February 1, 2019: Weekly Spatial Resolutions

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When we flew over walls instead of built them. 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! 

CIA And Skunk Works Secretly Planned To Turn The A-12 Spy Plane Into A Space Launch Mothership

An A-12 airplane, one that preceded and likely inspired the SR-71, was studied a long time ago to see if it would be a great way to launch rockets into orbit. The answer in the article is that it’s not clear if this idea actually went into reality.

But it’s a fun read. Also, it shows the differences between how the space launch business was run back then compared to the space launch ventures of today. Plus, apparently air-launched rockets don’t need a fast, exotic, and expensive aircraft to launch from. That’s why we have Pegasus, maybe Virgin Orbit, and a few others.

Northrop Grumman pleased with progress integrating Orbital ATK

Well, the company should appear to be doing SOMETHING…because it’s not launching very much (looking at you, Pegasus).

Private company launches “largest fleet of satellites in human history” to photograph Earth

From the surprising corner of “Sixty Minutes.” Yes, the Sixty Minutes your father’s father watches. It’s a pretty good synopsis of Planet’s activities as it moved into the Earth observation business. Satellites the size of bread loaves taking pictures of the Earth, almost all the time now. Don’t worry, they can’t see a person’s bald spot.

Unfortunately, the segment ends with a sort of warning–that images can be used for ill as well as for good. This is true with any technology and that particular warning about Earth observation data availability was raised by the United States Department of Defense over a decade ago. This is a primary strength and weakness of technologies: easy access to data that was once the domain of the military.

But here’s the thing–other companies are out there who will sell their Earth observation to ANYONE. Cheap! To pin this kind of responsibility on Planet is missing the point. Small satellites, like the ones Planet is using, are very inexpensive. They use technologies familiar to anyone working in consumer electronics. And Planet has proven that building these satellites in-house is not only profitable, but provides a degree of flexibility, in case of accidents. Sixty Minutes only talks about one launch that went awry.

But within months, Planet lost more satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9. Again, the company didn’t appear to miss a beat. That’s awesome! But those incidents, and Planet’s responses to them, shows just how inexpensive and accessible this kind of technology is.

These high school girls are launching Africa’s first private satellite

While this article is about young ladies in Africa building a satellite, I really wish this type of program was around in the schools I went to so long ago.

This Coffee Company Wants to Roast Beans in Space

**In an entitled, California surfer-style voice** “It depends on the beans used. Guatemalan–too earthy. Hawaiian–too bright. And the roasting process is soooo critical. But you also have to think about the grind…”

So, yeah, this looks to be a thing–almost. An expensive thing that only the Elon Musks of the world will be able to afford.

Probably not that good anyhow…

Alphabet’s Loon sets its sights on the satellite industry

Image from Loon.

High=altitude (20 km) balloons and satellites–does that sound weird? It’s all part of what was once Project Loon, now Loon. It’s Google’s/Alphabet’s attempt to get internet connectivity in areas without it. The balloons are networked together. Not only that, they do station-keeping, meaning the balloons adjust to the different winds to try to stay in the same area.

This works, I guess. The Telesat satellites come in to play for connectivity to the rest of the world. The low Earth orbiting satellites don’t have the staying power of the balloons, crossing the sky within about 10 minutes. But that’s long enough for multiple satellites to connect to a local ground station that can then relay to the balloons.

It’s pretty nifty.


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