Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

NASA officially expresses concerns about proposed private communications constellation

For what appears to be an unprecedented action, NASA has officially expressed opposition to a proposed private satellite constellation by the company AST & Science.

NASA’s position was released in a comment to the FCC, where the company has requested a communications license to operate its satellites.

At issue are plans put forth by AST & Science, which intends to build a constellation of more than 240 large satellites, essentially deploying “cell towers” in space to provide 4G and possibly 5G broadband connection directly to cell phones on Earth. The company, based in Midland, Texas, calls its constellation “SpaceMobile” and has raised an estimated $120 million.

The space agency felt compelled to comment on AST’s proposal for several reasons. Most notably, the proposed altitude for the SpaceMobile constellation lies near the “A-Train,” a group of 10 Earth-science monitoring satellites operated by NASA and the US Geological Survey, as well as partners in France and Japan. “Historical experience with the A-Train constellation has shown that this particular region of space tends to produce a large number of conjunctions between space objects,” the NASA letter states.

The satellites are also very large. In order to provide service, AST plans to build spacecraft with large phased array antennae—900 square meters. According to NASA, in planning for potential conjunctions with other satellites and debris in this orbit, this would require proscribing a “hard-body radius” of 30 meters, or as much as 10 times larger than other satellites.

Maneuvering around the proposed SpaceMobile constellation would be extraordinarily taxing, NASA said. “For the completed constellation of 243 satellites, one can expect 1,500 mitigation actions per year and perhaps 15,000 planning activities,” the space agency stated. “This would equate to four maneuvers and 40 active planning activities on any given day.”

The company has said it is willing to work with NASA to ease its concerns. For NASA to take this particular step however is most strange, especially considering the size of this constellation, 240 satellites. This number is tiny compared to the multi-thousands being proposed by SpaceX, Amazon, and OneWeb. Their large size footprint certainly could be a factor, but it does seem puzzling for the space agency to pick out this particular constellation for opposition, and none of the others.

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I cannot thank the numerous people who so generously donated or subscribed to Behind the Black during this fund drive. The response was remarkable, and reflected the steady growth and popularity of the work I have been doing here for the past ten-plus years.


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5 comments

  • Spectrum Shift

    I get the feeling NASA is taking a NIMBY attitude about this.

  • Richard M

    I wondered a bit about this move by NASA, too, since it cerainly is without precedent.

    But the “A Train” orbit and sheer size of these are . . . well, they’re not *unreasonable* concerns for NASA. It’s hard to think this filing was not signed off on by Bridenstine, who is anything but hostile to space commerce.

    But hopefully, NASA and AST can work out an agreeable compromise that is not a significant threat to NASA/USGS satellites.

  • Jay

    I had to look up what the A-Train orbit info is: about 700km above the Earth with an inclination of 98 degrees. Four satellites use this orbit and I can understand the concerns on conjunctions with an inclination like that.
    At first I thought they were talking about the Starlink orbits, but those are at 550km. Oneweb’s are at 650km.

  • janyuary

    The more dependent that regular earthbound folks become on the technology made possible by those satellites, the more vulnerable they are to a hostile space power. Once the nation that ruled the seas ruled the world ….

    Interesting mention the other night on the radio show where I first heard of you, Robert, of the value of intuition in this new age. Purely human and worth gold is intuition.

    P.S. Your website here is an escape TO sanity. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • Jeff Wright

    I want Orbital Antenna Farms

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