January 11, 2019: Weekly Spatial Resolutions

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How is this connected to space? Read on. 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! Image from Bing search.

Astronaut Accidentally Calls 911 from Space

This is funny. As the image above shows, there are worse reasons to dial 911.

HawkEye 360 Announces Successful Launch of First Three Satellites Built by SFL Under Contract to DSI

Okay, so what does the headline above and the article it links to really mean? It’s one of the few small satellite missions out there right now that ISN’T an imagery satellite. These satellites do look at the Earth,  but are designed to look for radio signals that aren’t supposed to be present. They talk to each other, they give each other information about where to point, and then they will attempt to triangulate where these rogue signals are coming from. All in a 15 kilogram package.

Why? The company, HawkEye 360, is advertising it’s for helping with maritime and aircraft tracking, search and rescue, and identifying sources of radio interference. And the satellites are using radio receiver hardware that can be reconfigured easily with software to check on different frequencies. So, sure, these satellites will be helpful with things like search and rescue (although COSPAS-SARSAT satellites do this already).

I get the impression, however, that part of this is a commercial step to provide signals intelligence to any government willing to pay for this data. These satellites were launched into a polar/sun-synchronous orbit, as launches from Vandenberg in California tend to fly to. The altitude is only 357 miles above the Earth’s surface, which is pretty close. This means these radio detecting satellites may be close enough to detect faint signals. Signals that might be interesting to military organizations.

We see a precedent with imagery, Planet, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The NGA has contracted with Planet for imagery. That agency probably uses Planet’s imagery to decide whether there’s something worth looking at with something more powerful, but much less numerous. Some similar arrangement may happen for HawkEye 360. It’s an interesting business to get into for sure.

I wonder which U.S. agency might be interested in radio signals?

Renewed space rivalry between nations ignores a tradition of cooperation

This is a thoughtful opinion article.

I disagree with the premise of continued national control in the U.S., in which some of the space launch companies seem to be moving along on their own. At the same time, we do have the government shutdown, which is hindering launch operations. Again, this situation seems to really highlight why government SHOULD NOT be a critical factor in space launch and operations.

NASA contractors struggle without pay during government shutdown — and may never see the money

Okay. I’ve seen space industry employment numbers in the U.S. They aren’t great to begin with. The shutdown probably isn’t helping. Could it potentially decrease employment more? I don’t know. But people have needs over there. Would you blame them for just leaving this kind of nonsense?

SpaceX Confident About Its Starlink Constellation for Satellite Internet; Others, Not So Much

Is this really news? And shouldn’t SpaceX exude confidence? And finally, does it matter others aren’t confident in SpaceX’s satellite internet project?

No. Yes. And no.

seth meyers sunglasses GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers
SpaceX’s confidence in Starlink. Image from Giphy

Pompeo Warns Iran Over Space Launches

If we can’t launch, then neither can they?

Putting this in perspective, what does it say about a nation, like Iran or North Korea, that with all their resources, they can’t launch the equivalent of an Electron (their rockets are less capable than that, actually). The Electron has been launched by Rocket Lab, a commercial space launch company, several times, with no drama.

The same can’t be said about Iran’s efforts.

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