Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Broken Bird

I love it when readers write my blog for me. Thanks Mark.

Orbital Blames Galaxy 15 Failure on Solar Storm

”PARIS — The in-orbit failure of the Orbital Sciences-built Intelsat Galaxy 15 telecommunications satellite April 5 was likely caused by unusually violent solar activity that week that damaged the spacecraft’s ability to communicate with ground controllers, Orbital officials said April 20.“

Why should you care? Because this is your “space-based” ATC system. No, it’s not the future system. It is the system now.

”The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is leasing an L-band payload on Galaxy 15 to guide aircraft as part of a satellite-based navigation service that uses the U.S. GPS satellites in medium Earth orbit and payloads on three commercial satellites in higher geostationary orbit.“

And, to keep it interesting, it appears they don’t have any viable options.

”Intelsat spokeswoman Dianne J. VanBeber said April 21 that the company expects to continue operating the L-band payload even after all other Galaxy 15 customers have been off-loaded. L-band service should continue even as the satellite is put through more-rigorous testing to determine the cause of the communications problem, although signal disruptions are possible during this period, VanBeber said.

Intelsat is coordinating Galaxy 15 testing with the FAA and with Lockheed Martin — the prime contractor for the FAA’s Geostationary Communications and Control Segment (GCCS) program that provides ground stations and broadcast services that, by using signals on the geostationary-orbit satellites, improve the accuracy of GPS signals for aviation. “

In case your eyes glazed over, “...signal disruptions are possible...“ and ”...Lockheed Martin — the prime contractor...“
This isn’t like your satellite TV going out and missing an episode of The Biggest Loser. “Signal disruptions” take on a whole new meaning when you’re flying blind, in a cloud, surrounded by mountains and your navigational signal is “disrupted”. And I know you’re surprised to find LockMart involved in all this (not).

Just as I know you’re surprised to find an “ITYS” attached to this blog.


”Gettin’ the flick ? ADS-B and GPS sound really cool until the Chinese decide to start shooting satellites out of orbit, sunspots start acting up or you realize your repairman now needs a space suit to fix your “satellite based system.” “

And, while I’m here, I have another “ITYS”. But this is a good one.

”(What ? You mean you don’t have a friend named Spike ?) Spike is a modern-day Renaissance Man -- he always has a new hobby. Right now it is solar astronomy. You can check it out for yourself. “

Spike (okay, his name is Stephen but he’ll always be “Spike” to me) is doing amazing things with his Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project. I mean, you can’t believe all the places he’s been and things that he has done with this project. The subtitle on his site might give you a clue: “America’s Largest Solar Astronomy Outreach Program“. If nothing else, you have got to see the suit. The sun suit.

Solar Astronomy, broken satellites and and a crazy man in a funny suit. This is not your run-of-the-mill blog you know.

Don Brown
May 5, 2010

P.S. Hit the “donate” button on Spike’s site. He really is doing good work with the kids.


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