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The Space Log
Space for Everyone      -    July 2003

July.31.03 Space News

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.


July.29.03 Space News

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.


July.28.03 Space News

Space CD progress .... The National 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 Music :

"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 cover."

Links to sample tracks can be found at Prometheus and Mp3.com.

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.


July.27.03 Space News

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 Kincheloe America's First Spaceman: Capt. Iven Kincheloe Took X-2 Rocket Plane to Record Height - NPR - July.25.03

Intelligent prospects.... The SETI@Home project 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


July.26.03 Space News

Interesting businesss.... Some interesting space related commercial programs made interesting progress, proposals, and announcements this week:


July.25.03 Space News

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 Education's virtual exhibit.

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.


July.24.03 Space News

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")


July.23.03 Space News

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 - July.23.03

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


July.22.03 Space News

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... In The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches (site found via Geek Press and Transterrestrial) 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 on.

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, see Weighing the risks of human spaceflight by Jeff Foust - The Space Review - July.21.03 for a discussion of spaceflight dangers.


July.20.03 Space News

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 this regard.

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.)


July.19.03 Space News

Open source spacecraft... Via RocketForge 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.


July.18.03 Space News

Failure 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 to succeed.

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 (via spacetoday.net)

See more about space contests of various sorts in the Space Tourism section.

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 ]


July.17.03 Space News

Gee 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. This NASA 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.


July.16.03 Space News

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 : PanAmSat 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 - July.15.03.

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.

Transorbital 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

And Mir-Corp 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


July.15.03 Space News

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... The spread 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 wooden double 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.


July.14.03 Space News

When We First Left Earth... The Space Show this Sunday, July 20, 2003, 4-5:15 PM PDT live on www.live365.com, 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 FMARS Mission Data. There are also reports on MSNBC such as this one Real 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.


July.11.03 Space News

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 things.

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


July.10.03 Space News

Private 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 - July.9.03.

The letter can be seen at An Open Letter to Congress on Near Earth Objects July 7, 2003 at www.congressneoaction.org


July.9.03 Space News

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 - July.7.03.

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


July.8.03 Space News

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 year.


July.7.03 Space News

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 (via spacetoday.net)


July.6.03 Space News

Calling Andromeda... Team Encounter and the Russian Academy of Sciences' Radio Technology and Electronics Institute sent messages this weekend towards several constellations. The Cosmic 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 Voicemail for the aliens - Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log - July.4.03


July.5.03 Space News

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.


July.2.03 Space News

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.

More at Canada Hopes To Get the Most Out Of New Space Scope - SpaceDaily - July.2.03

The project was developed by a consortium that consists primarily of Canadian universities with some help from AMSAT. 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 development.

[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.


July.1.03 Space News

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.

Cubesats 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.


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