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DARPA's 'Phoenix' Program To Bring Satellites Back From the Dead

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the frankenstein-program-stitches-them-together dept.

Communications 88

coondoggie writes "Scientists at DARPA say there are some 1,300 satellites worth over $300B sitting out in Earth's geostationary orbit (GEO) that could be retrofitted or harvested for new communications roles and it designed a program called Phoenix which it says would use a squadron 'satlets' and a larger tender craft to grab out-of-commission satellites and retrofit or retrieve them for parts or reuse." This program incorporates a design challenge aspect, in which various teams compete to design systems to effect the actual capture. From the article: "In the Zero Robotics challenge, three finalist teams emerged from a series of four, one-week qualifying rounds: "y0b0tics!" (Montclair, NJ); "The Catcher in the Skye" (Sparta, NJ); and "Nitro" (Eagleville, PA). Then in June the teams gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to watch via video link as their algorithms were tested on board the ISS, DARPA said. The algorithms were applied across three situations in which the SPHERES satellite simulated an active spacecraft approaching an object tumbling through space. In each scenario, at least one of the teams was able to approach the tumbling target and remain synchronized within the predefined capture region, DARPA said."

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Finally! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202085)

This is probably the first major space age steps we've taken since landing on the moon.

Re:Finally! (5, Insightful)

fisted (2295862) | about 2 years ago | (#41202141)

yeah disregard the mars..

Re:Finally! (3, Funny)

hutsell (1228828) | about 2 years ago | (#41202641)

Finally! An incentive for a real life scenario worthy of a nonfictional evil genius. Three hundred billion dollars -- Muahahahahaa!!

Re:Finally! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41203293)

Satellites are already being reprogrammed and repurposed in this manner. This allows new functionality without others knowing you are launching something which throws up read flags. In 2004 there was a program to refit a

Re:Finally! (1, Funny)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 2 years ago | (#41203407)

> In 2004 there was a program to refit a ... [NO CARRIER]

See? SEE?!? You start revealing Their Secrets(tm) and you get cut ... [NO CARRIER]

Re:Finally! (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#41203539)

Why is it that all of these folks doing nefarious deeds and undermining the foundations of our society ...

are still using modems?

Does it have something to do with AOL?

Re:Finally! (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 2 years ago | (#41203735)

...it is because the Aliens are still using modems. They are far from their home planets, have been unable to update their technology for hundreds of years and we here on earth have now surpassed them in some tech areas, but they can still [NO CARRIER]

Maybe it's just me.... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202093)

But isn't this technically a form of 'space salvage' or perhaps 'space piracy'? Did they get permission to retrofit these satellites from the owners? What's the 'abandonment period' for spaceborne objects to be considered 'up for grabs'? Assuming they're not already, how long until the military is using this either to capture and repurpose foreign satellites, or perhaps use them as disguised weapons to cause conflict between 3rd party nations?

And that's just what I came up with in the first 15 seconds of reading the summary.

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202245)

I wonder if any of the "out of commission satellites" are actually full functional.

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (1)

oPless (63249) | about 2 years ago | (#41204543)

I wonder if there will be "accidents" and murdoch's empire will come crashing down (to earth)

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (2)

LourensV (856614) | about 2 years ago | (#41205965)

Some of them might. Satellites need fuel to stay in the right place, and to keep themselves pointing in the right direction (solar panels at the Sun, antennas at the Earth). It's called station keeping [wikipedia.org] . Sometimes otherwise functioning communications satellites run out of fuel, and end up being useless because they're pointing the wrong way. Refuelling them can give them a new life. If there's still fuel but the thrusters or reaction wheels break, you have the same problem. That might be fixed by swapping these out. Micrometeoroid damages your solar panel wiring? If it's on the outside, perhaps a flying soldering iron can fix it.

Obviously these are just ideas, you have to be able to get to the satellite first, and take up a fixed position relative to it even if it's rotating (see out-of-fuel above). That's what they're doing here. Then you have to grab it. There's some interesting work being done by Jon Goff and co. over at Altius Space Machines [altius-space.com] in essentially using static electricity to grab things in space, or electroadhesion [discovery.com] . That seems pretty viable as well. Now we need satellites that are easier to fix up in space, or fancy tools to work on existing ones. All in all this is looking quite promising, although there's still a ways to go before we're sending robot mechanics up there.

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (1)

Confusador (1783468) | about 2 years ago | (#41210903)

Altius is even involved [altius-space.com] in the project in TFA. Jon hasn't been able to say much about it, unfortunately, but it does seem like a promising lead.

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202299)

I wonder how long it'll be before China and Russia include small explosive devices in their satellites to discourage "accidental" capture.

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (1)

Gorgoth (815511) | about 2 years ago | (#41204829)

I doubt that any sensitive satellites go up without the ability to to at least neutralise's sensitive info that may be on them and in such a way that that tampering would be next to imposable. Besides capturing a active satellite is far easier than decommissioned as they are very stable in there orbit. Hubble has been "caught" several times for maintenance over the years

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202421)

And if you'd spent another 15 seconds thinking it through, you'd have figured out that they probably will have to deal with the satellite owners, if a satellite isn't classed as salvage, and that the owners will probably be happy to take a share of the income from the retrofitted satellite, since they weren't earning anything from it when it was just sitting there. And that's just what I came up with in the first 15 seconds of reading your post.

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (2)

rtb61 (674572) | about 2 years ago | (#41203105)

Space salvage would likely be similar to sea salvage. Once they are out of control the are open for capture and control because of the risk they represent to other satellites. Self destruct would be frowned upon as an open act of war due to shrapnel's ability to many other satellites including the space station at random. This would include spy satellites, either keep control, get them out of orbit, repair them or salvage them. Capture techniques are simplified in space because you have plenty of time to apply inertial energy to the satellites to get them to a capture point at acceptable motions and velocities, so even powerful electro magnetic fields and electricity generating solar sails with vector attitude adjustment would work.

You have no (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41204281)

idea what your talking about...

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41203621)

All the satellites really need is fuel.

Re:Maybe it's just me.... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 2 years ago | (#41204761)

Here is the deal : we tell the satellite owner the trajectory of the salvage machine beforehand. If they don't move the satellite, it is considered that it is a dangerous one that cannot avoid collision and that it is fair to be salvage instead of being destroyed, like it would have been if this was a regular satellite.

barely relevant comment here (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202103)

This is kind of the plot of the Planetes manga/anime. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetes [wikipedia.org]

Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41202113)

Capturing defunct satellites is easy. Disassembling them, assembling them into a new configuration, validating the work, and then deploying it again is hard. Very hard.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (2)

fisted (2295862) | about 2 years ago | (#41202859)

Your comment is wrong and overrated.

Capturing withough inflicting damage seems rather hard, a major part of it being the approach + synchronization with the satellite.

That being said, why would disassembling and reusing existing parts be "hard. very hard"? How would it be harder than the normal process of developing and deploying a sat?

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41203157)

It's harder because of the Space involved...

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (2)

demonlapin (527802) | about 2 years ago | (#41203179)

Normally, you don't have to disassemble and reassemble using only robotic arms.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41203435)

Capturing withough inflicting damage seems rather hard, a major part of it being the approach + synchronization with the satellite.

I was not trivializing the task accomplished. I was saying that when you look at the entire project goals, it's amongst the easier. If they simply return to Earth with the satellite, they'll oblitherate most of the cost benefits associated with recycling -- they still have to pay to launch again, and the payload will be used kit, not new. If they do it in orbit, they'll need to basically build a factory in space and mate it to a recycling center. To date, nobody's even attempted large-scale industrial process in orbit. It is a task that dwarfs the challenges of the ISS. We've also learned that things in orbit tend to accumulate fungus, and not a small amount either. There are modules on the ISS that frankly wouldn't meet health code if people lived on them here. When you consider all the obstacles involved in creating a functional assembly line for this kind of thing, and doing it in an economically viable fashion, yes, capturing is the easy part.

How would it be harder than the normal process of developing and deploying a sat?

Let me put it in terms you can relate to: If I walk into a recycling center, select twenty dead computers at random, disassemble them, and put them on a table, how many working computers can you make? Oh, each of those computers is 5 to 30 years old. They also contain explosives and occasionally radioactive material. Now realize that computers at least have standards for how they're supposed to fit together.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (2)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41203529)

Let me put it in terms you can relate to: If I walk into a recycling center, select twenty dead computers at random, disassemble them, and put them on a table, how many working computers can you make? Oh, each of those computers is 5 to 30 years old. They also contain explosives and occasionally radioactive material. Now realize that computers at least have standards for how they're supposed to fit together.

And someone stuck those computers in hard radiation for most of their life. So various parts don't work or work incompletely.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41204597)

Let me put it in terms you can relate to: If I walk into a recycling center, select twenty dead computers at random, disassemble them, and put them on a table, how many working computers can you make? Oh, each of those computers is 5 to 30 years old. They also contain explosives and occasionally radioactive material. Now realize that computers at least have standards for how they're supposed to fit together.

It is highly unlikely that they will choose a satellite at random. They most likely will choose those satellites that have the simplest problems to fix (such as layer of dust covering the solar panels). If they also focus on newer satellites they will probably increase the chances of being able to integrate with them, but I'm not an expert at satellite design so I could be wrong.

If the satlets of a single launch could fix 2-3 or more, you would probably be at a net gain (even when considering the development costs, that the repaired satellites are out of date, the risk of the satlets crashing into satellites due to software bugs, etc).

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (1)

fisted (2295862) | about 2 years ago | (#41204705)

Well, what you say makes sense, but your computer analogy is flawed. I guess nobody is talking about assembling new Satellites *only* from those recovered parts. Fair enough, that'd be a pretty tough task.

My point is, eventually the manufacture of spacecraft like satellites is to eventually be shifted into space anyway. I think you are exaggerating the hurdles which must be overcome in order to do that. There are even simplifying factors, think clean room, pretty easy to achieve in space. I don't see the deal-breaker (ignoring costs) in docking such a module to the ISS (or yeah, fair enough, docking the ISS to such a module), in order to start manufacturing satellites right there. Recovering used satellites would serve the purpose off having potentially reusable parts right on-site. They wouldn't be needed to be 'hacked' into existing designs, they could just be considered for use in existing designs. And you do realize that while there is no standard or anything for satellites, at the very base they work mostly all the same, and they do have large overlaps in what parts where used. Think solar panels.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41203455)

They're right. Compare it to using new parts in a TV design vs recycling existing TV's into new TVs. You might not have access to the schematics of the original device, or the component datasheets. If it's broken, you don't necessarily know offhand what exactly is broken. If it's broken and hasn't been running in a long time, you don't know if there's additional things broken through age. There's possibly less certainty about remaining component lifespan on things that do work.

Programmed components add additional complexity. Is access to the program code available? Are there ways to generate new program code for that part if needed?

These are challenges that to a certain extent, can be overcome in-the-field, but it's horribly complex. Some of these challenges could be engineered to be reduced (for instance, things like standardizing on connectors, archiving and maintaining documentation, etc), but a lot of the problems will persist despite our best efforts.

But this is why it's more complicated than the zero gravity, robotic version of egg catching (which isn't a simple thing in itself). I certainly applaud any efforts to tackle the issues.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 years ago | (#41203587)

"These are challenges that to a certain extent, can be overcome in-the-field, but it's horribly complex. "

A few coconuts and a bit of string is all you need to build a radio.
At least on Gilligan's Island.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41203527)

The technology necessary to capture a satellite is not new, automated docking has been accomplished for quite some time now. Although not easy it’s been done before, just not at a geo orbit that I’m aware of.

Yet. designing, building , integrating, and testing a satellite along with the associated subsystems and components is a lengthy and very expensive process. Like the OP stated very hard, especially if any type reliability is expected. What do you do with the parts once retrieved anyway? Unlikely anything that has been launched into space and been there for any length of time would be able to get space certified again. The retired on orbit satellites are pretty much junk, thermal systems off and all the extra radiation would make the components useless expect for the rare metals. Parts would have to be engineered with retrieval and reuse in mind.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (3, Insightful)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 2 years ago | (#41203749)

I would guess that many of those 1300 satellites only need some propellant to be able to stabilize themselves and then they will be good to go again. So the first thing to try would be capture and refueling.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41204177)

well, it's not wrong or overrated. He's right. To capture a dead bird all you have to do is match orbits. That's easy. Even travelling at 17,000mph, you can maintain a mutual closing speed of an inch a second, which is pretty damn precise. Slow enough that you can manipulate an arm to capture the bird at its launch/retrieval junction rather than just grabbing it at any random point (which would most likely destroy it rather than just cause a little damage).

To retrofit a bird you have to switch out modules/circuit boards, replace solar arrays, refuel ACS tanks, etc., etc., etc. All of this is hard because most if not all satellites are built as fully integrated payloads (exception that pops into my head is the HST, which was successfully repaired in space for the simple reason that the instrumentation was built in separate modules). There are no user-serviceable components. No pop-out modules. The solar panels are hard-wired. And if you want to know how hard it is working in space, get on a treadmill and run hard for twenty minutes, then while continuing to run assemble a mechanical watch while wearing gardening gloves.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (1)

Confusador (1783468) | about 2 years ago | (#41210931)

To retrofit a bird you have to switch out modules/circuit boards, replace solar arrays, refuel ACS tanks, etc., etc., etc.

Generally you wouldn't have to do all of those things, just the ones that have failed. For many birds, that just means they're out of fuel, and that's the easiest thing to retrofit: you don't refill the tanks, you just attach a new one with its own set of thrusters. That's still quite difficult, but definitely technically feasible. Whether it's economically feasible is another story, which is presumably what this project is meant to determine.

If it turns out to be practical, then I expect that future satellites will be designed to allow for proper servicing.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41212183)

I could be wrong but I think that was one of the design briefs of Hubble - not necessarily to install corrective optics, but to replace failed instruments or simply switch out science packages.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41203099)

I find it hard to believe that there will even be enough of the original design information available to allow for cost-effective retrofitting. We are talking about reusing birdies that may have been orbiting for decades - depending on who made them, there may never have been enough documentation available to reproduce the design. All the knowledge may have been in the heads of a few engineers who aren't around anymore.

Re:Capture is easy. Reuse is hard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41206801)

Many of the satellites might be just out of fuel...

Space junk is a problem! (4, Informative)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 2 years ago | (#41202115)

Space junk in orbit is on it's way to becoming a very serious issue if we ever get around to having a substantial amount of people in earth orbit across multiple habitats (hotels?). I have long thought we need to build a number of trash collecting orbital craft to collect all this junk down to the tiniest bit then send it all crashing down through the atmosphere to burn up. While this is a more productive solution, the bigger problem of space junk is still all the little tiny things zipping around.

Re:Space junk is a problem! (4, Insightful)

iroll (717924) | about 2 years ago | (#41203413)

Space junk is a problem; defunct satellites are not really.

The number of defunct satellites is finite, small, and decreases over time. Satellites are big and have predictable orbits. They're not hard to dodge. If you actually wanted to collect them, you could. Satellites are the least dangerous fraction of the space junk.

The dangerous fraction of the space junk is all of the tiny fragments that have been left behind by, for example, anti-satellite missile tests (lookin' at you, China) among other things (lost bits and pieces, leftovers from stage separations).

That fraction of the space junk can be further divided into the chunks that we can see and track, and the pieces that are too small to track and don't have known paths. It presents the biggest hazard because you can't always see it, certainly can't always dodge it, and it moves at tens of thousands of km/h relative to other satellites--that's a lot of kinetic energy.

So yeah, orbital garbage collector sounds sexy, but it's not going to even put a scratch in the actually dangerous part of the space junk cloud.

Re:Space junk is a problem! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41208943)

for example, anti-satellite missile tests (lookin' at you, China)

There have been three satellites destroyed by missiles. One by China, two by the US.

it begins (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202139)

...and a sentient being evolved from salvaged space satellites and was given life by a race of living machines...later it returned to Earth to seek "the creator". Unable to determine who its creator could be, the probe declared all carbon-based life an infestation of the creator's universe, leading to assimilation...

Re:it begins (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41204191)

yeah... would be a good reference, except that in the Shatner/Kirk timeline, Voyager VI was an interstellar probe, not a piece of space junk. And the fact that it received no immediate reply to its calls for the Creator was not a problem of determination; it was however convinced that the Creator was a silicon based machine life form like itself, not a carbon based infestation such as it had found inhabiting its place of origin. There was also a problem, it saw, in that carbon based life was imperfect, and could never be perfect, hence needed to be removed. It had its own ideas for perfection but that would require physical contact and "becoming one" with the Creator. What it ended up with was "becoming one" with William Decker - which wasn't a plot hole because as the Ilia probe pointed out, only the Creator could know the command sequence instructing V'Ger to transmit the data it had gleaned over two hundred years. If Decker knew the command sequence then by that logic, Decker must be the Creator.

I stop before I go into Geek Overload.

If I recall.. (3)

lionchild (581331) | about 2 years ago | (#41202165)

I could be wrong, but wasn't retrieving and repairing satelites one of the goals of the Shuttle Program?

Re:If I recall.. (4, Informative)

henrym (414280) | about 2 years ago | (#41202203)

They did repair several satellites that their upper stages failed to ignite, and were stranded in low earth orbit (~300 miles). This article is mostly talking about refurbishing satellites in geosynchronous orbit which is about 23,600 miles up. That's WAY above the ability of any current manned spacecraft any nation has at the moment.

Re:If I recall.. (1)

lionchild (581331) | about 2 years ago | (#41203563)

I like the idea of this sort of mission being manned. A new lease and reason for expanding the ISS, giving it new life, new purpose. Imagine shuttling back and forth, retrieving satelites, taking them back to the ISS for repair and refurbishment, upgrades and updates, then deployed back into orbit for a new lifetime with extended capabilities, even from a simple firmware upgrade.

However, I suspect that may not be as cost effective. However, I just like the idea of having more of the humann element in orbital activities. That's just the generation I come from.

Re:If I recall.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202329)

Yep, but the price of satelites went down, and the price of shuttles & astronaughts went up.
The shuttle was meant to be reusable too, but in practice every trip needed a component-level teardown & rebuild.

Re:If I recall.. (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 2 years ago | (#41203763)

They repaired and upgraded the Hubble telescope multiple times and also many other military semi failed launches stuck in LEO.

HUGE Security Resource+ - version 6000 - 08/31/12 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202185)

HUGE Security Resource+ - version 6000 - 08/31/2012
http://cryptome.org/2012/08/huge-sec-v6000.txt [cryptome.org]

The document Slashdot refuses to post!

There is only a limited number of those orbits (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41202219)

There aren't much geostationary slots and occupying them with some refitted spacejunk is a waste. Reuse might be a good idea, but not in that orbit.

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202383)

Occupying them with nonfunctional space junk, as we currently are, is better?

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41203551)

Old satellites are moved out of the operational geo orbit then turned off.

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41204205)

oh, waitasec... what are we talking about here? 22,223 mile radius circle, that's roughly 139631 miles of orbital path. Based on the assumption that each satellite occupies 100 feet of space in the orbital track (that's to include a fairly generous solar array), then that means there's room in that specific orbit for 7,372,528 satellites. I *think* we've got some way to go yet before we fill the geostationary track up with dead birds. At a launch-to-orbit rate of say 1,000 a year (that's more than two launches *per day*) it'd still take seventy Centuries to fill the one orbit. By the way, two objects in the same stable orbit will *never* collide - it's physically impossible.

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41204317)

Seriously??? So many people who think they're an expert...

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41204387)

?? You just need to know how to count using more than your fingers, it's not that hard, really.

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41205805)

Not that hard either to think about slotting over oceans, orbital perturbations, realistic separations, freq separation conflicts, etc. I don't mean to be mean but the problem is not as trivial as your (incorrect) math would indicate. BTW, collision avoidance is very important even for geosynchronous orbits.

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41207321)

where's my math wrong?

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41208587)

You neglect the equatorial radius of the planet when computing orbit circumference; however, much more importantly, you made false assumptions and you trivialized the problem to the point you can't draw valid conclusions. I shouldn't have made my first comment. I was being kind of a jerk. Sorry.

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41204331)

The big problem in geostationary orbit is not physical collisions but radio interference. If you put too many satellites in it they won't be able to communicate with Earth. Also, geostationary orbit is not perfectly stable, you have to correct against the effects of the Moon and the Sun.

Re:There is only a limited number of those orbits (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41204479)

um... this is why they have DCS and CTCSS squelch, like you have on personal mobile radios. You can transmit on the same carrier, any number of channels you like; the way you separate them is to transmit a tonal subcarrier (an audio tone which modulates the carrier or in the case of DCS a stream of FSK digital data) which the receiver detects if tuned to that subcarrier, and reject any other signal. Using this method the quality of the received signal depends entirely on the quality of the receiving hardware. Early commercial broadcast satellite from what I remember from playing with my mum's 16-channel receiver back in the 80's, discriminated using horizontal and vertical polarisation, doubling the number of available channels (which was enough back then, there weren't that many satellite broadcasting stations to begin with).

Cute (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about 2 years ago | (#41202239)

But by what measure are they worth $300Bn ? The art has moved on, there are better ways to use the spectrum, $300Bn would put 1000 new satellites into Geostationary orbit.

Re:Cute (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202353)

I think the point is that by the time you've put those 1,000 up, another 2,000 will be defunct.
It's like having a car that only has fuel for a week, an rather than re-fuel, you buy another car.

In fact, if re-fuelling is a major cause of demise (and consequent loss of correct, useful, orbit) this would be a 'easy' fix, much easier than remote robotic disassembly & reconstruction.

Hmmmmm.

1300 dead ones? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#41202313)

So how many total? + all the junk flying around? Its a wonder we can actually get off this rock and not be obliterated by our garbage along the way.

Re:1300 dead ones? (4, Insightful)

cryptizard (2629853) | about 2 years ago | (#41202385)

How is it a wonder? If there were 1300 VW beetles scattered around the globe, what is the chance you would ever wander upon one in your entire life? Earth orbit is a big place.

Re:1300 dead ones? (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#41202427)

Yes, space is big. But 1300 is just the start, and from my understanding there are 'preferred' paths out into orbit, so i'm sure that a lot of this junk isn't exactly trivial. And unlike hitting one of those beetles and walking away from the accident, you don't get a 2nd chance up there.

Before this gets patented... (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#41202325)

Prior art [imdb.com]

Subject line (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#41202335)

...sounds like an episode of Twilight Zone.

Did nobody noticed the missing word? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202341)

"would use a squadron 'satlets' "

would use a squadron OF 'satlets'.

Doesn't anybody read what they write, as they type it, nowadays?

Why did nobody commenting notice? Can't you read either? Do you just accept that as long as MOST of the words that should be there are in a sentence, it's 'near enough'? WTF?

Re:Did nobody noticed the missing word? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202479)

Doesn't anybody read what they write, as they type it, nowadays?

Why did nobody commenting notice? Can't you read either? Do you just accept that as long as MOST of the words that should be there are in a sentence, it's 'near enough'? WTF?

Yeah, sure... better post heaps of words, repeat them in various combination and contribute nothing to the topic, right?

Fred Sanford works for DARPA? (1)

billybob_jcv (967047) | about 2 years ago | (#41202413)

Sanford & Son Salvage!!

Your pastor is now a reality show judge! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41202535)

Memorable quotes for
Looker (1981)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082677/quotes [imdb.com]

"John Reston: Television can control public opinion more effectively than armies of secret police, because television is entirely voluntary. The American government forces our children to attend school, but nobody forces them to watch T.V. Americans of all ages *submit* to television. Television is the American ideal. Persuasion without coercion. Nobody makes us watch. Who could have predicted that a *free* people would voluntarily spend one fifth of their lives sitting in front of a *box* with pictures? Fifteen years sitting in prison is punishment. But 15 years sitting in front of a television set is entertainment. And the average American now spends more than one and a half years of his life just watching television commercials. Fifty minutes, every day of his life, watching commercials. Now, that's power."

##

"The United States has it's own propaganda, but it's very effective because people don't realize that it's propaganda. And it's subtle, but it's actually a much stronger propaganda machine than the Nazis had but it's funded in a different way. With the Nazis it was funded by the government, but in the United States, it's funded by corporations and corporations they only want things to happen that will make people want to buy stuff. So whatever that is, then that is considered okay and good, but that doesn't necessarily mean it really serves people's thinking - it can stupify and make not very good things happen."
- Crispin Glover: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000417/bio [imdb.com]

##

"It's only logical to assume that conspiracies are everywhere, because that's what people do. They conspire. If you can't get the message, get the man." - Mel Gibson (from an interview)

##

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." - William Casey, CIA Director

##

"The real reason for the official secrecy, in most instances, is not to keep the opposition (the CIA's euphemistic term for the enemy) from knowing what is going on; the enemy usually does know. The basic reason for governmental secrecy is to keep you, the American public, from knowing - for you, too, are considered the opposition, or enemy - so that you cannot interfere. When the public does not know what the government or the CIA is doing, it cannot voice its approval or disapproval of their actions. In fact, they can even lie to your about what they are doing or have done, and you will not know it. As for the second advantage, despite frequent suggestion that the CIA is a rogue elephant, the truth is that the agency functions at the direction of and in response to the office of the president. All of its major clandestine operations are carried out with the direct approval of or on direct orders from the White House. The CIA is a secret tool of the president - every president. And every president since Truman has lied to the American people in order to protect the agency. When lies have failed, it has been the duty of the CIA to take the blame for the president, thus protecting him. This is known in the business as "plausible denial." The CIA, functioning as a secret instrument of the U.S. government and the presidency, has long misused and abused history and continues to do so."
- Victor Marchetti, Propaganda and Disinformation: How the CIA Manufactures History

##

George Carlin:

"The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They've got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.

But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that. That doesn't help them. That's against their interests. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago.

You know what they want? Obedient workers people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they're coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's a big club, and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club.

This country is finished."

##

We now return you Americans to your media: Corporate, Government sponsored and controlled (rigged) elections..

Most of you are all so asleep it's time you woke up!

if only we had some sort of reusable craft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41203137)

If only we had some sort of reusable craft that could travel into space with a crew, use some sort of grappling arm to capture the satellite and return it to Earth.

I suppose one could dream.

Re:if only we had some sort of reusable craft... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#41203581)

If only we had some sort of reusable craft that could travel into space with a crew, use some sort of grappling arm to capture the satellite and return it to Earth.

I suppose one could dream.

Yeah, if only we had a manned space craft that could get to geosynchronous orbit. That would be cool.

The last time we had something like that was the Apollo program. The Shuttle (which I'm assuming you are referring to) only made it to LEO.

DARPA to Rip Up Dead Satellites, Make New Ones (2)

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) | about 2 years ago | (#41203163)

DARPA reports that more than $300 billion worth of satellites are in the geosynchronous orbit, many retired due to failure of one component even if 90% of the satellite works just as well as the day it was launched. DARPA's Phoenix program seeks to develop technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components [darpa.mil] such as antennas or solar arrays from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost [darpa.mil] . "If this program is successful, space debris becomes space resource," says DARPA Director, Regina E. Dugan. However satellites in GEO are not designed to be disassembled or repaired, so it's not a matter of simply removing some nuts and bolts says David Barnhart. "This requires new remote imaging and robotics technology and special tools to grip, cut, and modify complex systems." For a person operating such robotics, the complexity is similar to trying to assemble via remote control multiple Legos at the same time while looking through a telescope. "If you've got a satellite up there already, don't worry, this isn't going to be some illicit grave-robbing mission to create hordes of evil Frankensatellites [dvice.com] ," reports Dvice. "DARPA says the agency will make sure and get permission before it chops anything up for scrap."

Re:DARPA to Rip Up Dead Satellites, Make New Ones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41205133)

I wonder what the mass/energy budget for something that is designed to travel around in geosynchronous orbit looks like. I mean, once you're up there, how much mass/energy does it take to move from one location to another? If you get a repairbot up to the Clark belt, how long can it stay up there doing useful work?

Way to go New Jersey... (1)

gQuigs (913879) | about 2 years ago | (#41203475)

The winners are all pretty close together..
http://mapq.st/PXW7Vy [mapq.st]

Re:Way to go New Jersey... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41204237)

Tony Soprano's crew "helped out" in the decision process, and get "a taste" of the business. They are moving into the "used" satellite and satellite "insurance" business.

"Dat's a nice satellite youse guys got's dere. Would be a shame, if it had an 'accident' . . .like a fire in the kitchen . . ."

It was a great idea but it failed commercially (1)

kriston (7886) | about 2 years ago | (#41203737)

It was a great idea but it failed commercially, somehow.

This was proposed as a viable service last year:
http://www.satellitetoday.com/via/dollarsandsense/38349.html [satellitetoday.com]

And even Via Satellite magazine published this piece which announced an agreement with at least one major satellite communications provider:
http://www.satellitetoday.com/via/features/37531.html [satellitetoday.com]

But early in 2012 they quietly announced termination of the agreement with said major satellite communications provider:
http://www.satellitetoday.com/satn/features/38192.html [satellitetoday.com]

So, I guess that today's development indicates that the technology is not commercially viable, but somehow needs more research? The sheer number of perfectly good bent-pipe satellites in geosynchronous orbit that are "dead" and moved to graveyard orbits for the sole reason that they have run out of fuel for station-keeping is staggering and should not be ignored.

Is this a good development or a bad one? MDA should have been given more of the benefit-of-the-doubt, or was there some other problem, either business-wise or technology-wise about MDA that we don't know about?

Sheeeeit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41204209)

They should fuckin' build a pimp-ass space station out of all them smaller ones.

$300B? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41204729)

This number seems a bit bogus. I mean, what the hell is even worth salvaging out of (likely) decade old satellites? Wouldn't the cost of developing remote robot repair technology, building the damn thing, and then launching it up cost more than just dropping the idea and building fresh, modern satellites?

PHOENIX? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41205159)

Yes. DARPA should establish a PHOENIX Foundation to MacGuyver together working satellites from readily available orbital materials, paperclips, and tin foil.

Ooh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41205223)

Sounds like the sort of government program that will keep being funded until long that it has been demonstrated to be a total waste of time and money.

Does this actually cost less (1)

opus_magnum (1688810) | about 2 years ago | (#41205515)

than building and sending up a new one?

Hmmmmmm (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about 2 years ago | (#41205651)

Phoenix program [wikipedia.org] , space, hmmmmm.

Good name for a program (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41206647)

The Phoenix program in the 60's involved dropping tied-up Vietnamese out of helicopters into the sea. And torture, of course.

Supply Depot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41207057)

I would think it would be much simpler to capture the satellites and return to to a human maned supply depot where they could recycled. Maybe this would be a good use for the ISS post 2020.

pirates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41207709)

I've always wondered if someone would be able to hack into dead satellites and take them over to use for some juicy pirate communications.

Zero Robotics High School Tournament (1)

Zentakz (618981) | about 2 years ago | (#41208811)

DARPA and NASA also sponsor an annual Zero Robotics high school tournament that starts on September 8. Just like in this challenge the final competition will take place live on the space station. More details are on the Zero Robotics website: www.zerorobotics.org [zerorobotics.org]
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