Space scavenger attack: Pentagon builds cannibal satellite (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

The Pentagon’s “mad scientists’ division” wants to harvest dead communication satellites for spare parts and re-use them in orbit. The program, called Phoenix, may hold an orbital trial phase by 2015.

The project kicked off last year and has entered a new phase this week, after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a bid to commercial satellite owners. They are asking for old spacecraft which could be dissected by its robotic space cannibal as proof of the concept, reports Wired.

The agency also hosted a conference attended by academics, private companies and military experts to discuss technological and regulatory challenges of the $36 million program.

The idea DARPA has is to put into geosynchronous orbit (GEO) a servicing satellite equipped with robotic arms and other tools needed to harvest re-usable details in space. The so-called tender would roam the neighborhood and prey on defunct satellites for things like antennae and apertures which can be reused at a much lower cost than if the same parts were boosted from earth.

Next, an array of smaller spacecraft called satlets would be delivered as ride-along payload with commercial satellite launches. The nanosatellites would be picked up and stored by the tender to be attached to salvaged antennae to serve as new controllers. The resulting spacecraft would then be placed into new positions and be used by the US military on the ground for communication.

There are technological challenges of disassembling old satellites which were not designed with such recycling in mind. The tender would be controlled from the ground, with DARPA program manager David Barnhart describing the process as “trying to assemble via remote control multiple Lego at the same time while looking through a telescope,”for the operator.

Apart from that, there are also regulatory problems. GEO slots hanging some 37,000 km right above the equator are in short supply and there is high demand from communication firms and governmental agencies. So parking a satellite into one and obtaining a radio frequency reservation for it requires a lot of red tape.

Nevertheless, DARPA is pushing ahead with the program. Last week the agency awarded its first $2.5 million contract under Phoenix to a California-based firm with experience in building inexpensive microsatellites.

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Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on February 11, 2019 at 9:49pm

Second Iranian satellite launch attempt in a month fails

Images captured by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 3 Earth observation satellite on Feb. 5 (left) show launch preparations at a facility in Iran’s Semnan province. The Feb. 5 image also shows the shadow of a Safir rocket on the pad. An image from WorldView 3 taken Feb. 6 shows burn scars at the pad, and water runoff running away from the complex, likely from post-launch wash-down activities. Credit: Satellite images ©2019 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

Iran’s second try in less than a month to send a satellite into orbit apparently failed shortly after liftoff from a remote desert launch pad under daily surveillance from a fleet of commercial imaging spacecraft, according to U.S. government officials and independent analysts.

Images of the launch pad in north-central Iran taken by orbiting satellites owned by U.S. companies suggest a rocket launch occurred last week, but the U.S. military’s catalog of space objects registered no new spacecraft in orbit. A satellite launch attempt was expected in recent weeks based on statements from Iran’s government and observations of increasing activity at the launch site.

One image taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 3 Earth observation satellite Feb. 5 shows launch preparations at the site in full swing, with the shadow of a rocket visible at the spaceport in Iran’s Semnan’s province. Another pass by WorldView 3 over the launch base Feb. 6 produced an image showing burn scars at the circular launch pad, and a nearby stream of runoff, likely from post-launch wash-down activities.

A fleet of Earth-imaging satellites owned by Planet also monitored launch preparations at the Iranian spaceport. An image taken Jan. 21 shows a freshly-painted launch pad, and another from Planet on Feb. 6 shows scorch marks, like DigitalGlobe’s observations.

DigitalGlobe and Planet sell their imagery to the U.S. government, which uses the data to supplement pictures captured by government-owned National Reconnaissance Office spy satellites, whose capabilities and high-resolution images are classified.

The observations of a recent launch from Iranian space base were first reported by NPR, based on images first released by Planet.

Analysts believe the launch likely carried the Dousti microsatellite aboard a Safir booster, a smaller cousin of the Simorgh rocket that faltered during a launch Jan. 15 with the Payam-e Amirkabir imaging satellite. Dousti, which means “friendship” in Persian, was billed as a 114-pound (52-kilogram) remote sensing satellite in Iranian news reports ahead of the launch.

Iran’s information and communications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, said Feb. 4 that Dousti’s launch was expected soon, the last in a series of government announcements in recent weeks about the planned launch. None of the official statements indicated when the launch would occur.

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported Iran’s deputy defense minister said that a launch last week delivered its payload into orbit, but the lack of any new satellites in the U.S. military’s public catalog of artificial space objects indicates the rocket failed before obtaining the speed required to enter orbit. Iranian officials acknowledged the Jan. 15 launch failure.

David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, believes the evidence of an Iranian launch observed by Planet and DigitalGlobe was a failed attempt to place Dousti into orbit. It used the same launch pad as previous Safir rockets that successfully placed Iranian satellites into orbit.

“Iranian media mentioned that the Dousti was ready to launch upon approval, and based on its reported weight, we suspected that it was going to be launched using their Safir SLV (Space Launch Vehicle),” Schmerler wrote in an email to Spaceflight Now. “Using Planet Labs imagery, we were able to see signatures that suggested a launch from the pad associated with the Safir. With those indicators and the recent satellite image showing the pad had been used, we think it was the Dousti.”

Analysts using commercial satellite imagery tracked preparations at two launch pads at the Semnan spaceport leading up to the Simorgh and Safir launch attempts Jan. 15 and last week.

“This was a special case for us because we had a lot of warning, starting in December, when the Iranians started talking about the launches,” said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California. “Planet was willing to task SkySats, so starting I think on the second of January, we got daily images. Some days it was cloudy, but we got a picture of the launch site basically every day. So we got to watch the preparations in a level of detail we hadn’t seen before.”

The U.S. State Department acknowledged last week’s Safir launch attempt in a statement accusing Iran of using the satellite program to advance technologies for a long-range missile.

“In defiance of the international community, the Iranian regime continues to develop and test ballistic missiles, including a reported second failed space launch in less than a month,” said Robert Palladino, a deputy State Department spokesperson. “Space launch vehicles use technologies that are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including in Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). This attempted launch furthers Iran’s ability to eventually build such a weapon that threatens our allies.”

In an interview last month with Spaceflight Now, Lewis said rockets like the three-stage Simorgh and two-stage Safir would not make very effective ballistic missiles, although all rockets “have an inherent dual-use capability.”

“The Safir and the Simorgh are basically the same technological base as North Korea’s space launchers,” Lewis said. “And what we saw with the North Koreans is when they got serious about building an ICBM, they didn’t use those underlying technologies. They built a new engine. They used a better fuel, so that they could make an ICBM that was powerful but mobile. While I understand that opening a physics textbook has dual uses, this is not the particular textbook I would open for an ICBM program.”

“You could militarize this capability, it’s just that it would be kind of jury-rigged,” Lewis said. “You’d have to assemble the rockets long in advance, and you’d have to have the fuel on site, so they would be very easy to identify, and they would be very vulnerable.”

Four successful Safir launches have placed Iranian satellites in orbit since 2009, when Iran inaugurated its independent orbital launch capability. The larger Simorgh booster is based on a newer design, but has not yet successfully placed a payload into orbit.

Schmerler wrote in a tweet that the Iranian government’s continued use of the Safir, which first flew more than a decade ago, suggests Iran is in no rush to develop an ICBM.

“If anything, the fact they used this older system actually reinforces Iran’s interest in a separate space program,” Schmerler said.

Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Service Committee last March that Iran is “developing more powerful space launch vehicles, boosters that would be capable of ICBM ranges if configured for that purpose.”

But no such long-range weapons are operational in Iran, Ashley said.

“What they have in their inventory are short-range ballistic and medium-range ballistic missiles,” he said. “They do have a space launch vehicle, the Simorgh, which they’ve tested a couple of times. The reliability (of the Simorgh) is not there, so today, if you were to ask me does Iran have an ICBM capability, they do not. Is that aspirational? Yes. Could they take that space launch vehicle and start working it toward an ICBM capability? They could, but that is many years out.”

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on January 10, 2019 at 4:28am

Maxar Technologies’ WorldView-4 Satellite Fails

January 7, 2019

Maxar Technologies’ WorldView-4 satellite experienced a failure in its control moment gyros (CMGs), preventing the satellite from collecting imagery due to the loss of an axis of stability. Efforts are ongoing in conjunction with its suppliers in an attempt to restore satellite functionality, but thus far these efforts have been unsuccessful. At this time, Maxar believes that WorldView-4 will likely not be recoverable and will no longer produce usable imagery. Maxar operations has put the WorldView-4 satellite in a safe configuration and will continue to monitor the satellite’s location and health. The satellite was built by Lockheed Martin and the CMGs were provided by Honeywell.

WorldView-4 was acquired by GeoEye prior to its merger with DigitalGlobe in 2013. It was launched in November 2016 and generated revenues of approximately $85 million in fiscal year 2018. The satellite had a net book value of approximately $155 million, including related assets, as of Dec. 31, 2018. If the satellite is not recoverable, then the net book value will be written off in Q4 2018. Contingency planning and mitigation efforts are underway to assess the use of the company’s other satellites and outside resources to replace imagery collected by WorldView-4 and meet as much of the existing customer commitments and obligations as possible.

The WorldView-4 satellite is insured for $183 million, and Maxar intends to seek full recovery for the loss of WorldView-4 under its insurance policies. The Company will provide further updates on this matter as new information becomes available.

Comment by jorge namour on November 5, 2018 at 4:52am

PHOTOS: Google satelite falls in sonora Mexico.

Reveal what was the object that fell from the sky in Trincheras- SONORA- MEXICO

A satellite of the company World Vew World View, associated with Google used for the mapping of territories. fell last Saturday in the ranch El Garambullo in the municipality of Trincheras, which with the help of municipal and state authorities facilitated its theft.

Gildardo Bejarano Yescas, mayor of Trincheras said that yesterday at 11:00 hours, the company went to the land and with the help of a crane, a low bed and a helicopter was removed.

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on April 2, 2018 at 10:17pm

Isro confirms losing contact with communication satellite GSAT-6A

Chethan Kumar | TNN | Updated: Apr 1, 2018, 15:26 IST


  • The agency received data from the satellite for about four minutes after the second orbit raising operation, after which the it went blank, a source said.
  • This is the second mission failure for Isro in six months, with the previous one being the PSLV-C39, a failure in whose heat shield failed to put into orbit Isro’s navigation satellite IRNSS-1H
BENGALURU: In what is a disappointment for both citizens and the armed forces of the country, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) on Saturday lost contact with the GSAT-6A + , India’s most powerful communication satellite, in less than 48 hours after it launched it on Thursday. While Isro says it is trying re-establish link, sources attributed the failure to a power system failure.

After the textbook launch onboard GSLV-F08 on Thursday, Isro successfully completed the first orbit raising operation of GSAT-6A Satellite at 9.22am on Friday, which saw the satellite changing its closest and farthest point from earth besides changing its inclination.

The LAM (liquid apogee motor) engine worked perfectly fine, and the first orbit raising manoeuvre was a success, and the satellite reached the right spot as intended, a source said.

The second orbit raising manoeuvre was scheduled for 10.51am on Saturday, and well-placed source said that the operation was also completed with a successful firing of the LAM engine. The agency received data from the satellite for about four minutes after the second orbit raising operation, after which the it went blank, a source said.

Initial analysis points to a power system failure, but Isro has not officially confirmed anything.

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.”

On Saturday, the agency’s new chairman K Sivan held a marathon meeting with senior scientists through a teleconference, as already reported by TOI.

This was Isro’s first launch after Sivan took charge, even as the mission itself was conceived and developed before his time.

GSAT-6A, is a high power communication satellite which was to have a mission life of about 10 years. It was to provide mobile communication for India with multi-band coverage facility—five beams in S-band and one beam in C-band.

The satellite has a six-metre wide antenna, the biggest used by an Isro communication satellite so far, meant for the S-band communication. This was to enable the satellite to provide mobile communication for the country through handheld ground terminals, which was not possible earlier as smaller antennas meant larger ground stations. The satellite was also to provide with communication facilities for the armed forces.

TOI attempted to get official confirmations from the Isro headquarters, Isro chairman Sivan, Isro Satellite Centre, and the agency’s communications team and other senior scientists. However, none of them denied or confirmed the development, while some scientists who were not directly involved with the project claimed ignorance.

Isro did not put out an official communication after the second orbit raising operation, as is the practice. The agency updates every manoeuvre of the satellite until it reaches its final destination and then gives updates on the health and other activities.
Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on June 28, 2012 at 8:09pm

ZetaTalk: Internet
Note: written prior to July 15, 1995

The months before the cataclysms, satellite failure will be sporadic, but enough to impact technology as it support lifestyles today. Land lines will be reliable, but cell phones will not. This will be most disconcerting to the power brokers among the elite, who will find business floundering, stocks which have fallen almost to the ground unable to be salvaged, and the reliance of the military on communications creating choas among those expected to protect the elite. These groups will be screeching at each other, making shrill demands where no fix can be made. The little man, the common man, will fare better, especially if they are using short wave technology. They will rely on this increasingly, and it will be old hand and familiar by the time it is needed solely, for communication at a distance from the site.

Computer networks will remain in place following the cataclysms in accordance with their structure. Any electrical appliance protected from damage will operate after the cataclysms as before, provided a source of electricity is available. Networks are another matter, as there are many parts to the whole, and in the main any breakage will disable the whole - the weak link theory in action. Networks relying on wires run over the Earth cannot be expected to be operational. Likewise, networks operating by satellite bounce will find themselves with a problem when the satellites are torn from the skies. How then will computer networks operate? We would suggest that short wave radio networks established by dish, not relying on satellites, may be a solution. From high point to high point on Earth, such a network could operate after the cataclysms. And where the pole shift will affect land lines, which will be torn, and satellite bounce, as the satellites will be ripped from the skies - short wave radio communication bouncing off the Moon or the ionosphere will survive.

Cloud cover does not much affect this short wave communication, today, so the murky atmosphere and low cloud cover will not prevent short wave communication in the years following the pole shift either. The ionosphere will reform, within weeks of the pole shift, as this is a factor or the component of the atmosphere. Like the separation of oil and water, which takes place after a bottle of salad dressing is violently shaken, the components find their level and re-establish their relationship afterwards. The ionosphere will be lower, however, due to an overall loss of atmosphere which will only gradually be replaced, which will require using a different angle during communication to achieve a bounce. Thus, radio operators should adjust to their changed circumstances after the pole shift as they would in any changed circumstances today, using the same approach and choosing their techniques accordingly.

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