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Soyuz Lifts Off Again, Delivers Globalstar Satellites

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the russian-to-space dept.

Communications 40

First time accepted submitter ZoCool writes "No doubt to the deep relief of the Russian and Arianespace engineers, and the investors buying their services, Anatoly Zac's RussianSpaceWeb reports that on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, at 21:09 Moscow Time (17:09 GMT) a Soyuz-2-1a launch vehicle carrying the third tranche of the 2nd Generation Globalstar network, in the form of 6 satellites, was delivered successfully to orbit. This launch from Baikonur's Site 31, pad 6, has broken the recent unusual string of malfunctions that has bugged this usually rock solid workhorse. I imagine that the troops in the space station might be breathing a little more easily too, as the Soyuz is the backbone of the world's space missions these days, when it comes to medium lift."

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Space X (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38546724)

Less than 40days to the final COTS demo flight for Dragon. Let's hope the February 7, 2012 launch and docking to ISS goes smoothly!

Re:Space X (0)

InterestingFella (2537066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38546750)

Less than 40days to the final COTS demo flight for Dragon. Let's hope the February 7, 2012 launch and docking to ISS goes smoothly!

It looks like it's the Russians, Chinese and Indians owning space now. U.S. government cannot even get into space without commercial companies anymore.

Re:Space X (2)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38546758)

Actually the U.S. government can, but chooses not to.

Re:Space X (3, Funny)

InterestingFella (2537066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38546770)

Yes. I could be a billionaire too, but I choose not to.

Re:Space X (2, Informative)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38546806)

Why spend so much money on development within a badly managed and cash bleeding branch - when you can pay a company a fraction, and get them to do all the management. While I find it sad that the shuttles have stopped, I certainly know that what costs a government a million dollars, a private company can do for a few hundred thousand at most.

Perhaps this is actually better for the US space program to be able to have private rockets that can fly up and down rather than having to maintain its own fleet.

If you want to get from home to the station, it's cheaper to catch a bus rather than having to own the bus company.

Re:Space X (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38546830)

Famous last words: "built by the lowest bidder"

Re:Space X (2)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38546932)

Famous last words: "built by the lowest bidder"

I find that statement to be utterly true if the product is being developed to a tender. However, if someone is selling you their own product that happens to suit your needs, then the lowest bidder may be a good thing.

Re:Space X (1)

equex (747231) | more than 2 years ago | (#38546952)

Yeah it depends on wether it's an already mature standard product already that is sold at large and most kinks has been ironed out. Unfortunately, in the space industry like many other industries, it's all custom built *every time* and someone gets to lower his own production costs by choosing inferior materials to work with. Without telling anyone and hoping for the best.

Re:Space X (1)

equex (747231) | more than 2 years ago | (#38546956)

remove one 'already' from the first sentence. What about one of these fancy new edit-buttons that ive heard so much about?

Re:Space X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38547126)

"Preview" is your friend

Re:Space X (1)

Plunky (929104) | more than 2 years ago | (#38547134)

Unfortunately, in the space industry like many other industries, it's all custom built *every time*

Is this not at least part of the aim of the SpaceX mission, to make building blocks that can be put together in standard configurations? When they get what they want working, they can set up a production line and offer off the shelf parts..

Is that ever true? (4, Insightful)

F69631 (2421974) | more than 2 years ago | (#38547298)

I certainly know that what costs a government a million dollars, a private company can do for a few hundred thousand at most.

I've worked both in private sector and public sector. I've seen quite a few decisions to pay private company for something that used to be done by the government until that point. I have yet to see a single instance where the total costs would have gone down for equal or better service! Whether it's large government institution outsourcing the IT support or a state paying for private company to take care of public health care, the total costs seem to consistently be higher and the level of the service usually doesn't go up.

It's true that government has a lot of inefficiency due to internal power struggles, people who are unproductive but difficult to fire, etc... But then again, the private sector also has a lot of overhead (Usually higher wages, large marketing/lobbying/PR overhead depending on the industry, internal power struggles between departments, dividends, CEO bonuses, unproductive people, etc.), not to mention that at every single step the private companies have all the motivation to charge as much money as they can, they either enjoy a monopoly or can't get economics of scale to work out as well as one massive buyer could, etc. etc...

The very few times I've heard about private industry being more efficient in something have been cases where the public sector has been systematically sabotaged first (Ideological decision to buy from private sector even if it's more expensive --> Private sector gets to pay higher wages --> Competent people quit government jobs and enter private industry --> Private industry can say "Look, your workers are incompetent, we are much more efficient than you are now (though we might not be more efficient than you used to be)"). So, I'd appreciate it if you could quote some real examples (preferably within the last two decades) where decisions like this have ended up saving money.

Disclaimer: I'm not a socialist. I think that private sector is necessary to keep the society producing what people want, not what bureaucrats or politicians think they should want. I also agree that private sector is a good way to increase individual freedom and the threat of private sector forces public sector to stay more efficient... But I lean left in my home country (North-European welfare state) which probably puts me far left on the left-right axis of USA. From what I've personally seen, it's just really difficult to argue that private sector is more efficient, even if it is necessary.

Re:Is that ever true? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38548058)

Actually usually the real answer to saving money on a government program isn't to outsource that job and still pay for it with taxpayer $$, but rather to axe the program entirely. What is the Government's actual job? Why is it doing so many things? Roads? yes I get that. Defense? yep, but not to the absurd levels we run now. Education? a bit of a gray area to me, my parents have always been under the "poverty level" and still were able to send me to private schools for all but 2 years of my life, and I paid for my own college. Social welfare? it's illegal to feed wild animals in many cities because the animals get lazy and dependent on that food and after a while unable to find food on their own, if it is illegal to do it to animals, why do we do it to people?

I would say cutting most of the government budget and scrapping all the bad for society programs would in the long run lead to a stronger more independent populace. But we have become so addicted to the bread and circuses (like Rome right before it's fall) that it is probably too late for that now.

Re:Is that ever true? (1)

sgtrock (191182) | more than 2 years ago | (#38550752)

Going WAY off topic here, but there is one major facet that you've forgotten about; healthcare. The U.S. spends nearly twice as much as other industrialized nations for a demonstrably worse result [gapminder.org] in almost every measure. I've chosen to graph life expectancy versus % of GDP as the most obvious way of highlighting the point, but there are dozens if not hundreds of other variables available to use.

I strongly urge you to spend some time looking at some of the other variables. Watch what happens over time. There is very clearly a correlation between overall health and wellbeing of a nation and its internal politics. Another example that clearly demonstrates this is maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births) versus GDP per capita [gapminder.org] . Watch what happens in the U.S. after the 1980 and 1996 elections. These are both elections when so-called 'lesser government' ideologues gained additional political power and were able to push their agendas through legislation and manipulating political appointments. Pretty damning results, I'd say.

Re:Is that ever true? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38548994)

The very few times I've heard about private industry being more efficient in something have been cases where the public sector has been systematically sabotaged first

Unfortunately large parts of the public sector is sabotaged by itself. You give a public institution a mandate and some funding. Now no matter how inefficient and poorly thought out their process and systems are, the ill effects are shifted onto the receivers and the blame put on lack of funding. Why didn't this poor disabled old lady get her disability benefit? Why because she's stuck in the bureaucracy and there's a backlog because there's no funding. Why wasn't this child followed up and taken into care? Because the CPS didn't have enough funding to follow up her case. Once you have some of these horror cases hitting the media, public opinion will demand that they get better funded even though that's not the real problem.

The only time you see significant effort to innovate in the public sector is when they really get the thumbscrews on and say "We're dead broke and need to cut costs, find a way to work more effectively or people are getting fired". And that does not happen very often in the public sector, the sand in the machinery is very heavily protected. My experience has been that performance isn't nearly as much rewarded in the public sector, seniority and formal qualifications much more. That naturally leads to the brightest heads going to the public sector, while the less than average go to the public sector. The new boss of our office (60 people) is still in his 30s, he'd never ever gotten that job in the public sector. Most bright people that I know that's tried it there have become very frustrated over all the dead weight they're carrying that's still paid as much as themselves.

The people I know that do stick around is there mainly for the safety, we implemented a system for a public institution where we had start date and the earliest workers had 40+ years of work history. If you're so reasonably competent, it's work for life. It's not going to be great pay, but you almost never work more than regular hours unless you want to and there's relatively little stress. Because so much is based on how long you've been there you're likely to move up the pay scale and qualify for more senior jobs at an okay, but not great pace. There's so many things that are different that I don't think the public sector will ever really compete with the private sector.

Re:Is that ever true? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38551286)

I've worked both in private sector and public sector. I've seen quite a few decisions to pay private company for something that used to be done by the government until that point. I have yet to see a single instance where the total costs would have gone down for equal or better service!

Why don't you give us some examples and we'll see where the problem lies. I haven't experienced efficient government service myself, but I grant it might be out there.

Re:Is that ever true? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38551294)

I've seen quite a few decisions to pay private company for something that used to be done by the government until that point.

I missed this one. If government pays a private firm to be inefficient, then they'll be better at it than the government equivalent. Doesn't strike me as an effective denunciation of private enterprise.

Re:Is that ever true? (1)

eionmac (949755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38555488)

Sometimes a 'combination' suits best. E.g. public as in UK National Health Service (NHS), at least gets majority of care to most folk (no one out of the net as in USA) while private health care is available for those who are money rich/time poor to get quicker service or major cosmetic health not in NHS. The balance is very difficult to strike (all UK governments left or right leaning have problems withh balance, and 'idealist socialists have problems with private element), but it avoids the non-availability or health care to the poor.

Re:Space X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38548956)

what costs a government a million dollars, a private company can do for a few hundred thousand at most.

Usually some 20-30 hundred thousand ;^>

Re:Space X (1)

Froggels (1724218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38547132)

[i]Actually the U.S. government can, but chooses not to.[/i]

Perhaps it will reconsider once American astronauts are killed being launched into space on a Russian rocket? It's a grim thought, that that may be what it takes to give congress the wakeup call it needs.

Re:Space X (1)

InterestingFella (2537066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38547190)

And why would you think Russians are any less capable of building space vehicles than Americans?

Re:Space X (1)

Froggels (1724218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38548126)

And why would you think Russians are any less capable of building space vehicles than Americans?

I was not implying that they are less capable (In spite of a recent string of bad luck) but the media frenzy that would follow such an unfortunate event would presumably have such an effect and force congress to react to angry demands that they should "do something about it" and it may even lead to "serious" studies as to why America may be starting to fall behind in such endeavors. "If 'merican astronauts are gonna get killed being launched into space, then gosh darnit' it should be 'merican rockets that they get killed in!"

GlobalStar is not a US government project... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38549156)

I worked on GlobalStar at Qualcomm about 14 years ago. It is (or was at that time) a partnership between several privately held companies. I assume they would pick whoever is qualified to deliver the satellites at the lowest possible price. They aren't locked into asking the US government to do it.

That said, I was shocked to see anything in the news about GlobalStar, since it seemed pretty much dead when I left Qualcomm. It was meant to be a low cost competitor to Iridium (which was privately held and then was bought out by the US military). Iridium had very expensive, complex satellites that would route calls in orbit from satellite to satellite until it was over a ground station in the US. GlobalStar thought they could to it cheaper by making simple satellites, nothing more than a "bent pipe," and have ground stations all around the world that route calls on the ground. But as it turns out, building and licensing ground stations in hundreds of different countries is a lot more expensive than expensive satellites routing down to one country. (Not to mention less chance of spying on calls by foreign nations)

So I'm assuming this incarnation must be taking the Iridium approach, otherwise they are just throwing more investor money down the toilet.

However, the problem with all satellite phone systems is there isn't a big enough customer base to be profitable. You're best hope is to get a government to buy the whole system for government use.

Re:Space X (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38546928)

And whose fault would that be? why that would be YOU who voted in Congressman Kickbackus and Senator Porkman who promised to "bring home the bacon!" and had the shuttle, which frankly was a bad joke from the Nixon administration which failed ALL of the goals it had set out for, to be spread like a shotgun blast all over the country and thanks to all that pork made it damned near impossible to kill.

I'm sorry but there is a damned good reason why private industry has to do space now, and that is because BOTH parties don't even pretend to give a fuck about anything but their own pockets anymore. Just look at how you can get funding for any crazy military weapon system but our soldiers are paid so damned shitty their families are on food stamps, why? Kinda hard to get kickbacks and bring home the bacon with soldier pay, damned easy with a multibillion dollar weapon system.

We simply can't build good systems with government involvement anymore because the corruption is just too deep. nobody thinks about the good of the people or the country, just the good of the party and their own wallets. We should have shitcanned the shuttle in the 80s and man-rated either Atlas or Delta but since those systems were already established that would have meant Porkman and Kickbackus couldn't have shotgunned the build all over the country and got to feed at the trough so here we are, having to depend on private industry because the piggies can't quit feeding long enough to think about the country as a whole.

Re:Space X (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38547490)

the fact is all the acheivements of NASA are now in the loop for privatisation. This trend, not only in space, but on the ground is counterproductive to the interests of the taxpayer, where, if viewed correctly, spectral analysis can prove that the US Post Office CANNOT function properly if its goal is the interests of profit. Likewise with National achievements and space assets, tech, etc, it simply does not make sense. Mind you the Federal Reserve and their minions at the Treasury Department are not acting in the interests of the taxpayer or the Nation either.

              At the end of the day, the Space-X-Men are banking on SouthAfrikan(Oppenheimer) Israeli launch vehicles (JerichoII+III), in combination with what they can plunder from loose-lipped/databased NASA peripherals. It booggles the mind to think that even Brin and Page got in with those thieves when the 30million google X prize was won by some isreallys.

        Those "piggies" need to have a gastric bandwidth lock, failing that a short march down to the abattoir.
Maybe AIPAC should be disbanded or START hyping pork futures.

    UNfortunatly for those special interest munching piggies, the advent of the internet will throw the proverbial wrench in the works for all those faux-security tech operations which consume most of the misdirected budget, as the people will not stand for the bullshit anymore. Any net user can find NANO-THERMITE and false-flag documentaries online, thus the excuse for defense spending is dwindling. Coupling that with the UN treaty against militarisation of space, and having LibreCAD available for anyone online, real homegrown tech within Nation States is going to take off.

    Launch vehicle tech is not that expensive, and if you wanna check misappropriations, ask how the Isreallys have build and stockpiled nuclear missiles since 1959, most of it paid for with amerkan taxpayer money. They are creating costs and justifications for stripping National assets. Look at what Goldman Sachs did to Libyas formerly NATIONAL Central Bank. And now Persias National oil industry, was the price of gas at the pump in Tehran or Tripoly a threat to homeland security? And how many more TRILLIONS are those pesky isreallys going to fleece off the NW European and Amerikan taxpayers. Maybe they need NASA to be cut up and shipped off to further occupy the middle east, and what the heck, they might as well ship fort knox as well, cause they might need a few trillion more to stop all those Libs and Iranians from making cheap molotovs. Perhaps a half a million amerikan lives and a cool trill for a war with Iran to get them to recall Persian HIV infected terrorist chimpanzees from orbit?

      If AIPAC and the pigfeeders cannot afford to give the refugees of Palestine a chance at development and a standard of living, perhaps the Amerikans should stop paying taxes, or start filling the FEMA camps with Bernanke, Madoff, Kissinger, sub-prime traders, fed officials and other Sheisters of their ilk.

     

Re:Space X (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38548408)

Slow down dude. Back off on the Red Bull and pick up on a spelling checker.

Oh, and your tin foil hat is on way too tight.

Re:Space X (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38547924)

Just look at how you can get funding for any crazy military weapon system but our soldiers are paid so damned shitty their families are on food stamps, why?

Because our government is a bunch of cunts.

That said, has there ever been a time in any country ever that a soldier wasn't paid a mediocre wage? A US Army soldier got paid roughly $700 a month (adjusted for inflation) in WW2. A paratrooper got paid twice that. A manager at McDonald's can end up making $1400+ a month - that's honestly depressing.

Re:Space X (2)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38547102)

the apollo program was largely built using private companies.

anyhow, if USA gets to the stage where you can order a space lift from some private corporations, then that's a much, much, much better situation to be in than if it's just a governmental operation. that's a more advanced stage in the game than just government funded and ran space development.

Re:Space X (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38547158)

Actually, other than some of their satellites (via JPL), all of NASA's space program is BUILT by private companies. The shuttle, Constellation, SLS are just examples of private space building launch systems (or not in 2 of those cases).

Re:Space X (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38547116)

Sadly, we have member of congress pushing to have USA do lift via SLS. Horrible mistake.
But considering that launch is fairly routine, it makes sense for NASA to leave it to private space.
Instead, if we can have multiple companies such as SpaceX, StratoLaunch, ULA with Dream Chaser/CST-100, and Blue Origin, along with Bigelow and/or IDC Dover for doing space stations, it leaves NASA free to focus on going to Mars and other locations.
And no doubt private space will be all over the moon assuming that CONgress does block them from moving forward.

Russian is better place to launch geology (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38548040)

As it takes less fuel to get to space then it does from the usa for satellites and satellites can only hold so much fuel and more fuel they have = more time in space as they need fuel to keep them in there orbit.

Re:Russian is better place to launch geology (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38548490)

As it takes less fuel to get to space then it does from the usa for satellites and satellites can only hold so much fuel and more fuel they have = more time in space as they need fuel to keep them in there orbit.

Here, have some physics [wired.com] .

tl;dr - The earth spins, the spin imparts energy, you get the most boost from spin at the equator. That's why everybody else's launch pads are in the tropics. Baikonur [wikipedia.org] , the Russian launch site is most useful for Pole to Pole orbits but that's a different topic.

Re:Space X (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38549660)

U.S. government cannot even get into space without commercial companies anymore.

Some of these arguments have been hashed better in other replies, but I just want to summarize what's wrong with this particular statement.

The US has always relied on commercial contractors to get into space. "Owning space" clearly isn't a priority of the US government (for example, the proposed development of the Space Launch System (SLS)), so IMHO the US should be looking elsewhere, such as to its private side, for any "owning" of space. Finally, private companies do things that governments can't do such as develop a cheap, effective, reliable launch vehicle (such as SpaceX).

I am (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38546740)

First?

Re:I am (3, Funny)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38546748)

Eternal second's what thou art...

( Freely after Bill Shudderlance )

oh cool (0)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 2 years ago | (#38547318)

Something uneventful happened! What a great /. story.

Here's Hoping (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38548038)

Here's hoping that this new satellite will improve Globalstar's sat-phone network. I've had the grave misfortune of depending on their sat-phones in the past and they have always let me down, even between 10 - 20 degrees latitude!

Now, I'm Iridium only!

Yeah, but (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 2 years ago | (#38548498)

Completely different rocket. Like comparing the Apollo- and the Orion-series.

Soyuz-2-1b 3rd stage engines failed (1)

eionmac (949755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38555472)

Soyuz-2-1a The "a" is important, it was Soyuz-2-1b 3rd stage engines that failed.

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