
See the Congressional
Action Page at the Amateur Rocketry Society Of America and the
links in the Rocketry
page for more news and background info about the situation.
Space CD progress .... The
Space Society Space Songs CD, long
under development, could be released by the end of the year according
from Eli Goldberg in the latest newsletter from Prometheus
"Kristoph [Klover] has finished the final master. We mean
it this time.
Everything's done. The total CD came to 71 minutes, although we
may drop one song.
It'll most likely be called "To Touch the Stars",
with a subtitle of "A Musical Celebration of Space Exploration".
The CD release is being blocked by:
1. A bit of liner note content from The Mars Society (a print-resolution
logo and membership information)
2. A contract from one artist who we added at the last minute
without first completing the paperwork, in a fit of bad judgment
on my part.
3. Julia Ecklar having time to proofread the liner notes (or
our giving up waiting and finding a new proofreader who we respect
as much as Julia.)
Richard Leeds is now working on design mock-ups for the front
Links to sample tracks can be found at Prometheus
Rocketry legislation status... Rocketry
groups and several members of Congress will try to introduce a compromise
bill as an alternative to the current proposal in the Senate that
could cause more trouble than the problems it was meant to rectify.
See the status report at The
Congressional Action Page of Amateur Rocketry Society of America.
Early spaceman .... The National
Public Radio offers an interesting report, with audio and videos,
about the accomplishments of the pre-Moon Race space pioneer Iven
First Spaceman: Capt. Iven Kincheloe Took X-2 Rocket Plane to Record
Height - NPR - July.25.03
Intelligent prospects.... The
has published a map of 166 stars that indicate unusual signal patterns
out of the millions of data signals examined by 4 million participants
in the project : Stellar
Countdown Yields Skymap - Astrobiology Magazine - July.26.03
Interesting businesss.... Some
interesting space related commercial programs made interesting progress,
proposals, and announcements this week:
Race to Space at the Smithsonian...
Katherine Foster of SmithsonianEducation.org
dropped me a note about their program and latest on line exhibit:
Expand your readers hobbies and join Smithsonian Education's
"Race to Space" to experience a "Walk on the Moon" with Smithsonian
Or explore the universe and complete your space trip by launching
into lesson plans, games and online activities for students, educators
and families by visiting: www.smithsonianeducation.org
"Space must be accessible not just to engineers and scientists,
but to journalists, teachers, poets and all of the people of Earth"
- The Albuquerque Tribune Newspaper
Mars buildup... Excitment is bound
to grow as the four Mars missions from the US, Europe and Japan
head for the Red Planet. The Planetary Society is organizing a number
of events that lead up to the Mars encounters with its Mars
Watch 2003 program. It will begin on August 27, 2003 when there
will be r "events at sites all over the world, including star
parties, sci-fi film festivals, Mars talks and more" to recognize
the day "when Mars will be closer to Earth than it has been
for almost 50,000 years."
See the events
calendar to keep track of what's going. The culmination of the
program will be a the Planetfest
'04 during January 2-4, 2004 in Pasadena, California where participants
will watch the Mars Exploration Rover landing.
News briefs... Great time for
Europeans to watch the Space Station pass overhead: Ideal
conditions to see ISS now! - ESA Portal - July.24.03 ...
... Checkout this interesting discussion
about the race during the 1950's to be the first country to put
a satellite into orbit: The
First Space Race: Launching the World's First Satellite
- Jim McDade interviews Matt Bille, the co-author of the forthcoming
book. (Reprint at collectSPACE
- news - "Book Preview: The First Space Race")
Lunar data cache... TransOrbital
(a HobbySpace advertiser) has begun
to discuss a new application for its lunar missions - safe storage
of data on the Moon. Backup
Data on the Moon? - PC Magazine - July.22.03 (via spacetoday.net).
Many companies spend big bucks to keep their data backed up in remote
locations to avoid serious problems if data loss from natural disasters,
terrorism, etc. The Moon could offer the safest storage place ever.
Space tourism expansion... The
lull in trips to the ISS by space tourists has not been for lack
of interest. The Columbia disaster caused the Russian space agency
to suspend the program temporarily. In fact, Space
Adventures, which helped arrange to previous two tourist trips,
would like to expand the program to send two tourists at a time,
though it looks like the cost of a Soyuz needs to be negotiated
down a bit : Russia
could sell space craft to tourist firm: official - Spacedaily -
China space ... The space community
will soon include a new active and independent member : '100
day countdown' to China's first astronaut - New Scientist - July.23.03
Satellite TV-DSL teamwork... While
direct to home digital satellite TV continues to
do well against cable TV, the packaging of digital cable TV
and internet service threatens the growth of the satellite industry.
The failure of satellite based home
broadband internet projects to get off the ground has
left a serious hole in the industry's available services.
However, it looks like a possible solution is for the satellite
TV to team up with telephone firms to offer single priced packages
of TV, telephone, and broadband DSL service. The satellite companies
need broadband and the telephone companies can use the TV bonus
to fight back at cable's success in attracting customers to cable
telephone and internet service. Yesterday, both of the major us
DTH TV companies announced such deals with telephone companies.
Creating cliches closer to home...
Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches (site found via
Geek Press and
I noticed that there were not so many cliches involving space
sci-fi in our solar system. As I note in an earlier essay,
there are many great new and fresh scenarios and plots involving
exploration and settlement of our solar system just waiting for
talented writers and producers of films and TV shows to exploit
to the max.
A little radiation isn't so bad afterall...
A new large scale study shows that pilots, stewards and stewardesses,
who receive over their working lives significantly higher total
doses of radiation than those living on the ground, do not suffer
higher incidences of cancer: Frequent
flyers fears over cosmic rays allayed - New Scientist - July.19.03.
The common assumption that radiation damage to biological systems
is linear down to zero continues to look weaker and weaker. In fact,
the opposite might be the case : Professor
Outlines Benefits Of Low-Dose Radiation - ScienceDaily - Aug.23.02.
High on my list of things to do is to create a section dedicated
to the issue of radiation exposure in space, which I think will
become a big topic of interest once space tourism becomes available
to a larger number of people. If enough shielding is packed around
a spaceship or habitat, the exposure can be reduced to as low as
that on the earth's surface, which in fact can be quite high in
some areas. All that mass, though, has big costs associated with
it. So the question of what level of shielding will be safe enough
will need answering and is one that NASA should put a greater focus
While waiting for my dedicated radiation page, check out the links
in the sub-sections Radiation
Exposure & Protection - Space Life and in Nuclear
Radiation - Science & Technology.
Speaking of risks in space,
the risks of human spaceflight by Jeff Foust - The Space Review
- July.21.03 for a discussion of spaceflight dangers.
On a Sunday 34 years ago Apollo
11 landed on the Moon. Seems almost like yesterday to a middle-aged
boomer like me. As mentioned earlier,
you can celebrate the deep significance of that event via Evoloterra,
The Story of When We First Left Earth. See the Personal
Space Histories section for how some people remember
this and other space events. The Where
were you on July 20, 1969? site is of particular interest in
Hard to believe that such an amazing accomplishment did not lead
to a proliferation of humans in space. But I believe that the next
34 years will leave a more productive space history.
Mars video adventure ... Elaine
Walker, space music creator and performer, has left for
Devon Island to visit the NASA
Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) for a week. She will film a video
"for a pop song she has written [that] will help to promote
the idea of humans traveling to Mars to young audiences." More
information about her project can be found at Space
Frontier Foundation Mars Site
You can follow her Martian Arctic exploits via her web log at Live
on Devon Island - Elaine Walker's adventures on Mars.
To help her fund the $5000 for the trip and video production, you
can make a contribution at Space
Frontier Foundation - Member Dues (via the Mars entry.)
Open source spacecraft... Via
I found this interesting approach to spacecraft design at SourceForge.net:
Project Info - Spacecraft Simulation Framework. The project
seeks to develop "a collection of toolkits & libraries to assist
in the modeling, testing & analysis of spacecraft." It was
developed out of the master
thesis by Andrew Turner, who is a student of Prof. Chris Hall
at Virginia Tech who recently started a spacecraft
web log. (I mentioned his site in RLV
News a few days ago.) It will be interesting to see how
this project develops.
is Not an Option... A new documentary based on Gene
Kranz's best'selling book will appear on The
History Channel® on Sunday, August 24 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
It reveals "the untold story of the engineers in Mission Control".
No one lived the adventure of America's manned space program
more fully than Gene Kranz, the Mission Control Flight Director
known to moviegoers from Ed Harris's Oscar'nominated portrayal
of him in the feature film Apollo 13. Failure is Not
an Option is based on Gene Kranz's best'selling book. This
world premiere program provides an insider's view of over 30 years
of technological innovation and human determination, seen from
the ground up. This is not just another space documentary - it
is the untold story of the engineers in Mission Control.
Three years after the Russians launched Sputnik and began the
space race, Gene Kranz quit his job as an engineer working in
aircraft test programs to join NASA. There he found a fledgling
organization full of engineering "whiz kids" - recent
college graduates who were pioneering daring new approaches to
projects that had only been dreamed of. The men of Mission Control
were intense, competitive and insulated. Yet these engineers refused
to take no for an answer and worked miracles to help America win
the space race. President Kennedy had challenged them to put a
man on the moon by the end of the decade and they were determined
Failure is Not an Option begins with NASA's earliest missions
including Alan Shepard's nationally televised first manned space
flight and John Glenn's famous Friendship'7 orbital flight. Continue
to the rest of the press release.
A bet on space travel... Space
Adventures is promoting the idea of lotteries that award a trip
to the ISS - Trip
to space station as lottery jackpot - Financial Times - July.17.03
See more about space contests of various sorts in the Space
Space entrepreneurs club... If
you are starting a space company you might want to stop by the International
Association of Space Entrepreneurs meeting next week in McLean,
Virginia and hear the talk on "Critical Issues in Financing New
Space Ventures" by John Higginbotham, Founder and Chairman of SpaceVest.
(via Jeff Foust of spacetoday.net)
A match to be made in heaven...
I expect we will be hearing many more cute one liners about
this event as August nears - Marriage
license issued here for first wedding in space - HoustonChronicle.com
- July.17.03 [ Space
wedding faces complications - MSNBC - July.18.03 ]
whiz, NOW they start catching on ... Coming a day
after Loral declared bankruptcy, this article At
Sea or on Safari, Satellite Phones Hook Users - NY Times - July.17.03
gushes irony. Debt from its Globalstar investment led directly to
Loral's Chapter 11 predicament... continue
in RLV News.
NASA budget perspective ...
I no longer believe NASA should do launch vehicle development for
a number of reasons; mostly because private firms could do it much
cheaper. See for example this item NASA
Budget 1958 - 2003 in constant (1996) dollars - sci.space.policy
thread - July.03 showing the huge amount of money spent by NASA
since the Apollo days but which has left us currently without even
a means of getting people to low earth orbit.
However, I certainly believe NASA does much good in space science
and general space technology development. So I don't have much patience
with those who claim the government spends too much money on space.
budget comparison from 2001 shows the relatively small
amount that the country spends on human spaceflight. See also the
several tables at NASA
budget - Putting NASA's Budget in Perspective by Richard
Braastad who compares NASA funding to various other things that
our society and government spends money on.
Space business will survive...
What a lousy few days for the space industry. First PanAmSat
declared late last week that two of its Boeing built satellites
will die in a couple of years from faulty ion propulsion systems
experiences problems with two satellites - spacetoday.net - July.14.03
- far short of their expected life spans.
Yesterday, Boeing took a huge charge on its satellite and Delta
IV launch businesses. Then Loral announced it would sell off its
most profitable group of satellites over North America to Intelsat
and go into bankruptcy to recover and reorganize: Loral
Files for Bankruptcy; Boeing to Take $1.1 Billion Charge - NY Times
However, despite these hits to the big time telecom part of the
industry, space business life goes on. Orbital Sciences announced,
for example, that its latest satellite successfully reached its
operating position over Japan after a launch last month - Orbital
Makes Final In-Orbit Delivery of BSAT-2c Satellite - Orbital PR/Spaceref
- July.15.03. This is one of the new small GEO-sat platforms
that is finding a niche in a tough telecom market.
The startup company SpaceDev
announced a contract with the Air Force : SpaceDev
to Develop Nanosatellite Technology - SpaceDev - July.15.03.
After its recent success with the CHIPSat
mission, the company seems to be solidifying its position as a leader
in nanosat development.
looks to be making progress in attracting sponsors, or at least
product placement arrangements, for it lunar mission : HP
iPAQ Pocket PCs to be Onboard TransOrbital's First Commercial Moon
Mission: Newly Introduced HP iPAQ h5550 to Facilitate Wireless Communication
in Space - HP - July.15.03 * TransOrbital
and Hewlett Packard to Tackle the Moon - Space.com - July.15.03
wants people to know its still alive and kicking : Mir-Corp
Enters Discussions with Asian Investors; Marks Anniversary of World's
Only Privately - Funded Manned Space Flight - MirCorp - July.15.03
So things are tough but there are seedlings in the space business
world that are quite alive and growing if not thriving.
Note: Jeff Foust examines who should actually be included in the
space business category : What
is the "space industry"? by Jeff Foust - Space Review - July.14.03
Correction - A couple of times
I've mention Keith Cowing's reports at Mars
on Earth at Mars.tv - SpaceRef from Devon Island in the Canadian
Arctic. He asked me to make it clear that he works with the Haughton-Mars
Project, which is funded by NASA and is a completely separate
project from the Mars Society 's Flashline
Mars Arctic Research Station.
Space Colonies and the Pacific...
of the Polynesians throughout the Pacific has often struck me
as a closer analogy to space colonization than the usual Arctic,
Alaska, or Wild West analogies. Setting out into the ocean on small
canoes, the environment in which the Polynesians traveled certainly
endangered them as much as the vacuum of space threatens the astronauts
in their warm and cozy spaceships.
In fact, these brave early explorers were in some ways the first
space travelers. I can imagine them laying on their backs before
going to sleep on calm, clear, moonless nights and, with the dark
ocean close to their sides, looking up into a canopy of bright stars
and feeling themselves falling into the cosmos.
And when they did eventually come upon some island there were no
guarantees that it would contain enough resources to sustain them.
If not, then they would head off into the ocean again. Over the
centuries they grew very adept at such exploration and eventually
settled even the most remote islands.
Randy McDonald looks at the more recent history of the Pacific
islands - On
Space Colonies - Randy McDonald - June.22.03 - and discusses
what it tells us about possible development of colonies in space.
When We First Left Earth... The
Space Show this Sunday, July 20, 2003, 4-5:15 PM PDT live on
will present Evoloterra,
The Story of When We First Left Earth by the co-creators
of the program, Rand
Simberg and Bill Simon:
July 20,1969 marks the time we first left the bonds of Earth's
gravity and stood on another world, and there was a desire to
preserve this momentous occasion through the ages. A model existed
for how this might be accomplished: the Passover Seder. Here,
embodied in a story that a father tells to his sons is the Exodus
from Egypt that has been told for thousands of generations. This
then became the basis of how we might preserve the story of humans
first leaving Earth. We tell the story of Apollo 11 and what led
up to it. "Evoloterra (The Space Seder)" was a collaborative project.
But it was written primarily by Rand Simberg, Bill Simon and Margaret
Jordan. It was first published in 1989.
Following Mars on Earth...
The Mars Society's
summer session at the Flashline
Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) on Devon Island is now
if full swing. You can follow the events via the crew updates at
Mission Data. There are also reports on MSNBC such as this one
work for simulated Marswalk- MSNBC - July.14.03.
Keith Cowing's reports at Mars
on Earth at Mars.tv - SpaceRef. on the Haughton-Mars
Project, which is a completely separate project from the Mars
Society and FMARS. [July 15 - Keith Cowing asked me to make this
distinction clear between the projects.]
Even more GPS... As mentioned
in the previous update, GPS applications continue to grow and become
even more pervasive throughout our society. See this article - The
Sky's the Limit - Fast Company - July.03 issue for a survey
of some of the people who use it on routine daily basis.
Satellite radio reversal... We
all enjoy clear, simple, black and white explanations and characterizations
of issues and topics of interest; never mind that in fact the real
world is a complex mess of mottled shades of gray. For example,
after the Iridium and Globalstar failures the business and tech
press routinely portrayed all space ventures as BAD, though this
required ignoring the steady and profitable growth of direct-to-home
satellite TV, which now reaches 20
million homes in the US.
They also gave satellite
radio little chance of success. With the recent big gains
in subscribers and stock prices for XM and Sirius, though, some
commentators are starting to see that they dismissed their prospects
too quickly - Silent
Success - Why tech pundits don't talk about XM Satellite Radio.
By Brendan I. Koerner - Slate - July.10.03.
GPS guides the sky ... The
GPS became even more deeply embedded in our industrial and social
infrastructure yesterday with the announcment by the FAA that airplanes
can now rely on it completely from takeoff to landing - Aircraft
to get some help from above - USATODAY.com - July.11.03 . Find
more info at
Amsats lead to nation sats....
This article - Space
& Beyond: Pakistan's New Moon - ARRLWeb - July.10.03 - shows
how the amateur satellite and space radio fields can lead to big
Inflatable space hotels...
Looks like Bigelow
Aerospace continues its push for space habitats with
inflatable structures: NASA
Notice of Prospective Patent License: Bigelow Development Aerospace
Division, LLC - SpaceRef - July.10.03
space gets a royal endorsement - RLV News
Petition for collision insurance...
A group of distinguished citizens has presented Congress a petition
requesting that a concerted program beginnow to protect the Earth
from a collision with a comet or asteroid - Concerned
Citizens Ask for Congressional Action on Near Earth Objects - Space.com
The letter can be seen at An
Open Letter to Congress on Near Earth Objects July 7, 2003 at
Space science powers up... Jeff
Foust gives an interesting review of the plans for space science
probes and the use of nuclear power - Space
science gets big at NASA: The future of NASA's planetary exploration
plans may rest on larger missions and nuclear technologies - The
Space Review - July.7.03
Roadmap for space... Arthur
Smith reviews the National
Space Society's Roadmap
for the Settlement of Space at SciScoop
Making a space living ... This
article lists various ideas for possible space based businesses
to serve settlers and also to trade with Earth - As
long as we're here..." Secondary Profit Generators for Moon
and Mars Bases : Bryce Walden, Cheryl Lynn York, Thomas L. Billings,
& Robert D. McGown - Oregon L5 Space and Robotics 2002
Activists save SETI... This
article - Search
for Life Out There Gains Respect, Bit by Bit - NY Times - July.8.03
- tells how space activists and university programs saved SETI research
after government funding was shut off.
Activist solar sail... The
latest update - Space
sailing test could launch within months - Spaceflight Now - July.6.03
- on the solar
sail project of the Planetary
Society and Cosmos
Studios indicates continuted progress towards a flight this
Near space tourism... The Russian
adventure tourism company Fly
the Legend offers rides on Russian supersonic jets that reach
as high as 25 km (15.5mi). An
Exciting Journey: Moscow - Space - Moscow - Fly the Legend - July.7.03
Calling Andromeda... Team
Encounter and the Russian Academy of Sciences' Radio Technology
and Electronics Institute sent messages this weekend towards several
Call - Team Encounter: Make First Contact, Messages to Space
program offers the opportunity to include a message of one's own
in these broadcasts by first joining Team Encounters main project,
which is to fly a Solar
Sail into deep space with messages and even small DNA samples
from paying participants.
More at Yevpatoriya
center sends Cosmic Call message - Interfax - July.5.03 and
for the aliens - Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log - July.4.03
Another space tourist... Space
Adventures apparently has signed up another paying candidate to
go to the Space Station : Source:
Space Adventure Signs Preliminary Contract with Possible Space Tourist
- Space.com - July.5.03. This follows the announcement
that the company had signed a contract with the Russian Space Agency
for a dedicated Soyuz flight in 2004 or 2005. They will need two
tourists for that flight.
MOST in space...
In addition to the cubesats launched on the recent Rockot
as mentioned below,
the Canadian satellite MOST
also successfully reached space. MOST stands for Microvariabiltiy
and Oscillations of Stars. It is a "suitcase-sized (65cm x
65cm x 30cm, 60kg) spacecraft with a 15cm aperature telescope.
With an high precision atitude control system built with "miniature
reaction wheels and magneto- torquers", the telescope will
"probe stars and extrasolar planets by measuring tiny light
variations undetectable from earth." See the project overview
and list of media articles
for more details.
at Canada Hopes To Get the Most Out Of New Space Scope - SpaceDaily
The project was developed by a consortium
that consists primarily of Canadian universities with some help
It should be noted here that Henry
Spencer , the well known guru of Usenet,
space historian, and general all-around space expert (e.g. he gives
the kickoff talk at the Space
Access Society meetings each year), assisted in the software
[This item suggested by Jonathan Goff.]
Space replicas... Design Cast
Studios offers some unusual space replicas in its
Asteroids and other Cosmic Collectibles. These include a marble
and bronze model of the Pathfinder
landing site and mounted models of several asteroids.
[July.3 - I forgot to mention that I found this site via the Martian
Soil web log.]
Demento's space music... The
SciFi.com audio reviews Dr.
Demento's Hits From Outer Space : Renowned audio-oddity expert Dr.
Demento combs the universe for the funniest science-fiction sounds.
Although the title emphasizes the humours aspects of the music,
it doesn't mean they are all campy silliness. One song - Banned
From Argo - is from well known filker
Leslie Fish and gets this praise:
"a veritable masterpiece, chronicling the unsavory shore-leave
antics of a familiar Starfleet crew. The cheery tune, set to a
traditional folk melody, is a sing-along classic, with a rich,
raw guitar and verses that are both comical and clever.
Student sats launched... Eurockot
successfully launched 9 different small satellites on one rocket
on June 30th. Rockot
booster successfully launches 9 payloads - Spaceflight Now - June.30.03.
The payloads included several university satellites such as the
Japanese Cubesat and CUTE-1, the Canadian Can X-1, the Danish AAU
Cubesat and DTUsat.
follow the design developed at Stanford's Space
Systems's Development Laboratory. The goal for the 10cm cubes
is to provide a standard, low cost bus on which students and small
companies can quickly and cheaply attach their application systems.
Such a nanosat can be developed for as little as $40,000. A company
called One Stop Satellites
Solutions was set up to commercialize the concept.
One of the cubsats was the US Quakesat : Quakefinder
launches Quakesat for research on earthquake warning data - QuakeFinder
- June.30.03. The Quakefinder,
LLC is a spinoff from the Stanford satellite group that will
study whether a satellite can predict
earthquake activity from increases in extremely low frequency
EM waves (ELF). There have been some indications of correlations
of such emissions with earthquakes but it is still not proven.
LEO constellation comeback?
This week's Space News reports that Orbcomm
plans to begin development of a follow on constellation of low orbiting
satellites when its current fleet begins to degrade.
Orbcomm began as an Orbital Sciences
project to provide to industrial users a low cost, world-wide system
to track and monitor via messaging their trucks, train cars, and
other movable assets. The company, however, had a number of technical
problems that slowed its startup and it fell into bankruptcy.
Orbcomm is often lumped in with the Iridium and Globalstar satellite
phone projects that also went bankrupt around the same time. However,
those projects suffered primarily from a lack of demand while Orbcomm
had demand but its inability to get the system working well and
to install units in the field put it into a severe cash flow situation.
Orbital and a Canadian partner both had unrelated financial problems
of their own and could not help Orbcomm get over these initial roadblocks.
In 2000 Orbcomm was taken private by a group of investors that
built on contracts with a handful of companies such as Volvo. The
company now reports that it's customer base is growing at 5% a month
and expects to post its first-ever pre-tax profit this year. Even
the investors are surprised how well the company is doing, one saying
"It seems it may prove to be a good investment now; I was not
so sure a year ago."
The company is now requesting proposals for a replacement fleet
for launch in the 2006 time frame.
I've posted several items about developments in tracking
and messaging via satellite and think that it is a potential
big winner for the space industry but is currently below the radar
of most space analysts. Not only are their great industrial efficiencies
to be gained from satellite tracking, but the US government is also
placing high priority on monitoring of imported goods from their
origin to their destiniation to prevent terrorist tampering.
to June 2003 articles in archive