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About large LEO internet/comm/data satellite constellations. Streaming link for the Senate hearing at bottom


October 25, 2017
The Commercial Satellite Industry: What’s Up and What’s on the Horizon
253 Russell Senate Office Building

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “The Commercial Satellite Industry: What’s Up and What’s on the Horizon,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 25, 2017. The hearing will examine commercial satellite services and next-generation satellite services affecting consumers.


  -  Ms. Patricia Cooper, Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs, SpaceX

  -  Mr. Mark Dankberg, Chief Executive Officer, ViaSat

  -  Mr. Stephen Spengler, Chief Executive Officer, Intelsat

  -  Mr. Greg Wyler, Founder and Executive Chairman, OneWeb

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017
10:00 a.m.

Full committee 

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on

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  • 2 weeks later...

GAO isn't happy...


NASA Could Be Repeating Fatal Columbia Mistakes, Report Warns

A recent report on NASA's Space Launch System, the Orion spacecraft and the Exploration Ground System  the three systems that are supposed to eventually work together to allow NASA to start launching astronauts into space from U.S. soil once more  has found that NASA officials may be in danger of making the same mistakes that were found to be behind one of the most agonizingly preventable accidents of the federal space agency's history, the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.]/b]

The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently issued a report on NASA's work to get the three parts of its human space exploration program, the Space Launch System, the Orion spacecraft and the Exploration Ground System, ready to begin test launches, which are currently slated to start in 2019.

The report raised some serious concerns about how NASA has set up this program, mentioning the shuttle Columbia's disintegration in 2003, a sure way to get the attention of every NASA employee.

Namely, it appears that NASA is making some of the same systemic mistakes that were ultimately determined to have played a part in Columbia's destruction as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. "When technical authorities must also deal with cost and schedule pressures, it can potentially impair their independence. A review board concluded this type of tension contributed to the 2003 Columbia shuttle accident," the report states.

The main issue is that the technical authorities on these projects are currently being asked to wear too many hats. The people in charge are supposed to be both overseeing the engineering and safety concerns that come with putting humans on top of powerful rockets packed with enormous amounts of fuel and shooting them into space, and also in charge of keeping these projects on time and within the agency's budget.

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Yep. We've been saying this all along. NASA's been taking far longer on this than they should, and with new Management comes a crunch to get this done faster. So what happens? People are being asked to cut corners, rush things along and consolidate jobs to save time wherever/however possible. 


It cannot be done safely like that.


The Space Shuttles were and are several examples (not just a singular one) of what happens when Management starts micromanaging when they shouldn't be, overestimating and underestimating when the opposite action is called for, and most importantly they're not listening to the Engineers again.


SLS/Orion is going to kill Astronauts if completed and launched as-is. There's no getting around it. LH/M, Boeing, ATK and the other partners working on this platform need to be brought to realize that this platform isn't ready for Human use. They've overestimated their safety margins so much that I don't think they even know what the real numbers are anymore.


:no: This thing is no bueno. 

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Besides its over complexity, it has several weaknesses relative to even Saturn V. One of them is it has almost no first stage  engine out capability. Ditto for Vulcan. This is a serious deficiency in  vehicles which are  to carry crews.


Saturn V had single engine out capability once it had lifted off.  Falcon 9 can lose two, and it has proven itself. BFR will have multi-engine out capability due to its high engine count. Blue Origin's New Glenn will have single engine out capability. Presumably, Blue Origins New Armstrong will have multi-engine out capability - again due to a high engine count.. Even the Space Shuttle could lose one of its three SSME engines at some point after liftoff.


Clearly, there is a problem in modern NASA designs because engine out should have been near the top of the first page of design criteria.


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Agreed. There's a lot of deficient thinking going into SLS/Orion, and a lot of it has been because of how the whole project has been handled. A lack of redundancy is also a major factor, as we're seeing.


This thing needs to be cancelled. WITH prejudice. Because it's a truly s####y one that should have never been allowed to proceed.


Nice going, Congress ... you spent money on a death machine.

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Battery Issue Delays JPSS-1 Launch

Article link | Website



Image (c) 2017 Ball Aerospace


WASHINGTON — The launch of the first of a new series of polar-orbiting weather satellites, on the next-to-last flight of a venerable rocket, has been delayed several days in order to replace a battery in the rocket.


United Launch Alliance announced late Nov. 6 that the launch of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) 1 satellite on a Delta 2 would be postponed by at least four days after technicians discovered a faulty battery on the rocket. The launch, previously scheduled for the early morning hours of Nov. 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is now scheduled for no earlier than Nov. 14.


(read the rest of the article by following the link, above.)

ULA have been experiencing some terrible luck with on-board batteries used in their rockets the past six months. What's this, the third flight now with bad batteries that wasn't discovered until their gear was on the Pad?


Bruno's gotta be getting seriously fed up with the consistent launch delays, but that's what happens when one scales back their labor and forces the experienced pool into early retirement -- or to one's competitor(s).

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I was thinking some more about this. ULA's troubles, not the least of which being as a result of one or both of the parent corporations not really showing interest in the joint venture anymore, QA begins to suffer also as personnel are moved back to their positions at one of the parent corporations, which results in "brain drain" because ULA has to hire their own people who aren't experienced, and so on.


My guesstimation is that this whole thing will lead to ULA either getting bought out or being folded back into the parent companies eventually. Spurring off into it's own company isn't really going to work, not without a major change of management and especially leadership. Tory Bruno isn't the man to do it -- too much of a follower.

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WASHINGTON — A day after NASA announced a new launch date for the first flight of the Space Launch System, the chairman of the House Science Committee said he found the development delays “disappointing” and warned further problems could undermine congressional support.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), in an opening statement at a Nov. 9 hearing by the space subcommittee on NASA’s exploration systems, said that additional delays for the SLS and the Orion crew vehicle could build support for unspecified alternatives, jeopardizing the overall program.

“Congress needs to have confidence in NASA and the exploration systems contractors, which I don’t believe we have now. That confidence is ebbing,” he said. “If it slips much further, NASA and its contractors will have a hard time regaining their credibility.”
“After all these years, after billions of dollars spent, we are facing more delays and cost overruns,” Smith said. While he noted that some delays were caused by factors out of NASA’s control, like a tornado that damaged the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans in February, “many of the problems are self-inflicted.”

“It is very disappointing to hear about delays caused by poor execution, when the U.S. taxpayer has invested so much in these programs,” he added.
“NASA and the contractors should not assume future delays and cost overruns will have no consequences,” he said. “If delays continue, if costs rise, and if foreseeable technical challenges arise, no one should assume the U.S. taxpayers or their representatives will tolerate this forever.”

“The more setbacks SLS and Orion face, the more support builds for other options,” he said, not elaborating on what those options would be.

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Yep ... and with the projected slip to 2020 (which all of us in Academia feel is going to slip again), most of the technology going into the program has already been made outdated by an order of magnitude, both in principle and in projected execution with the information currently made public in addition to some educated guesses.


Disposable rockets are a huge waste, and completely unnecessary now from a technology and engineering standpoint. SpaceX has well and truly proven those points, and it's really not all that difficult to replicate similar technologies to do things "the SpaceX way" -- the only issue is perfecting those technologies.


SLS and Orion both are being designed "the old way", and are akin to a field cow for Old Space interests to get paid, and they've been milking it for all its' worth. Now the Congressional people are finally, finally starting to get tired of the abuse of trust and funding ...


What does the future hold? Congress wants results, and they want those results in a timely manner. Not "when the Contractor feels like getting it done", as we've been seeing from LH/M, Boeing, and ULA, who seem to be more concerned with slowing down SpaceX in any way possible rather than focusing on their own tasks. I think back to the numerous delays getting Dragon 2 past each Certification Milestone & Qualification Inspection, and the changes that were sprung on the SpaceX Engineers at the last minute that caused 6- and 12-month delays .. those can't be coincidences.


Nah, we know what the score really is. Old Space is using influence both in NASA Management and in D.C. to trip things up in any way they can.


So now Congress is getting fed up finally. GOOD. They need to be fed up. Old Space needs to start playing fairly, and by the rules, because the Government can and will seize that s##t if they don't.


Boeing, ULA, ATK, LH/M, N/G-Rockwell, and AeroJet better watch their six. Anybody who's Old Space that has gone cow tipping in the night and woke up the bulls had better take notice and start running for their lives (to coin a phrase) ... :laugh:


A stroke of a Committee pen with a majority vote in a closed session is all it takes ... Act of Congress literally will trump ALL others, even the DOJ. U.S. Marshals'll be up in their Offices raiding during business hours within 24 hours. Their Legal Teams won't be able to do anything about it, either.

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Agreed. And once BFR/BFS/BCS (Big Cargo Ship) gets going, SLS is doomed. As in "why in the HELL did we buy THAT?!" kind of doomed.

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Theoretically possible, but the energy needed to get a magnetic field of that size running is going to be a milestone in of itself to achieve.


Can we currently make them strong enough? Oh yes, and then some. :yes: Not a problem. The issue is the size. That's where the issues lay.


Solar power, at that distance, works roughly one-half as efficiently as it would on Earth. Sometimes, more efficiently, sometimes less depending on where Mars is in its' orbit. Averages out to about half to 66%. Lowball figure is half, so we'll need to go with the 50% number and design the system with that in mind.


The IP (initial point) of this gigantic magnetic field, whatever form it takes, is going to need to be designed with EXTREME radiation protection in mind. After all, it's pumping out enough RF energy to protect MARS FROM THE SUN. Gonna have to be shielded from ITSELF.


Then we get into the waveguides ... I do not want to be the one that has to design those, much less the rest of the system.


I imagine it'll be much like an old VHF or UHF transmitter station, just broadcasting a LOT more power.


Nope ... not a task I'd want to be stuck with.

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3 hours ago, DocM said:


This is the future of propulsion. As far as enabling communications .... I'm skeptical. Quantum stuff is better and more secure (because it has the potential of being lossless over distance in certain scenarios -- at least the physics say it's possible). I'd focus on HE/Ion for thrust if I were them.


Thanks for keeping us informed, @DocM. As always you're on top of things. :yes: 

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