May 18, 2018: Weekly Spatial Resolutions


Because there’s confusion galore, someone is going to get stung. 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!

The Mystery of the ‘SpaceBees’ Just Got Even Weirder

We’ve talked about the SpaceBees issue a few times on our podcast, “The Mission Readiness Review.” In case you don’t know, Swarm Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup, launched some very small satellites for a few federal agencies on an Indian rocket early this year. But the Federal Communications Commission never granted the U.S. company the license to do so.

Since then, there’s been a tremendous “harrumphing” sound coming from the FCC, and not much at all coming from Swarm. The story in the link to The Atlantic above sheds some new light on this saga. It sounds like the FCC is still unsure about what to do. And Swarm is still as silent as its satellites (for now).

Pondering the business case of ferrying customers for suborbital point to point

Oookay…this is putting the ferry before the spaceship. Very speculative in that BFR seems to be a given in this post. Not saying I will bet against SpaceX, either. Still, this is an interesting read, if only to get an idea of potential ticket prices for suborbital flights on BFR, and the expected routes, if the graphs within the article are anything to go by. But I would caution against those routes, because SpaceX normally approaches a problem sideways. And the company has different motives than a ULA or Arianespace.

EU and UK fight over rights to Galileo satellite system

I’ve covered this a few times. I admit it. And this may not be the last time. But the Brits are not up the creek here. They have a few options. One would be to build their own “Galileo” system. If commercial communications company Iridium can build a GPS timing and location augmentation system into its Iridium NEXT satellites, then surely the UK could do something similar or better. Which brings us to the other option: why not buy into the service Iridium offers? That may be cheaper, but the UK will get better data than perhaps offered from Galileo. And it would be fairly instant.

Schedule for First SLS Core Stage Still Sliding

And no one fainted from surprise in response to this. This kind of thing isn’t news. Must have been a slow news day. This is how the government runs things. Surprise!! No?

Africa’s space race intensifies

No, I didn’t know Africa had a space race going on, either. And it’s a pretty short list of African nations involved in this “race.” But, for those who aren’t familiar with some of the “big dogs” in African space industry, Nigeria is right at the top. South Africa might be neck-in-neck or right behind.

A Call for Senior Officer Reform in the Air Force: An Insider’s Perspective

I bring this up because the U.S. Air Force is considered the “Space SME” and these issues do impact our space operators within. And because stories of leadership, or lack thereof, are interesting to me. I do appreciate the writer’s attempts to suggest solutions near the end. There is some truth in here. It may be hard for folks in the service, especially those in the upper echelons, to read this. Or maybe their assistants will just do everything in their power to not bring the editorial to their attention.

Either way, I don’t think the USAF is the only military service facing these kind of problems.

India vs China: How their space programmes are matching up

It’s always interesting to see how other countries view their own roles in space–and even better when other countries look at neighboring countries’ space programs. In case some readers don’t know, China and India have been rivals for a long time, so it’s natural for the nation’s journalists to look at their northeast neighbor and compare.

Just warning you right now that the particular article above is a little long and rambling. It initially covers the Indian GSAT 6A communications satellite problem, which isn’t communicating to anyone right now. But there are some nuggets in it if you have the fortitude.

Lockheed Martin: This Stock Knows How To Take Flight

Oho…CLEVER! I see what they did there.

But reading this, I have my doubts about the knowledge on display here. The comparison of the Falcon 9, a rocket that’s advertised to launch for around $62 million (plus 30% for mil/gov missions for mandated CYA) to the Delta IV Heavy, a rocket that goes for several hundred million per launch, is already weird. When you consider the masses each rocket can carry, and that the DIVH has a nearly 25% advantage, well, they aren’t in the same class. China’s Long March 5 would have been a better and closer choice. Except I’d bet the LM-5 is still cheaper to launch than the DIVH. Also, oddly, DIVH is a Boeing product.

However, the assessment that the military will favor ULA over SpaceX, even if the Falcon Heavy were certified, is, sadly, spot on. Even if the Falcon Heavy’s first launch was flawless. Let’s see–how many launches did the DIVH have to do for the Air Force to give it the EELV seal of approval? Oh yes–ONE! And that one had issues (see page 8).

If you are gonna invest in Lockheed, then maybe seek another source of investment advice?

Russia: Space Power And Strategic Culture – Analysis

I know this article is a few months old. But it is relevant. Russia was, for a good long while, a leader in launches and space activities until a few years ago. It’s space industries are suffering right now for many reasons, but this Oxford scholar does a great analysis of the nation and its space industry. More interesting is the possibility at the end of his piece of Russia working with China to become space rivals once again with the United States.
And to sort of put a dot on the “i,” a friend of mine sent this article about the difficulties Russia has been facing with GLONASS, which is the country’s version of GPS. There are some eyebrow-raising comparisons between what Russian forces can do using GLONASS and what U.S. forces did with GPS.

A Pale Blue Dot, As Seen by a CubeSat

The title says it all. And NASA has made a big to-do about these MARCO’s being the first cubesats this far out in space. Notice the lack of the typical orbital debris clouds we’ve been warned about? You know, like the one showed here.

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