FCC grants Facebook-owned PointView Tech permit for experimental millimeter-wave CubeSat for satellite internet

From Mark Harris at the Economist, this news: The Federal Communications Commission has granted PointView Tech, a subsidiary of Facebook, permission to operate its experimental millimeter-wave CubeSat to provide satellite internet. Read the rest

Report: Canada's military unprepared to stop attacks on their assets in space

For a country the size of Canada, we've got a pretty small military budget. In order to secure our borders and work with our NATO pals overseas and in operations on our home turf, The Canadian Forces is often forced to do a lot with very little. Our Army, Navy and Air Force are tightly integrated, making it possible for us to make the most of our military infrastructure, supplies and training. Right now, Canada's military personnel are playing a game of hurry-up-and-wait while long-promised new equipment, upgrades to existing hardware, and better care for current members come into play. Unfortunately, as the Canadian government struggles to keep up with the basics of defining its borders, an internal Department of National Defence report obtained by the Canadian Press warns that the nation's armed forces could be ripe for getting dinged on a largely undefended frontier: space.

From The CBC:

Satellites vital to Canadian military operations are vulnerable to cyberattack or even a direct missile strike — just one example of why the country's defence policy must extend fully into the burgeoning space frontier, an internal Defence Department note warns.

The Canadian military already heavily depends on space-based assets for basic tasks such as navigation, positioning, intelligence-gathering, surveillance and communications. Canada is also working on the next generation of satellites to assist with search-and-rescue and round-the-clock surveillance of maritime approaches to the country, including the Arctic.

Unfortunately, as the hardware and software required to compromise satellite systems has become way less expensive over the past decade, the number of state and non-state actors with access to the gear needed to smoke our space hardware has grown. Read the rest

The Garmin InReach Mini is this digital nomad's new best friend

If you spend your life in cities or on the interstates that connect them to one another, it’s easy to forget that there are parts of the world where cellular connectivity simply doesn’t exist. Right now, I’m 45 minutes from the nearest town, sitting in a motorhome, surrounded by nothing but trees. Out here, a busy day consists of seeing a few logging trucks or maybe some elk wander by. It’s remote, but I’m still able to connect to the Internet and do my job over my cellphone’s cellular connection. I can amplify my connection to cell towers using a cellular booster that I installed on our rig, earlier this year. But there have been instances where we’ve found ourselves far enough out in the sticks that I couldn’t find a cell signal to save my life. That’s why a device like Garmin’s InReach Mini is so cool. It’s a tiny satellite-connected communications device that lets me stay in touch with the outside world even when the outside world is too far away to connect to.

At 2.04” x 3.90” x 1.03” in size and weighing less than four ounces, this thing is designed for the backpacking crowd. It has an IPX7 rating, so it’s OK to clip it to your belt or a backpack without fear of it being fried in a downpour while you’re out and about. That’s good news, as the Mini needs a clear view of the sky for it to connect to Iridium satellite network in order to do its thing. Read the rest

Angled satellite shots make earth's landmarks look like tiny dioramas

Planet Labs did an interesting spin on the standard straight down satellite shots: they angled the camera from 280 miles up, turning cities like Houston, shown above, into charming miniatures. Read the rest

India ironically loses communications with new communications satellite

If you were to ask the Indian Space Research Organization, they'd tell you that space is hard: the IRSO has lost communications with one of its satellites mere days after launching it into orbit.

According to The Times of India, the IRSO launched the GSAT-6A communications satellite into orbit on March 29. Indian ground control was able to command the satellite to alter its orbit on two separate occasions. Smooth sailing! Then, on Saturday, things went south:

After remaining incommunicado the whole of Saturday, ISRO, on Sunday said: “The second orbit raising operation of GSAT-6A satellite has been successfully carried out by LAM Engine firing for about 53 minutes on March 31, 2018 in the morning. After the successful long duration firings, when the satellite was on course to normal operating configuration for the third and the final firing, scheduled for April 1, 2018, communication from the satellite was lost. Efforts are underway to establish the link with the satellite.”

That's got to be disappointing. It's worth mentioning that just because they've lost communications with the GSAT-6A doesn't mean that it's lost forever – yet. There have been plenty of instances where long-range communications have been lost by ground control and then restored. Given the satellite's mission, providing mobile communications for the people of India over the next decade, it'd be nice if the ISRO could get the thing back online.

If they fail, however, a permanent loss of communications with the satellite would mark the second mission failure for the space agency in less than a year. Read the rest

Amateur radio astronomer discovers long-lost satellite

In December 2005, NASA lost contact with the IMAGE satellite. After trying to reconnect for two years, the agency gave up. Over a decade later, hobbyist Scott Tilley was able to confirm that IMAGE is not only still in orbit, but also transmitting data.

Tilley stumbled on the find while looking for another satellite named Zuma. Via the Washington Post:

When Tilley caught a signal after a week of searching, on Jan. 20, he almost ignored it. Whatever it was, it was orbiting much higher than Zuma was supposed to be. There are hundreds of active satellites in space, most of which didn't interest him. “I didn't think of it much more,” he wrote on his blog.

But as he continued to scan for Zuma, he came across the signal again — stronger this time — and out of curiosity checked it against a standard catalogue.

The signal matched for IMAGE. But IMAGE was supposed to be dead.

Tilley had to Google the old satellite to find out what it was, as it had been all but forgotten on Earth. Eventually, he came across a decade-old NASA report on the mission's failure.

“Once I read through the failure report and all the geeky language the engineers use, I immediately understood what had happened,” Tilley told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News.

Then he rushed to contact NASA himself.

NASA's IMAGE RECOVERY Read the rest

Trippy film flashes 2,000 aerial shots of football fields in three minutes

Playground compiles 2,000 Google Earth images of American football fields, then plays them alphabetically at a speed where they become hypnotic. Read the rest

Watch India launch a record 104 satellites in one mission

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) just launched an amazing 104 satellites in one mission, setting a new record. Read the rest

SpaceX launched 2 satellites into orbit, but its Falcon 9 rocket crashed

SpaceX successfully deployed two satellites on Wednesday, but the Falcon 9 rocket that carried them into orbit then crashed into its drone ship while touching down in the Atlantic Ocean. Read the rest

NASA launched three smartphone satellites into orbit

On Sunday, NASA launched three PhoneSats into orbit. House in a standard "cubesat" structures, a Google-HTC Nexus One serves as the onboard computer and sensor system, taking photos of Earth. Aamateur radio operators are monitoring the transmissions and picking up data packets that will be recombined here on Earth. According to a NASA press release, the use of commercial-of-the-shelf parts, a minimalist design, and limited mission requirements kept the cost of each satellite as low as $3500. PhoneSat: NASA's Smartphone Nanosatellite Read the rest

Another satellite will re-enter Earth's atmosphere in the coming months

In case you were curious, that atmospheric research satellite crashed to Earth without hitting a single person. It landed in the Pacific—scattering bits and pieces over an 800-mile-long stretch of ocean.

But, if your great dream was to be killed by a piece of falling satellite, never fear. Phil Plait points out that you'll have another chance in a couple of months, when the German X-Ray astronomy satellite ROSAT is expected to meet its firery end.

Smaller than UARS — a little over 2 tons, as opposed to over 6 — ROSAT will probably have more pieces survive the ride down because its mirrors had to be shielded from heat to operate. That means the odds of it hitting someone will be slightly higher than from UARS, about 1 in 2000. Bear in mind that’s still really small odds! The chance of a specific individual getting hit are still something like only 1 in 14 trillion.

Read the rest

Interview with Ted Molczan, citizen satellite tracker

Video: Chiefland Star Party Skyscape Time Lapse by William Castleman

The skies have stories to tell. Some of the stories make for interesting puzzles, particularly sightings of previously unseen objects in earth orbit. My friend Ted Molczan is part of a small but dedicated group of private citizens who track satellites, with a special focus on unannounced/secret satellite launches. 2011 has already been an interesting year for the group, who post their findings at the SeeSat-L website (satobs.org) and others. Ted presented compelling evidence that he had spotted a possible Prowler satellite that may have been secretly launched in 1990 on space shuttle launch STS 38. Today, Greg Roberts of their group found the USAF's X-37B OTV 2-1 spaceplane, launched into a secret orbit on Saturday. Ted was kind enough to share his philosophy, techniques, and consumer-grade equipment, all of which is easily available for interested citizens wishing to get involved.

Do you consider yourself a government transparency activist?

Ted: "I see myself as a hobbyist who enjoys solving technical puzzles that help to increase public knowledge of space flight, and improve the transparency of activities taking place in Earth orbit."

How do you respond to your critics within government intelligence agencies?

Ted:"The most common criticism is that by publishing the orbits of intelligence gathering satellites, we may enable adversaries of the U.S.A. and its allies to Read the rest

Satellite photos catch Greek tax-evaders

As the nation of Greece teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, its tax authorities are taking aim at Greece's notorious tax-evading rich elite. Using satellite photos, the tax authority examined the claim of the residents of Athens's wealthy suburbs and discovered that, rather than the 324 swimming pools claimed by the locals, there were 16,974 of them.

The cheating is often quite bold. When tax authorities recently surveyed the returns of 150 doctors with offices in the trendy Athens neighborhood of Kolonaki, where Prada and Chanel stores can be found, more than half had claimed an income of less than $40,000. Thirty-four of them claimed less than $13,300, a figure that exempted them from paying any taxes at all.

Such incomes defy belief, said Ilias Plaskovitis, the general secretary of the Finance Ministry, who has been in charge of revamping the country's tax laws. "You need more than that to pay your rent in that neighborhood," he said.

He said there were only a few thousand citizens in this country of 11 million who last year declared an income of more than $132,000. Yet signs of wealth abound.

"There are many people with a house, with a cottage in the country, with two cars and maybe a small boat who claim they are earning 12,000 euros a year," Mr. Plaskovitis said, which is about $15,900. "You cannot heat this house or buy the gas for the car with that kind of income."

Greek Wealth Is Everywhere but Tax Forms

(via Memex 1.1)

(Image: Google Earth/Memex 1.1)

Previously: Broke-ass Washington state set to give MSFT $100M annual tax cut ... Read the rest

Solar storm creates killer "zombie satellite"

Solar storms nukes a satellite that goes rogue and starts attacking other satellites.