Tag Archives: satellites

Lockheed Martin begins construction of new satellite factory

Capitalism in space: Lockheed Martin has begun construction of a $350 million satellite factory in Colorado, with expected completion in 2020.

At the moment, Lockheed does not have a competitive rocket. Moreover, its only big space project is Orion, which might never fly more than twice, if that. Thus, this shift to satellites makes some sense, as it will be difficult now for the company to gain market share in the launch and manned spacecraft markets. It is too far behind. However, there is a new industry developing in smallsats, and Lockheed is well positioned to get in at the start.

Update: I do this all the time, but I made a mistake here and assigned the Delta family of rockets to Lockheed Martin. For some reason I make this mistake often, switching Atlas 5 and Delta and Lockheed Martin and Boeing. I apologize for the error.

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Trump administration eases technology restrictions to Saudi Arabia

The Trump has eased satellite technology restrictions that had been placed on Saudi Arabia and the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

It is believed that the Washington, DC, discussions between the U.S. and the Saudis saw agreements on U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and also on common approaches towards containing Iran. Of particular significance, however, is the agreement by the U.S. to lift export restrictions on strategic technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles and reconnaissance satellites to Saudi Arabia, and potentially to other GCC countries.

It is believed that Saudi Arabia is in the market for two to eight high-resolution reconnaissance satellites over the coming years, and it is known that French companies Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space have partnered together to offer electro-optical reconnaissance satellites similar to the Falcon Eye satellites being built for the United Arab Emirates.

This change will also benefit U.S. satellite makers, giving them a better chance at winning Saudi contracts. At the same time, it makes available to these Middle East Islamic nations some high level technology that could be used against us.

Update: While his administration has quietly widened cooperation with Saudi Arabia, President Trump is publicly complaining that the Arab country takes advantage of the U.S.

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New commercial proposals for launching almost 15,000 satellites

The competition heats up: New applications filed by SpaceX and OneWeb with the FCC propose augmenting both companies’ previously proposed satellite constellations and raising the number of total satellites to be launched to almost 15,000 total.

SpaceX has filed a new application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approval to launch a constellation of 7,518 satellites to provide communications in the little used V band. The system is in addition to another constellations of 4,425 satellites (plus orbital spares) SpaceX proposed in November that would operate in the Ku and Ka bands. In total, the two constellations would have 11,943 spacecraft plus spares. “When combined into a single, coordinated system, these ‘LEO’ and ‘VLEO’ constellations will enable SpaceX to provide robust broadband services on a full and continuous global basis,” SpaceX said in its application.

Competitor OneWeb has submitted a new application that would add an additional 2,000 satellites capable of operating in the V-band to its planned constellation of 720 satellites.

These are all smallsats, which means they can be launched in bunches. Still, even if they are launched in groups of 100, it will still take 150 launches to get them all into orbit. That is a lot of business for the launch industry.

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SpaceX to open satellite-building operation in Washington state

The competition heats up: Within three years SpaceX hopes to establish a new satellite operation in Seattle, Washington, employing 1,000 people and focused on the design of smaller, cheaper satellites.

The key quote from the article perhaps is this: “Musk said the office would focus on developing satellites but could also be a base for rocket-design talent uninterested in moving to SpaceX’s base in the Los Angeles area.” To put it another way, California’s socialist and highly restrictive state government has forced Musk to consider an alternative location for the expansion of his company.

His effort should also strike fear into the established satellite makers, who have done relatively little innovative design changes in the past four decades. As SpaceX has done with the launch industry, I expect SpaceX will do with the satellite industry: force them to lower costs while developing new technologies.

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Using Google Earth, an archeologist in North Carolina thinks she has discovered two lost pyramid sites in Egypt.

Using Google Earth, a researcher in North Carolina thinks she has discovered two lost pyramid sites in Egypt.

The researcher’s website, Google Earth Anomalies, is intriguing. It focuses on identifying strange and unexplained features that are seen in Google Earth, such as circular and linear features where none should exist. Often these are artifacts of software processing. Sometimes, as in the Egyptian case above, they are not.

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Two hacker attacks of American climate satellites in the past four years

A congressional report today revealed that two American climate satellites were attacked by hackers in the past four years.

In October 2007 and July 2008, a NASA-managed Landsat-7 satellite experienced 12 or more minutes of interference, and a Terra AM-1 satellite was disrupted for two minutes in June 2008 and again that October for nine minutes, according to Bloomberg Businessweek’s analysis of the annual report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The report says the hackers gained access to the satellites — both are used for Earth climate and terrain monitoring — through the Svalbard Satellite Station in Spitsbergen, Norway. It’s believed the attackers may have hijacked the Internet connection at the Norway ground station to interfere with the operation of the satellites.

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