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Expensive U.S. Spy Satellite Not Working

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the should-have-had-an-open-beta-first dept.

Space 251

Penguinshit writes to mention a Reuters article about some trouble the U.S. is having communicating with a spy satellite. The sensor package was launched last year by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, and is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It has apparently hung in a low orbit for months now, and efforts to communicate with it have been unsuccessful. From the article: "The official said the problems were substantial and involved multiple systems, adding that U.S. officials were working to reestablish contact with the satellite because of the importance of the new technology it was meant to test and demonstrate. The other source said the satellite had been described to him as 'a comprehensive failure.' There was no suggestion by either of the sources that the satellite had been purposely damaged as part of a terrorist attack. Another government official said he had no information about any attacks on U.S. satellites."

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251 comments

The problem... (5, Funny)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17577978)

"Windows has encountered an error from which it cannot recover and needs to restart. Please press any key to continue..."

Re:The problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578364)

BSOD!

Re:The problem... (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578512)

An emergency shuttle mission is already being scheduled to deal with the problem. It will be a failure, however, when the astronaut discovers that he cannot find the Any key.

KFG

Re:The problem... (0)

Arthur Dent '99 (226844) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578702)

Well, they can make a quick run to OfficeMax and buy the Any key [officemax.com] (along with a "Panic" button and an "Eject" button, which could also prove useful).

Re:The problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17579374)

That's an "Easy" button you insensitive clod!!!

Re:The problem... (1)

_Sharp'r_ (649297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578920)

If you've ever seen the results of most government custom-written software projects, you'd be more surprised that the software for ANY satellite works at the time the satellite launches (as opposed to seven years, three more projects and 275 million dollars later), not that this one failed.

Opps... (4, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578006)

So that's what my DIY laser cannon shot down... I was worried that I built it wrong.

Dam conversions (3, Funny)

VEGETA_GT (255721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578012)

Bet ya this is a case of converting form Imperial to Metric again. Guess the military never got NASA's memo :P

Re:Dam conversions (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578204)

Guess the military never got NASA's memo

Oh, they got the memo. Halfway through development in Imperial units. Whoops. :P

Terrorism? (2, Insightful)

despe666 (802244) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578024)

If another country launched a spy satellite and the US destroyed it, it wouldn't be terrorism, it would be self-defense. Why would it be any different the other way around?

Re:Terrorism? (4, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578396)

I'd be hard pressed to call it "terrorism" in either case. Most definitions of "terrorism" that I'm aware of describe attacks against civilian rather than military targets, whose goal is to cause more harm than the actual physical damage by provoking fear.

In this case it could conceivably be that a terrorist organization also sabotaged a military target, but that would not be an act of terrorism in and of itself. That's more like conventional espionage. The military knows that it is a target and is capable of responding, and so it's generally considered a valid target. The world gives a kind of grudging acceptance of your right to do it.

The third general requirement of terrorism, as compared to a valid military attack, is that the enemy hides itself. If the US takes out somebody's spy satellite, you know where the US is if you want to engage in a military response. Al Qaeda doesn't have such a place. This isn't just a playing semantics; it goes back to the civilian/military distinction. When a true terrorist organization attacks the US, civilians nominally on their own side die when the US counterattacks. By contrast, to attack the US there are valid targets.

(This gets a bit murky in espionage, where you do hide among the civilians, and that's the closest the US comes to true terrorism, at least for its avowed activities. We can discuss the various covert CIA activities later, but there's so much misinformation that it's hard to know what's real and what's paranoia.)

Terrorism comes much closer to Clausewitz's "total war". Why should any opponent restrict itself to "valid" military targets and make itself known to counterattacks? No reason, except that the end of "total war" is always the complete destruction of one side: if you engage in it you're putting lives at risk out of proportion to your goals. That will earn the world's opprobrium, and perhaps that opprobrium will increase the chance of your defeat, but beyond that it's your choice.

Re:Terrorism? (4, Interesting)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578592)

I agree.

Terrorists = those who attack on civilians to induce terror (presumably to induce civilians some kind of change driven by the civilians).

Resistance, Insurgents, Freedom fighters = those who attack military and government units (not 5 year olds).

Nihilists = those who attack civilians really just because they like death and destruction and not because they have any particular goal of any kind in mind.

"Total War" is not really terrorism. You are not trying to induce a civilian population attitude change- you have decided to kill everyone on the other side.

Re:Terrorism? (5, Insightful)

colman77 (689696) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579038)

Why does this even mention terrorism? Go back and read that again. "There was no suggestion by either of the sources that the satellite had been purposely damaged as part of a terrorist attack." Duh. Last time I checked, spy satellites were not exactly high-profile ordeals, making them less-than-desirable targets for any kind of terrorist. So then WHY include that sentence? Power of suggestion? Keep terrorism in our collective consciousness? Why is it there?

Re:Terrorism? (4, Interesting)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578620)

The military knows that it is a target and is capable of responding, and so it's generally considered a valid target. The world gives a kind of grudging acceptance of your right to do it.

Tell it to the people talking about the U.S.S. Cole.

Terrorism comes much closer to Clausewitz's "total war".

Beware of leaving your opponant without options.

KFG

Re:Terrorism? (2, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578782)

Well said.

This issue was illustrated nicely (and horribly) in the Vietnam war. When the Vietnamese resorted to "total war" tactics, like putting bombs in picnic baskets carried by young girls, it changed the necessary response from their enemy. Their enemy (the US) now had to consider all civilians as potential combatants -- eventually, as likely combatants. Voila, you get Mai Lai and other unpleasantness.

American civilians back home condemned the attacks on civilians, but only because they didn't understand the aforementioned. They still don't.

Meanwhile, American soldiers suffered abnormal psychological harm because their survival required them to begin killing 'civilians', including women and children. It ended poorly for everyone, although I suppose the VC regard it as a triumphant "peoples' uprising" or some such euphemism.

al-Quaida and al-Aqsah and their ilk are skipping down the same path, by hiding in and among civilians. Normally this would necessitate flattening whole neighborhoods in which they've got their caches and arty hidden, so let us praise the US military for the expensive restraint it is showing in this situation. Historically, it is utterly unprecedented.

But only the affected civilians can stop it. There's a great quote from Gen. Robert E. Lee about this. While conquering the South, he burned many farms and homesteads as he went. An old woman appealed him to spare her farm. He replied (more or less) "Ma'am, I can't stop this war. Only you can. But you won't until you feel the real cost."

Re:Terrorism? (4, Informative)

_Sharp'r_ (649297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578858)

Lee conquering the south?

I know that most US schools aren't big on teaching history any more unless it can somehow be related to a teacher's pet cause, but hopefully your comment is just a typo and you really meant something like Sherman's march to the sea.

Just in case it isn't clear, Lee led the Southern Armies in the Civil War, he didn't conquer the South.

Re:Terrorism? (5, Informative)

Brummund (447393) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578938)

First of all, it is My Lai. Second, the massacre was in 1968. Third, the massacre was not done in a an attack on the village, it was done AFTER an initial attack on the village, where the US soldiers had full control of it.

Check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Lai_massacre [wikipedia.org] for more details.

Re:Terrorism? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578936)

Please mod down the parent. It is clear that the poster has lost all touch with reality, and has forgotten the horrible events of 9/11. Clearly this is an attempt by terrorists to hide their activities bring disorder to Iraq.

Definitions are simple, those opposed to freedom and democracy are terrorists and therefore, evil.

The poster is clearly a crackpot liberal, and needs to go back to conning drug money from his hippie tree hugging parents instead of spreading his lies here.

Oh crap here come the damn terrorists with their damn medicine for me...

3DSA!@#$!FCACZC... NO CARRIER

Re:Terrorism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17579190)

Definitions are simple, those opposed to freedom and democracy are terrorists and therefore, evil.

Ok so republicans are evil. The patriot act takes away freedom. The phone spying program takes away freedom. And yes, i once considered myself a republican prior to the shift that occurred around 9/11 where moderates are now considered democrats. Every day I have shame for voting for the president during his first election.

Re:Terrorism? (1)

WhyDoYouWantToKnow (1039964) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579364)

Definitions are simple, those opposed to freedom and democracy are terrorists and therefore, evil.

Please explain something to me, who's definitions? Are you to be the arbiter of all things free and democratic? What if I disagree with what you decide is free and democratic? Am I now a terrorist and therefore evil?

Re:Terrorism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17579238)

If another country launched a spy satellite and the US destroyed it, it wouldn't be terrorism, it would be self-defense. Why would it be any different the other way around?
Considering a reconnaissance satellite is not an offensive military weapon, then it would not be "self defense" unless the US was already at war with that country. Then it would be right to call it self defense because there is a presumption that it would be used to help coordinate military attacks and such. Either way it is clearly a military target and not a civilian one, so no attack against it should be termed "terrorist" or "terrorism". Even if Osama Bin Laden, himself, climbed up a 100 mile long carbon nanotubule rope and started whacking at it with hammer, then it should not be considered a terrorist attack, you could maybe call it an "attack by a terrorist", but for correctness it should not be called a "terrorist attack".

Re:Terrorism? (1)

jagspecx (974505) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579326)

The interesting thing here is the statement in TFA:

There was no suggestion by either of the sources that the satellite had been purposely damaged as part of a terrorist attack. Another government official said he had no information about any attacks on U.S. satellites.

This reminds me of Wag the Dog [wikipedia.org] where De Niro's character "leaks" to the press that "the President's stay in China has nothing to do with the B3 bomber" (or something to that effect) to try and create a media frenzy around something that doesn't exist.

Playing into terrorism hysteria much, Reuters?

Awesome... (1)

theGil (1010409) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578034)

Good to see our tax dollars hard at work.

WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578058)

Yes, because terrorists who make explosives and strap them to themselves have billion-dollar weaponry to shoot satellites out of orbit. Sheesh. Get a clue.

Re:WTF (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578246)

Yes, because terrorists who make explosives and strap them to themselves have billion-dollar weaponry to shoot satellites out of orbit. Sheesh. Get a clue.

Nah, I'd just infiltrate someone into the programming team and make sure that the satellite's antennas stay turned away from the Earth and the solar panels' angle isn't optimal. There are many ways to sabotage such a complex system...

-b.

Re:WTF (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578390)

Yeah, because some idiot like you could "just infiltrate someone into the programming team" for a secret military satellite project.

stfu idiot.

Re:WTF (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578484)

Yeah, because some idiot like you could "just infiltrate someone into the programming team" for a secret military satellite project.

Moles have existed in the highest levels of government. What makes you think that something like that is (in theory) impossible. I'm not saying *I* would, BTW - I'm saying that it would be the easiest way for a terrorist organization to sabotage a satellite.

-b.

Re:WTF (2, Interesting)

denbesten (63853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578914)

There are many ways to sabotage such a complex system...

Complexity itself is likely the biggest cause of the problem. No sabotage needed. Although complexity (somewhat) needs to be part of the normal operation, there should be non-complex survival modes that kick in when things start to go wrong, such as:

  • A low battery could trigger a spring loaded mechanism that opened one solar panel. Then move the panel around semi-randomly until charging begins. Once there is enough charge, smarter (i.e. more complex) aiming circuitry could be turned on.
  • Loss of communications from mother earth for a few weeks could trigger a mechanism which points the antenna directly towards the strongest source of gravity, so that we could get a communication airplane under it.
There are likely these sorts of gizmos already, but one really needs to consider why they fail and how they could be made simpler to eliminate the failure cause.

Incidentally, this doesn't just apply to satellites. Lots of things have (or should have self-preservation built in). My camera, for example, retracts and covers its lens when the battery gets low, so that it does not get hurt when I throw it back in my pocket. All it requires is a bit of forethought and contingency planning on the part of the designers.

Re:WTF (2, Insightful)

arootbeer (808234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578270)

You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks^H^H^H^H^H^Hterrorists with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!

Re:WTF (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578602)

How do we know? There was no suggestion that sharks with laserbeams on their head were involved, either.. you never know...

Re:WTF (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578406)

But just think of the mass hysteria that would prevail by causing a spy satellite's radio to break down.

I know I feel safer already. Oh, wait. . .

KFG

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578734)

Yes, because terrorists who make explosives and strap them to themselves have billion-dollar weaponry to shoot satellites out of orbit. Sheesh. Get a clue.

yeah, because hackers have billion-dollar equipment to cripple large networks?

you're a moron.

why is it that every jackoff who wants to berate the government tries to make it seem that the terrorist "front" out there is riding around on camels with ak-47s that they got from the soviets and things like computers and bio weapons are a concept that they could never understand?

Obligatory. (4, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578060)

"Nothing to see here... at least not with your security clearance."

If there was no suggestion of something... (4, Insightful)

Phil246 (803464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578086)

why mention it? Why raise the 'boogeyman' of terrorism for something unrelated to it, other then to reinforce the culture of fear created.

Re:If there was no suggestion of something... (3, Funny)

Jonathan_S (25407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578168)

"There was no suggestion by either of the sources that the satellite had been purposely damaged as part of a terrorist attack"
If there was no suggestion of something... why mention it? Why raise the 'boogeyman' of terrorism for something unrelated to it, other then to reinforce the culture of fear created

Exactly. I'm sure neither source mentioned that it had been deliberately damaged as part of an extra terrestrial alien attack either, but they didn't mention that.

Maybe someone should start listing all the other types of attacks that didn't damage the satellite. (Start off with laser wielding shark...)

Re:If there was no suggestion of something... (1)

dedazo (737510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578378)

(Start off with laser wielding shark...)

Unfortunately they got to him first [cnn.com] .

Re:If there was no suggestion of something... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578464)

To bring attention to it. What better place to hide something than in plain site. If it's "broken," you don't have to worry about it. /Pay no attention to the cop with the "broken" radar gun.

Al Quaeda has won the War on Terror (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579254)

When you're seeing bogeymen under every rock you're afraid. Paranoid even.

 

Re:If there was no suggestion of something... (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579258)

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

With that in mind, it's clear that the only thing that will effectively protect us from the possibility that terrorists will cause more episodes like this one is to form a new cabinet-level agency: the Department of Offworld Security.

There's a whole lot of work for them to do. For starters: why are gels and liquids still allowed in rocket payloads? Maybe this satellite was destroyed by gels and liquids, maybe it wasn't. But don't we owe it to ourselves to be totally sure that it doesn't happen in the future?

Re:If there was no suggestion of something... (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579336)

It's probably intended as irony. Attacking military targets defies the very definition of terrorism.

Unless "terrorist" is now just a synonym for "enemy."

You've got to be kidding! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578096)

Come on now - a terrorist attack? I really think that any reporter or journalist that's gotten to the point of asking if terrorists are involved every time something goes wrong should be fired, or at least whacked with a Clue Stick and put on probation or something.

"Huh. This turkey sandwich I got from the commissary is a little dry today..."
"Really? Do you think it could be some kind of terrorist attack on Lunchtime?!"

Absurd.

Re:You've got to be kidding! (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578360)

Yeah, the Taliban has been flinging rocks into orbit using extra large slingshots from just inside the Afganistan/Pakistan border hoping to take that sucker out...

Re:You've got to be kidding! (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578650)

Wasn't there something about the Iraqi Supergun [astronautix.com] ?

from the link one of its key objectives:

As an anti-satellite weapon. It would launch a special shell in space that would explode near the target satellite, covering it with sticky material and blinding it.

Not if we jam it! (2, Funny)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578774)

As an anti-satellite weapon. It would launch a special shell in space that would explode near the target satellite, covering it with sticky material and blinding it.

Who was their defense contractor on that idea? Lone Starr and a certain rotund guy with a tail named Barf?

Re:Not if we jam it! (1)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579434)

It's raspberry, sir.

Terrorists? Give me a break (5, Insightful)

RelaxedTension (914174) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578104)

If anyone actually did something to kill the satellite, there is a list of countries that I would suspect long before looking at terrorists. Countries like China, Russia, etc., have greater reason, not to mention resources, to damage an orbiting satellite.

Why is always terrorists that are the culprits when something goes wrong? The nations that used espionage before the "War On Terror" are still there, and still have vested interest in denying the US the ability to spy on them.

Re:Terrorists? Give me a break (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578460)

Don't ascribe to malice that which can adequately explained by incompetence.

In other words, We have met the enemy and he is us.

Re:Terrorists? Give me a break (1)

RelaxedTension (914174) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578746)

I agree absolutely, it was almost certainly a mistake, incompetence, or freak accident. That terrorism was mentioned or considered is what riled me up. AK-47's are good weapons, but their range is a bit short.

China was testing a laser powerful enough to disable satellites not too long ago though...

Re:Terrorists? Give me a break (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578576)

"Why is _always_ terrorists that are the culprits when something goes wrong"

That's because "We have always been at war with Oceania^H^H^H^H^H^H^HTerrorists".

Re:Terrorists? Give me a break (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578586)

While external interference would be applicable for a perfectly operational satellite suddenly gone bad without an explanation, Hanlon's Razor [wikipedia.org] probably applies better in this case.

Re:Terrorists? Give me a break (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578844)

Don't you understand? This is a serious problem!
Gremlins...

You got-you gotta watch out for them forgeiners cuz they plant gremlins in their machinery.

It's the same gremlins that brought down our planes in the big one.
Kate: [laughing] The big one...
that's right! World war two.
Good old WWII.

Y'know their still shippin them over here. They put em in cars, they put em in yer tv. They put em in stereos and those little radios you stick in your ears. They even put em in watches, they have teeny gremlins for our watches!


Oh wait, I made some typos... let me start over.

Terrorists...

Oh Okay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578110)

It's okay everybody! No terrorists were involved in this! It's not major news anymore!

terrorists??!? (5, Insightful)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578114)

does anybody else feel that the mention of terrorists in this article is just absofuckinglutely retarded? that anyone, for even an instant, seriously entertained the notion that any terrorist group has both the capacity and wherewithal to take out something in LEO, UNDETECTED, is beyond idiotic.

we must be living in the bizarro universe.

Re:terrorists??!? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578318)

does anybody else feel that the mention of terrorists in this article is just absofuckinglutely retarded?

Yes.

KFG

Re:terrorists??!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578346)

does anybody else feel that the mention of terrorists in this article is just absofuckinglutely retarded?

Given the current state of things I think that the concept of terrorism being a possible cause of problems is fairly high in the public's mind. This is there more for the Joe Sixpacks of the world and not the legitimate intelligence community.

But also consider that it probably was investigated at some point since cyber-terrorism is a concern. Just because it's not a heavy hitter doesn't mean that it doesn't happen.

LETS GIVE UP ALL FREEDOMS IN THE NAME OF TERROR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578412)

LETS JUSTIFY EVERYTHING IN THE NAME OF TERROR!!

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Re:terrorists??!? (1)

Buran (150348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578500)

Yes.

I also need to note that it is completely unremarkable that there has been a failure of a spacecraft. Space is an unforgiving environment, and there have been countless failures of missions, some due to freak happenstance and some due to human error and some due to equipment failure. It's generally dealt with by establishing the cause of the failure, correcting it, and launching a new spacecraft if it's necessary and/or possible.

- Mars Climate Orbiter: We now have other spacecraft at Mars
- Mars Polar Lander: Reflying in part as Phoenix lander
- Mars Global Surveyor: Coding error. Already a new orbiter is at Mars
- Apollo 13: Damaged equipment. Changes made to future Apollo spacecraft
- Apollo 1: Design flaws, bad construction. Fixed for future missions.
- Challenger: Design flaw, bad procedure. Both fixed.
- Columbia: bad assumptions, bad bureaucracy. Supposedly both fixed.
- XM 1/2: Design flaw. Fixed, XM 3/4 launched to replace.
- Other Earth orbiting satellites: In-orbit fixes and/or replacements.
- Some repairable satellites: Repaired by Space Shuttle crews (i.e. Solar Max)

This too will be investigated, fixed by software changes if that is applicable, or a new satellite launched if nothing else can do the job and the flaw can't be repaired from the ground (without communications, this is likely to not be possible).

We lost the ability to repair on-orbit when the Shuttle stopped doing anything other than visiting the ISS. The only reason we are sending a new flight to the HST (9/11/08 is the current target planning date) was public outrage that NASA would let such a vital resource die before it had to be abandoned.

Re:terrorists??!? (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578690)

Well it is big news to business, I am guessing that the company that built it and the company that insured it are a little upset right now.

Re:terrorists??!? (1)

Buran (150348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578798)

Sure. But both know that there is a lot of risk involved. But it's not unusual, as this article seems to try to hint.

It's like expecting a paper to run an article every time somebody talking on a cell phone rear-ends another driver.

I'm sure they'll survive. (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578956)

Well it is big news to business, I am guessing that the company that built it and the company that insured it are a little upset right now.

Why do you think that? They've all been paid; it's the government's (read: your tax dollars) loss, not the manufacturers. The government doesn't generally go to outside insurers for this sort of thing; when an expensive piece of equipment goes on the fritz, they -- by which I mean us -- pretty much just have to eat the cost.

If anything, the contractor is probably deciding on when it would be polite to just drop into conversation that yes, they still have all the plans for the satellite sitting around somewhere, and no, they're certainly not too busy to crank out another one, for an appropriate price.

I'm sure some of the engineers and designers that worked on the bird are probably disappointed that it'll never get to perform its function, whatever that was, but when you build spacecraft of any type for a living, you learn to deal with disappointment. It's one of the few things left in this world that still has some real risk to it. You can easily spend 3-5 years (or more) of your life building a satellite, only to have the launch vehicle go off-course during launch, and have the RSO blow all your hard work to smithereens. It comes with the territory.

Plus, it's not like the people that built it were ever going to know anything about it, if it did work. It would have just disappeared into the very black world of the NRO; I doubt they had much in the way of emotional attachment to it.

Bugger (1)

thelonestranger (915343) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578116)

Looks like they'll have to send someone up to press Ctrl-Alt-Del.

Re:Bugger (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578568)

Nah someone accidentally did 'ifconfig eth0 down' when reconfiguring it. Now they're stuffed unless someone has a serial cable that's a few hundred miles long...

Can't be a terrorist attack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578132)

> There was no suggestion by either of the sources that the satellite had been purposely damaged as part of a terrorist attack.

It is not a terrorist attack for an enemy of the U.S. to disable or destroy a spy satellite, even if the enemy that did may conduct terrorist attacks.

Space Shuttle, CEV, and Failed Sats (3, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578150)

Anyone remember the pioneering days when real men (and women) weren't afraid to light a giant roman candle [wikipedia.org] under their posteriors? Back in those days, we would have retasked a spaceflight, go and check the sat out, and get it running again. What I woudln't give for that space capability [wikipedia.org] again. ;)

Re:Space Shuttle, CEV, and Failed Sats (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578528)

While as much as I admire the sentiment, it it almost certainly cheaper to build and launch a new satelite then it is to send someone up to fix this one. The only important issue is that the diagnostic software may not have told us enough about what went wrong in the first place.

Re:Space Shuttle, CEV, and Failed Sats (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578816)

it almost certainly cheaper to build and launch a new satelite

Ice Station Zebra.

KFG

Re:Space Shuttle, CEV, and Failed Sats (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578842)

it it almost certainly cheaper to build and launch a new satelite then it is to send someone up to fix this one.

At "hundreds of millions of dollars", I'd say it's a toss-up given the Shuttle's current launch cost of $450 million [nasa.gov] . If the additional stop to check on the sat doesn't detract significantly from the original mission, then it might even be cost effective. In the Space Shuttle's more nominal cost per launch days, it would have been much cheaper to go have a looksee. (Like was done with the Hubble.) There's also the consideration of whether the expense to get the existing sat up and running NOW is worth the cost over waiting five years for a replacement to be launched.

The CEV's simpler design will almost certainly be cheaper than launching new spy sats.

Re:Space Shuttle, CEV, and Failed Sats (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578890)

The Next shuttle launch should include a flight plan that after working on ISS to go get the satellites and return it to earth. That is what the shuttle is supposed to be for, and wouldn't cost a whole lot more since the shuttle is in orbit anyways.

But knowing NASA the shuttle won't have enough maneuvering fuel to complete the task.

The Shuttle was designed to retrieve satellites, and conduct space based repairs. It's why the Shuttle is being used to build ISS and not progress style capsules. Russia can't do things like retrieve the hubble so it could be put on display on the Smithsonian. The Shuttle could, but never will.

Re:Space Shuttle, CEV, and Failed Sats (2, Insightful)

BillX (307153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579322)

On the other hand, these *real* men and women had lofty goals of exploring strange new worlds and furthering the human base of scientific knowledge. They might be less than receptive to the idea of risking their asses to run up and hit the reset switch on a bricked piece of spy equipment. :-)

Good timing (0, Flamebait)

otacon (445694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578216)

I wonder if the US will try to pin it on India since they just started going into space, either that or some Russians threw some Rubels at it. I'm sure they come up with something riduclous regardless.

Nah, it just got stuck (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578222)

Some spooks were using the bird to zoom into those nude beaches and the camera got stuck, (or that is what they are telling their bosses) and so they pretend there is a communication problem.

Space Cowboys (1)

Non-CleverNickName (1027234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578242)

Well, now is the time to send up some more Space Cowboys [imdb.com] to repair it. Clint Eastwood shouldn't be to busy right now...

NMCI (3, Funny)

Chayak (925733) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578330)

This is what happens when you outsource your communications to EDS and NMCI "What do you mean by 'I forgot to turn it on...'!?!"

The terror! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578338)

Maybe I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that terrorism was, by nature, designed to instill fear in the general population (that's kinda why they call it terrorism). Messing with a spy satellite strikes me as a difficult and complicated endeavor that fails to inspire any terror in anyone not actively employed by an intelligence agency. So, kudos to the reporters for pointing out the very, very obvious. Is there also no evidence that the satellite is actually orbiting Jupiter?

Popcorn from above (1)

blurker (1007141) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578340)

Maybe someone should check Professor Hathaway's house. Those crazy college kids might have swapped a chip again... "...everybody wants to rule the world..."

Your Tax Dollars at Work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578362)

Yessiree, cost plus system of defense contracting is the way to do business!

phew (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578476)

a good thing it's not supposed to gather any usefull data.

While we're at it... (1)

derubergeek (594673) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578516)

"There was no suggestion that the system had been infected by the GOOD TIMES virus, which is known to cause computers to get caught in an Nth complexity, infinite loop and overheat. Independent sources were also unable to verify whether the GOOD TIMES virus was involved."

Space junk or meteorite? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578548)

There are plenty of objects in Earth orbit that are able to damage a satellite. The cause doesn't have to be sabotage or human error. Shit Sometimes Happens...

-b.

fago8Z (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578570)

It's best to 7ry [goat.cx]

It's a spy satellite (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578610)

Shouldn't it be disavowed like any self-respectable spy? If you lose James Bond, he never existed, right?

The greatest trick (1)

MyOtherUIDis3digits (926429) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578634)

I read once that the greatest trick the devil ever performed was convincing people he didn't exist. Then I guess the greatest trick the US government ever performed was convincing people they are inept. I can (and do) use many derogative terms to describe the government, but inept certainly isn't one of them.

Is it really broken? (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578648)

Or is it just a ploy to get people to not worry about it, thereby making the NRO's job easier by hiding it in plain sight.

Michael Brown Again? (2, Funny)

ortcutt (711694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578680)

They should have known it was a bad idea to appoint the President of the Arabian Horse Association to be the head of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Pwned by "shadow government" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578688)

I must post this anonymously because my superior officers don't want anyone to know that it's functioning 100% as designed, and is in control by the shadow government under GWB's secret executive orders. The design called for a "malfunction" to make it look like it was lost, but really function correctly under command of a hyper-secret base station in Dick Cheney's basement bunker/ops center.

The primary purpose of this bird is domestic surveillance, as if you didn't already know. GW's biggest enemy is currently those within who would take away the powers he deems necessary to protect us from the evils we cannot fathom.

I will follow up with a post attached soon to the upcoming post about the constitutional amendment to remove the requirement of being a US-born citizen to run for president, which will allow the governator to become the next president.

Broken, you say? (1)

red_flea (589243) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578720)

Doesn't this seem kind of convenient, given the purpose?

Terrorist A: What's that spy-satellite looking thing up there that appears to be looking right at us?
Terrorist B: It actually is a spy satellite, but it's broken. We know because they said so. Continue terrorizing with impunity, my friend.

Nothing special here. (1, Interesting)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578724)

This is business as usual at the NRO. The NRO is the most pathetic of the US intelligence agencies, and is known for failing more often than not in just about all endeavors. For the NRO, a satellite making it into space at all is a big deal, because NRO projects have a history of dying in the design stage, and there have been other big failures such as a specialized launch vehicle blowing up on the launch pad, taking satellites with it.

If you're wondering why you've never heard of the NRO before, it's because the government does everything it can to keep the agency under wraps, mostly because it doesn't want the taxpayers to realize how many billions of dollars are flushed down this worthless toilet of a spy agency yearly.

Complex Missions Cost Money - Period (5, Insightful)

starfire-1 (159960) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578758)

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Building, launching and fly a spacecraft is complex and difficult. But ever since the mid 1990's the industry thinks that cutting costs (which inevitably means cutting late life cycle costs such as operations) can be overcome with automation and hand-waving. The launch vehicle gets the spacecraft off the ground, but then some silly operations error or engineering flaw not uncovered by operations results in a catastrophic failure (e.g. JPL/Mars English vs. Metric debacle). Back in the day - agencies fully funded operations personnel that shook out both procedural and engineering defects ahead of time. Just because an agency doesn't/can't pay for the same level of effort in today's fiscal environment does not mean that these types of defects magically disappear.

It used to be said that of "Better, faster, cheaper," you could only have two out of three. As time goes on, I wonder if these expectations are too high.

Space missions have cost overruns for sure, but in my experience those overruns come from unrealistically low bids from major vendors and the fact that these dinosaur companies build spacecraft in pretty much the same way as they always have. They used to run of of money about a year before launch and they still run out of money a year before launch. IMHO, the only way to reduce the frequency of catatrophic failure is for early life cycle vendors to becore more efficient so there are funds for operations to shake out the bugs before it gets up on orbit.

Hmm so ... (1)

Ssbe (614884) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578766)

Our embassies aren't just a front/home base for covert CIA operations.
The missile defense system doesn't really work.
The war in Iraq isn't about Oil.
The government doesn't read your e-mail.
We do have spy satellites but they don't work.
Sure! Gotcha!
Move along nothing to see here.

this FP forg ]GNAA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17578776)

Say what? (4, Insightful)

nsayer (86181) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578834)

There was no suggestion by either of the sources that the satellite had been purposely damaged as part of a terrorist attack.

What kind of bullshit fear-mongering is this? There was no suggestion that it was caused by Martian attack or canabalism in the British Navy either. Why not mention that?

Now what did I do.... (1)

KS1178 (562488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17578912)

with that encryption key?

Error (3, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579000)

Keyboard not detected. Press RETURN to continue...

Re:Error (1)

Shadyman (939863) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579162)

Almost, but not quite! "Keyboard not detected. Press F1 to continue."

Weapons and spy contracts can be mostly secret. (3, Interesting)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579028)

Reading the comments posted above is chilling. Generally, people don't even begin to understand the issues.

Weapons and spy contracts can be mostly secret. In practice, that means there will be less supervision and much more opportunity to make and sell junk at very high profit. It is very common that an entire project is so poorly designed that it is useless; however, the politics is such that the failures are kept secret. The U.S. government has been corrupted by secrecy and dishonesty.

Here is my summary of U.S. government corruption: George W. Bush comedy and tragedy [futurepower.org] . I hope you will write your own summary and send it to friends and government leaders.

OB (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579056)

"American technology, Russion technology -- it's all made in Taiwan anyway."

Son and mom (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579102)

Mom: That "jam" thing of yours on the roof is making an awful noise. You take it down, you hear me? You can play with it just as well when it's turned off and inside.
Tinkering son on the roof, growing up to become your average mad scientist: Mom, it's jamming, not "jam", and it's cool. I think it's actually working. Don't worry, I won't hurt myself on it. *Hehe, I can't wait until I can read about this in the papers. They might think a nuclear war is coming... I hope they start one! Muahaha!*

Usually works (2, Funny)

The Dobber (576407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579244)

A good slap on the side of the cabinet.

  .

I know.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17579276)

It was shot down with one of those .50 Cal guns the Brady Bunch is always yapping about.

Perhaps they'll blame it on Iran... (0, Troll)

duplo1 (719988) | more than 7 years ago | (#17579340)

Given the extent which the US is attempting to provoke Iran into war (including Bush's recent address), would anybody be surprised if this was publically blamed on Iran? With the latest build-up of forces in the Gulf, the raid on a consular office in Iraq, all they need now is a reason (other than WMD crap we've all heard before) to convince the US public. Perhaps this is the beginning.

Don't be fooled by the 20k troop "surge" that probably won't accomplish much. The real action to come could very well be be on the eastern shores of the Gulf.
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