May 4, 2018: Weekly Spatial Resolutions

This site contains my opinions and ideas only, not the opinions or ideas of any organization I work for. It’s my idea playground, and I’m inviting you in. Welcome!

Stories I happened upon during the past week.

Space Warfare: We Must Defend Our Big, Exquisite Satellites

Someone wants to keep the military-industrial complex alive and well. I don’t understand this article, other than the obvious hand-wringing about keeping large satellites alive and kicking. Bigger military satellites don’t necessarily equal great performance. They will, however, remain very expensive because of the acceptance/expectation of certain processes within government, military, and legacy contractors.

Some of the issues I see with the article may be because of the ignorance on the writer’s part about how space works. It definitely shows an ignorance, or willing acceptance, of the program history of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), which is a U.S. missile detection/warning system on multiple satellites orbiting the Earth. Adding more satellites to defend them will not only be costly, but then increase investment in a system which was designed over 30 years ago manufactured with possibly older technology. Do we really think that’s a good way to spend taxpayer money?

SBIRS was not affordable by any measure. According to this 2017 GAO report (here–page 6), SBIRS costs increased by more than 300% from the original baseline. That’s over 19 BILLION dollars! The United States Air Force was late to launch it’s first SBIRS satellite by nine years. And it’s dismaying to think the USAF believes it’s a changed service and will be able to control costs of smaller satellites. They will probably be the most expensive small satellites taxpayer money can buy. But maybe better than protecting aging satellites.

As for the aggression from other nations–kinetic attacks in space can happen. But I believe it would be far smarter to conduct attacks on the weak links of military constellations, which are the ground stations. They don’t even have to be destructive–merely disruptive for a time.

Don’t believe what you read on the internet :-)–even from a legacy publisher.

Unlike space, there’s no clear finish line.

And here’s where I step in and note that maybe the writer of this article doesn’t understand what “space” means.

Brexit prompts UK to probe developing satellite navigation system

And why not? History will decide whether Brexit is a good or bad thing. But the Europeans have proven as being vindictive (or cautious) by moving the backup control center for Galileo from the UK to Spain. So it’s not beyond the pale for the Brits when they think access from Galileo data will be blocked by their continental friends. So, why not build a satellite navigation system? The UK is already trying to get small satellite launchers up and running, so why not help that industry grow by building small positioning, navigation, and timing satellites? The UK already has a growing small satellite industry. Have them build disposable small PNT satellites in very low Earth orbit. Build a lot. Build them to be disposable, and cheap.

To quote Jeremy Clarkson, “How hard could it be?”

Wilbur Ross Details Entirely Realistic Plan For Trump Administration To Exploit Trillion Dollar Space Industry

This article pokes some fun at Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. It seems very appropriate to do so since apparently Ross has some ideas about commerce in space, but they sound vague, maybe even loony. Worse, the facts he’s being attributed to citing are grossly inaccurate. I happen to know the global space industry is a bit more than a $140 billion business. A lot more. But definitely not a trillion (yet). Just the transcript of his interview with Joe Kernen is illuminating, but not in a good way.

That’s not how it works!

In the second-to-last paragraph of this article, is a reiteration that the USAF is on the hook to have plans in place for possible “emergency launches” using allies’ rockets. Let’s leave aside the whole reason for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program’s existence and that current DoD satellites in the pipeline take generally a long time not just to manufacture, but then integrate with a rocket.

Let’s also leave aside the fact there doesn’t seem to be a dearth of rockets in the U.S. launch service providers’ inventories (have you seen ULA’s catalog? It’s impressive.), There aren’t that many allies with the same breadth of rocket inventory and mass-lifting capabilities. One potential ally, Europe, purchases two Soyuz types from Russia for its inventory. Japan is even worse, with a few big rockets that require a lengthy lead time to launch and no launch facilities close to the Equator. Based on current DoD acquisitions and scheduling practices, the option to find allied alternatives seems a waste of money.

What is the concern driving this, and is it honestly realistic to believe the U.S. launch service providers will not be able to launch ANY satellites? What are we–Russia? And why doesn’t the USAF come back and just tell these lawmakers that’s not how it works?

And under the label of “Nice Try”

Same article, just one paragraph above the one I just discussed. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are trying everything to get the U.S. government interested in powered upper stages in Earth’s orbit. Since no one has been interested enough to fund the project (the only way these companies will be incentivized to actually build something is with taxpayer money), they’re going for a different tactic: it’s all for “the defense of U.S. space assets.” Let’s not forget ULA’s plans. Nice try guys–using the word “holistic” for a launch system was a nice touch.

Busy week ahead for coast-to-coast space operations thanks to SpaceX and ULA

Note, Orbital ATK is not being thanked. The company’s dismal launch rate is probably why. But Northrop bought them for some reason. Maybe, one day…

A Sign that Your Space Industry might Not be Doing so Well?

A Russian-built sauna? Really? Russia can’t even keep the water clear on the Russian side of the ISS (see previous weekly resolutions). Their launch services aren’t doing so hot, either. At least we’re not depending on the Russians for something important, like flying people to space;-).

Facebook May Have Secret Plans to Build a Satellite-Based Internet

And by “secret plans,” the writer means the PUBLIC filing of details Facebook sent to the FCC. But seriously, do we want Facebook mucking things up in space (and I don’t mean the possible addition of thousands of satellites on orbit)? They’re already proving very inept with data here on the ground. Just ask, well, anyone.

America’s space industry has a hiring problem, and it must battle the Silicon Valley to solve it

Yup, they do. There’s data out there showing this problem, and they only have themselves to blame. Notice in the article it’s the companies who have been working with the government the longest who seem to be having issues attracting talent. They need to understand their job portals need fixing. Some of these yahoos still have the same job openings open when I was looking for work over five years ago. That’s just plain lazy. They are also trying to get talented people but not pay them what they are worth. Notice the age gap they moan about? It’s because they pushed away a generation. And inspiration takes more than “The Q is You,” or some other inane saying. Not once have I heard the big three actually say something simple or inspirational. Never underestimate the power of the idea of changing the world.

The Future of Space Exploration | Behind the Wings

Okay, this is just for fun. Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum made this 9-minute video showing their interviews with interesting people about some projects at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Go ahead, watch it.

I have to write it. This is a space blog and I’m a nerd.

May the 4th be with you, always!

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