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Orbital Express Launches Tonight

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the packed-its-bags-last-night dept.

Space 137

airshowfan writes "When a geosynchronous satellite is launched into space, no human ever gets to touch it again. This means that, other than for minor software issues, there is no way to fix it if it breaks, so it has to work perfectly, almost autonomously, for 20 years non-stop. There is also no way to refuel it once it's out of thruster fuel, the reason why it can't last more than 20 years even if it gets to that mark working very well, with batteries and solar cells still going, which is often the case. If only there were a robotic spacecraft in geostationary orbit that could change broken satellite components and refuel those older satellites, then satellites would be a lot less risky and would last a lot longer. Does this robotic spacecraft mechanic sound like science fiction? It launches tonight."

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Woot (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283658)

Good ol' 45th Space Wing...

Re:Woot (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18285208)

"There is also no way to refuel it once it's out of thruster fuel, the reason why it can't last more than 20 years even if it gets to that mark working very well, with batteries and solar cells still going, which is often the case."

Thanks slashdot, for one of the most grotesque and ambiguous run-on sentences I have seen in a damn long time.

PS 3 anonymous.

Re:Woot (5, Funny)

porl (932021) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285314)

Sometimes run-on sentences are not as bad as some people think, although there are definitely times when they would be correct in saying that run-on sentences are 'grotesque' or 'ambiguous' (these are, of course, both subjective terms, and should be treated as such), but these thoughts are not the only thoughts that can be had of run-on sentences, and you should not assume that everyone else believes that run-on sentences are grotesque and ambiguous, because other people have feelings too and you shouldn't assume that your opinion is more important than theirs, because they might think otherwise, and that is how arguments start.

Re:Woot (5, Interesting)

DoraLives (622001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285416)

Pretty shoot.

Watched it from the driveway of the house here in South Patrick Shores.

Clear as a bell, and the lox/kerosene flame of the first stage was a beautiful brilliant orange coming out of the engine, tapering away to a bluish tip. It arced into the cloudless sky and went right between the two endmost bowl stars of the little dipper as I watched through binoculars. Not much rumble. Along toward the end of the first stage burn, it started emitting these pale streamers of exhaust that flared out far away from the bright light of the engine. Very beautiful. And then at MECO, a rapidly widening black circle seemed to emanate from where the doused flame was a split second before, and then grew and expanded till it gobbled up the last little bit of the streamers. Weird effect. Never seen one do anything quite like that before. After a short pause, another puff of gas, and then the RL-10 kicked into gear as a star-like pinpoint of white light. With the northern launch azimuth, the apparent motion across the sky slowed down to a crawl as the slowly fading pinpoint seemed to drift horizonward in ever-increasingly slow motion. Finally lost it visually somewhere around T-plus nine or ten minutes, just over the roof of the house. By then it was getting out there, more or less a thousand miles away from where I leaned against my car in the driveway to help steady the binocs.

Like I said earlier, "Pretty shoot."

Re:Woot (1)

Coz (178857) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285502)

I watched the webcast. Never saw an Atlas V before - impressive. They kicked over to a "visualization" derived from the live telemetry after first-stage MECO - a good use of computing cycles.

Re:Woot (1)

livewire98801 (916940) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285528)

Wonder if it would be possible to use this kind of 'droid to knock sattelites out of orbit with an extra bit of thrust when they're beyond repair. I don't know the logistics, but it seems to be a way to combat the volume of junk that's building up in orbit. . .

Orbital Express Launches Tonight (5, Funny)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283674)

where did they find the hot cyclops to pilot it?

Did I ever tell you how I used to own that ship? (1)

ArsSineArtificio (150115) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285144)

where did they find the hot cyclops to pilot it?

You're thinking of Awesome Express.

pun intended. (1, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283676)

Does this robotic spacecraft mechanic sound like science fiction?

From science fiction? I suppose I say if they are not, someone will say they Are Too.

Re:pun intended. (3, Funny)

@madeus (24818) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284054)

See, three posts in and already people are making with the Star Wars jokes.

Re:pun intended. (3, Funny)

LordEd (840443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284792)

Maybe if the moderators stopped rewarding posters for old, weathered jokes, others would be forced to try new jokes. It is because of this type of lame humor that we go without seeing something truly original.

You have been warned.

Re:pun intended. (1)

Anomolous Cowturd (190524) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284858)

I get mod points far too often... it's annoying... but I only mod up stuff that makes me grin or produce audible laughter. Doesn't happen often. No points for witless humour.

There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (0)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283688)

Someone must have missed all those Hubble missions.

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (5, Funny)

fruity_pebbles (568822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283704)

Someone must have missed all those Hubble missions.

Someone must have missed that Hubble is not in geosynchronous orbit.

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (3, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283810)

A mere technicality.

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (4, Funny)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283986)

Roughly a 22,000 mile technicality.

rj

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284342)

Roughly a 22,000 mile technicality.

Technically distance is just a technicality. For the real differences, let's talk Delta V.

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284538)

Quite so, but you have to start somewhere...;-)

rj

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284968)

Quite so, but you have to start somewhere...;-)

It's all relative.

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285048)

Indeed. :-)

I caught that flight once.... (2, Funny)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285084)

....that Delta V flight.....changing planes in Atlanta was a bitch, they kept changing gates faster and faster until I couldn't keep up!

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (1)

AlexanderDitto (972695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285374)

It seemed so much smaller in metric...

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18284594)

Alas, there is no mod category for "doesn't understand that it's a hell of a lot hard to achieve a stable geosynchronous orbit than it is to achieve a low earth orbit, and there's no way in hell that the Space Shuttle will ever make it to geosynchronous orbit" -1.

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285142)

I think that if they filled the cargo bay with some non-chemical thrusters it could, but most probably it would take a couple months to get there.

It would also be a quite remarkable achievement of engineering (building and powering it would not be trivial), stupidity (it's a shuttle, FFS), politics (for spending money on the shuttle) and pointlessness (it _is_ pointless to make a manned mission reach stationary orbit in months)

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (2, Informative)

Coz (178857) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285464)

Not to mention that in the months of traversing the Van Allen belts the astronauts, the shuttle avionics, and any thing else susceptible to radiation will get fried.

There's a darn good reason the Apollo missions blew through MEO quickly. The environment isn't very nice for humans between the lower Van Allen and GEO.

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (1)

monopole (44023) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284370)

The fun bit with the Hubble missions is that, if I remember correctly, they cost as much as launching 10 Hubble replacements.

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18283720)

Someone must have missed that they're talking about geosynchronous satellites in this article, which Hubble(although shiny) is not.

Re:There is no way to fix it if it breaks? (1)

zedturtle (987328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283722)

Dude, there's more than just a couple of miles between the Hubble's orbit and geostationary.

Breakdown (3, Funny)

ishamael69 (590041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283690)

But, what happens when the "robotic spacecraft mechanic" breaks down?

Re:Breakdown (3, Funny)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283744)

Duuh that's what Green Lantern rings are for.

Re:Breakdown (3, Funny)

eli pabst (948845) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284184)

Duh, that's what the robotic spacecraft mechanic mechanic is for. It launches next year.

Re:Breakdown (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285004)

After that it's just turtles all the way down.

Obsolesence (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284412)

Just like most of the computers ending up in landfills, many/most satellites go obsolete before they break. Will the robo-mechanic dude do upgrades too? Perhaps he'll scavenge from one satellite to fix others.

Re:Breakdown (1)

Toba82 (871257) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284716)

Simple solution: launch two of them, so they can repair each other if they die. Think RAID with a hot spare for satellites.

Re:Breakdown (1)

Darlantan (130471) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284838)

Hot spare?

So you're saying one of the repairbots will be a fembot? Sweet...until they hook up and spawn a lot of minibots and take over the world...FROM SPACE!

who supplies parts to it? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283714)

and where does it get it's spares from when they run out - or it needs fixing?

Re:who supplies parts to it? (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284096)

where does it get it's spares from when they run out

Satellites from competing companies?

Re:who supplies parts to it? (2, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285382)

The lowest bidder.

duh.

Who will refuel it? (1, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283734)

The fuel has to come from somewhere. Repairing satellites is one thing. Refueling them is something else entirely.

Re:Who will refuel it? (5, Funny)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283800)

Oh man, they must have totally forgotten about that! Good thing you caught it in time, there's still a chance to stop the launch!

Re:Who will refuel it? (2, Informative)

zaydana (729943) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283878)

I'm guessing one of the satellites has a tank containing excess fuel on board, just like a tanker truck will have a fuel tank and the big tank on the back.

Refueling in space isn't really that hard unless you are using cryogenic propellants. And in this case, the satellites use hydrazine, so its all good. I can't wait till somebody gets cryogenic propellant transfer working, because that will have so many more uses than what you can do with hydrazine.

Re:Who will refuel it? (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284418)

Refueling in space isn't really that hard unless you are using cryogenic propellants. And in this case, the satellites use hydrazine, so its all good. I can't wait till somebody gets cryogenic propellant transfer working, because that will have so many more uses than what you can do with hydrazine.
Do they even use cryogenic fuel on non-short term sats? I'd assume that they wouldn't hold out very well when talking about years of sitting in a tank.

Re:Who will refuel it? (1)

zaydana (729943) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284688)

IANARS (I am not a rocket scientist), but I doubt they'd really use cryogenic fuel at all on most sats. Its way too complex. The uses I was referring to are more in the human spaceflight area, or where you need a higher ISP, or where you need to please the greenies (its going to happen one day). The type of stuff that we can't really do today that due to the weight of fuel at launch, which would be made way cheaper once you can launch propellant on a separate rocket.

Re:Who will refuel it? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18284068)

The short-term answer goes something like this: The payload on this launch is around 3500 lb of which maybe 500 lb is propellant. If this works the next load might be 500lb of parts (mostly batteries), and 3000lb of fuel. I reckon that is enough to refurbish about 21,000 lb of equipment or 5 launches worth. So the whole mess pays for itself after almost immediately. In the medium term you could do fancier things like field upgrades and stripping obsolete or dead equipment for parts and supplies.

Re:Who will refuel it? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284490)

The fuel has to come from somewhere. Repairing satellites is one thing. Refueling them is something else entirely.

Huh? If anything, refueling is easier than repairing. Refueling is a process which can be potentially automated and can be standardized. Repairing almost certainly requires human intervention, and every repair problem has a different solution.

Re:Who will refuel it? (1)

Talchas (954795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284950)

But repairs may not need any items from earth (we can hope) - just moving parts around + stuff. The fuel has to get up there, whether its inside the normal satellite or the repair satellite, and the energy cost is the same either way. It still could help, as if you launch one with fuel for many sats, it could extend their lifetimes a lot, but unlike with repairing it won't save as much fuel.

Re:Who will refuel it? (1)

Coz (178857) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285494)

Remember, this is an EXPERIMENT. It's not designed to roam around in orbit forever, servicing whatever satellites it meets, that look nice, that have "compatible adapters"... Orbital Express is a mission with 2 satellites, designed to interoperate, and the target (NextSat) basically sits there stable while the active vehicle (ASTRO) does all the hard work. They're not kicking off a business of servicing satellites - they're proving it can be done, and how hard it will be.

The business case for on-orbit refuelling I leave to simple Google searches.

modular (2, Interesting)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283758)

Wouldnt all satellites need to be modular and use similar components that are compatible to take advantage of this?

Re:modular (2, Interesting)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283836)

Wouldnt all satellites need to be modular and use similar components that are compatible to take advantage of this?

Indeed. But there's no point in building modular satellites out of similar components until after you've mastered the relevant refeuling and reparing technologies. Test missions like this one help us to figure out which modules and which components work best for this sort of thing. This isn't about fixing or refueling existing satellites at all. It's about how our whole approach to satellite design, manufacture, and mission profile will change if we can make this system work.

Re:modular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18284006)

That initiative is already firmly underway at a number of AFRL sites

Thank you Dennis Wingo (2, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283760)

A visionary with a bit of get up and go. His book MOONRUSH is not only a great technical work where he outlines a theoretically sound argument for commercial exploitation of the Moon and how to do it, but is also a great visionary and inspirational work. Hopefully Orbital Express will prove that he's capable of following through.

I can't believe this guy (5, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283782)

"I think it' extremely valuable for the entire space arena," [USAF Lt. Col. Fred Kennedy, project manager for Orbital Express] said of Orbital Express' goal, adding that the mission could help ease the stringent requirements of long-life satellites. "Maybe you can accept a level of imperfection that will allow you to go up later and perform upgrades and perform repairs, and put more propellant onboard to get the job done. That will be a sea change in the way we do business."
Dude, wtf?
This is rocket science, not something you'd patch with Windows Update.

Which is more expensive:
A) Build the satellite correctly the first time around
B) Build the satellite cheaply & then pay to get it fixed in orbit

I know which is better for Lt. Col. Fred Kennedy's bottom line.

Re:I can't believe this guy (2, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283860)

"The perfect is the enemy of the good."

A good geostationary satellite and a good refuel/repair satbot may be cheaper than a near-perfect satellite and no repairbot.

Re:I can't believe this guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18283894)

Actually, option B could be MUCH cheaper. Currently, when you develop a satellite and place it in orbit, you run the risk of one small bug turning it into a billion dollar rock. If you had a repair droid, you could actually recover from small, but critical errors.

Re:I can't believe this guy (2, Insightful)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283996)

"I think it' extremely valuable for the entire space arena," [USAF Lt. Col. Fred Kennedy, project manager for Orbital Express] said of Orbital Express' goal, adding that the mission could help ease the stringent requirements of long-life satellites. "Maybe you can accept a level of imperfection that will allow you to go up later and perform upgrades and perform repairs, and put more propellant onboard to get the job done. That will be a sea change in the way we do business."
Dude, wtf?
This is rocket science, not something you'd patch with Windows Update.

Which is more expensive:
A) Build the satellite correctly the first time around
B) Build the satellite cheaply and QUICKLY ; then pay to get it fixed in orbit

I know which is better for Lt. Col. Fred Kennedy's bottom line.
there i fixed it for you

Re:I can't believe this guy (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284002)

Yeah, cause it's not like it is expensive to build something "correctly the first time".. sheesh.

Re:I can't believe this guy (1)

Watson Ladd (955755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284452)

The dominant cost in launching is fuel. If you make two trips you end up paying a lot more than any potential design savings.

Re:I can't believe this guy (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284732)

The dominate cost of satellite manufacture is design. Period. Launch costs don't even come close.

Not to mention the fact that fixing many failures in satellites wont even require a second launch.. the repair satellite sits in orbit until it is needed. Sure, refueling the repair satellite requires a launch, but not the same rated launch as a satellite.. you just need a dumb unreliable, but economical booster to lob up fuel and, maybe, spare parts. And, even then, the repair satellite uses ion engines to get around, so it doesn't need a whole lot of "fuel" as it gets most the energy for its propulsion from the sun.

A repair satellite is an excellent stepping stone to doing actual industry in space. The fact that it still costs more to send a person up to do maintenance than it does to spend years on the ground working on "perfect" systems that are unrepairable for 20 years is just insane and testimony to how little NASA's manned space program has progressed in 40 years.

Re:I can't believe this guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18284036)

b, you could also use to add upgraded equipment like cammeras and stuff, or expanded experiment projects, pluss no mater what launch vehicel you use you always have whieght limits, and sometimes the cool stuff you whant to do just wieghs to much.

Re:I can't believe this guy (5, Interesting)

Sean Riordan (611520) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284076)

All of the 'long life' birds take a dozen or more years and ludicrous amounts of money to build. They are basically archaic tech before they leave the integration highbay, much less the launch pad.

The small, relatively inexpensive short lifespan spacecraft are fairly current as far as technology goes and still very viable. Being able to perform minor repairs on orbit extends that capability a good bit. The more important factor is the prerequisite of standard parts and a small number of standard and modular buses which will cut the development time way down and drop costs. Since the first Plug'n'Play type satellite is already in development, we should start seeing this as a viable option in a few years.

Re:I can't believe this guy (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284126)

This is rocket science, not something you'd patch with Windows Update.

I don't know about comsats, etc, but many space probes and rovers have had their software patched repeatedly to improve capabilities and work around hardware problems. The best example was Galileo, where the high gain antenna failed to deploy properly and new compression algorithms were uploaded to get the most out of the low gain antenna.

Re:I can't believe this guy (1)

Sean Riordan (611520) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284266)

It's probably safe to say most everything in orbit with the ability to upload software updates has had software updates. That is just how things go.

Re:I can't believe this guy (1)

MurphyZero (717692) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284546)

There's never a good reason to launch dead mass on a satellite. But the economics of repair in space are just not worth it, unless the repair (or refuel-don't count fuel mass,it's not wasted mass, if it can be done) satellite mass is a small fraction of the destination satellite.

Also, in most cases you are better off launching a next-gen satellite than trying to repair an older one. By next-gen, I don't necessarily mean bleeding edge, untested technology, I typically mean reliable technology made lighter and less power hungry, particularly if you can use 2 or 3 older units for the same mass and power as 1 new unit.

Several small sats or multiple redundancies on a large one can be so much more useful than one big one with no redundancies. Fact of life is that parts of spacecraft fail, SPOF kills...True for all except for very specific tasks. An imaging system that has to see further and/or clearer than previous ones fits that requirement. Still want the redundancy on as much as possible within reason (mass, power, size, etc.)

Re:I can't believe this guy (4, Interesting)

Iron Condor (964856) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284562)

The best example was Galileo, where the high gain antenna failed to deploy properly and new compression algorithms were uploaded to get the most out of the low gain antenna.

Actually the best example is probably Cassini, which was launched without any viable software in the orbiter at all. Because everybody knew there were going to be seven years of coasting time to Saturn and there was no point at all in spending a whole lot of effort on writing software before the launch. Software is something you can upload later.

Re:I can't believe this guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18284200)

I know which is better for Lt. Col. Fred Kennedy's bottom line.
Good thing you're so smart. It would be terrible to imagine what would happen if the guy who gets paid to do this were calling the shots instead of an obvious arm-chair genious such as yourself.

Re:I can't believe this guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18284494)

even an arm-chair general has a higher rank than a Lt. Col.

LoL WuT?

Re:I can't believe this guy (2, Informative)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284424)

Anyone who has actually worked with a satellite (and not just watching TV) and I've worked with a few (mostly leo) knows that satellite's have lots of bugs, some fail within the first few orbits because of charging defects. I've worked with satellites that have dead transponders (sometimes on more than one band), poor/wobbly orbits etc.

The thing that keeps a lot of these satellites operational though is they have extremely flexible software and hardware, and backup systems to help solve issues operators are having.

So I think your right - they will still have to build these to the same specs they are now, just now if you have a serious problem that jeopardizes the mission you maybe have a slight chance of fixing it.

Re:I can't believe this guy (2, Insightful)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284454)


Which is more expensive:
A) Build the satellite correctly the first time around
B) Build the satellite cheaply & then pay to get it fixed in orbit


I'm not so sure things are as clear as you're suggesting. Extreme redundancy and quality assurance costs a lot. I'm sure there are many circumstances where option B is cheaper.

Re:I can't believe this guy (2, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284568)

It's not a matter of being correct or incorrect, it's a matter of tolerances, precision, and risk management.

Any time you build a satellite, you're just hedging your bets. It could get blown up on launch (there's a finite chance of that, say ~5%, but thats just a guess, but i know its somewhere in that order of magnitude,) it could get hit by micrometeors, something could have gone wrong in manufacturing that got missed in inspection. Hell, if everything goes great then you have to shut it down arbitrarily at its predefined end of life, because you cant keep it on station.

Basically, what it comes down to is that any engineering requires assumptions and taking some risks. Most of the time you can assume that you'll have a chance to correct things, except of course in space-borne applications. But really my main point is that there is no perfectly engineered solution, but by requirement satellites are as close as you can get within budget. This technology simply allows you to do it for cheaper, because it means that failures can be more common because you have an option to fix it.

Re:I can't believe this guy (3, Funny)

roystgnr (4015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284574)

A) Build the satellite correctly the first time around

Good plan. If you just don't make any mistakes in the design or construction of every satellite you launch, you'll never have to fix any of them. Also, all the satellites should be manned by magic elves.

Re:I can't believe this guy (1)

heyyou_overhere (1070428) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285126)

You are attempting to fix a satellite. Cancel or Allow?

spacecraft fuel - comet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18283886)

Just tow a comet and use it for fuel.... Let Exxon/Mobile setup a filling station and supply all those birds and use the fuel for flights to the MOon and Mars. Use sunlight to crack the H2O in the comet.... Of course, the cost will be over $10/gallon ($4 for taxes, $5 profit).

Oh, this is sponsored by the good ole USAF. Could this be the start of the beserkers? Beserker serial 001 which can maintain but not yet reproduce (that will come with s/n 666, version 69, to be launched in a couple of years).

"#irc.trooltalk.com (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18283898)

a BSD box that is mired in an not going home to decline for working on various ple4se moderate shall we? OK!

Not entirely a success (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18283910)

3x overbudget and a year behind schedule. I hope it works.

What sounds more possible? (1)

Thaidog (235587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283914)

A.) A satellite that lasts a good 20 years after years of work and knowledge accumulated on how to make them last 20 years...


Or:


B.) A super complex robo-satellite that fixes *other* satellites and stays out of repair itself.


It's A if you ask me... for a good long time.

Orbital Express (1)

MrYotsuya (27522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283928)

Finally, Andrew Lloyd Webber's vision has come to fruition

Re:Orbital Express (1)

lexical (842527) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284004)

Finally, Andrew Lloyd Webber's vision has come to fruition
Swing and a miss. Nice try, and thanks for playing....

Re:Orbital Express (1)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284426)

As far as I'm aware the plan doesn't include building a railway, but it may include roller blades. I'll get back to you on that.

That doesn't sound like science fiction at all... (2, Funny)

physicsboy500 (645835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18283936)

..."R2, get out on the wing and fix that satellite"

*end sarcasm*

sensical and compelling summary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18283940)

Now, I may be exceptionally drunk, but I have to say - quite a nice summary (though maybe that is due to my expectations of slashdot summaries having sunk quite low). So congratulations or something ....

mo3 up (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18283974)

dying. All major Are attending a Truth, for aal Need to join the world's Gay Nigger fanatic known

classic... (1)

fattmatt (1042156) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284024)

"I think we're feeling pretty good about it," USAF Lt. Col. Fred Kennedy, project manager for Orbital Express, said in a telephone interview. "We're very confident that we're going to have a nice successful mission." a nice successful mission ... gggggggggreat!

Great Weapon (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18284040)

Imagine the military applications - you can send it out to do interesting things like attaching remote controlled explosive packages onto satellites. Then when war breaks out you can kill them in orbit.

You could attach thruster packages to geostationary satellites and boost them into completely different orbits.

You could just cut their solar panels off like pulling wings of flies.

Given the problems with remote refuelling satellites when they are all one-off devices, this gadget seems to be more of a weapon than a tool.

There has to be a Clancy novel in here somewhere

Re:Great Weapon (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284162)

There has to be a Clancy novel in here somewhere

Or a Crichton novel: self reproducing repair robots take over outer space, threatening to turn shuttle fleet into spare parts.

Re:Great Weapon (1)

dfsmith (960400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284172)

Or perhaps you contact Blofeld, set up a base in a Japanese volcano, and kidnap astronauts to take over the world! [imdb.com]

BTW, the article didn't mention geosynchronous orbits at all. Did I miss it?

Geosynchronous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18284322)

First sentence in the article summary on Slashdot. Good to see that you ignore the actual post and go straight to the source.

Don't worry if you missed it - I'm sure the article will be repeated in a couple of days ;-)

Re:Great Weapon (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284438)

More subtle things might be even more fun. Tapping, filtering, or modifying the data the satellite is passing on without the knowledge of the country that owns it would be a CIA dream come true.

Re:Great Weapon (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284552)

There has to be a Clancy novel in here somewhere

The one where the satellite designer that has never been to school works with the astronauts that have never been to school and the mission controllers that have never been to school but all are incredibly competant and take orders directly from a President that was never elected - and all of Congress and the Supreme Court are dead.

Re:Great Weapon (1)

misterhypno (978442) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285252)

Or simply put thrusters on the satellites you are supposedly repairing so you can drop them on whomever you'd like TO drop them on... and blame it on the owners for making shoddy products!

Mass drivers like that are very cheap and VERY effective.

500kg dropped from geostationary orbit has quite a bit of slam when it hits... Now do the math with a 5 TON package... or drop them in groups of ten or twenty... there's not enough Bactine to cover an ouchie THAT size on the whole planet.

'Nuff Said...!

Re:Great Weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18285466)

I wonder if it is equipped with the aimbot software package also, then it can play by itself up to 50,000 points to unlock the rest of the kits, while the operators save 400 hours of there own time.

Just wait... (2, Funny)

Bwana Geek (1033040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284144)

If they can fix orbiting satellites easily now, we're at most 5 years away from "Pimp my Geosynchronously Orbiting Ride."

Watch the launch live! (3, Informative)

celerityfm (181760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284214)

Re:Watch the launch live! (1)

3waygeek (58990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284336)

HDNet [hd.net] will offer HD coverage of the launch at 10 PM EST.

Re:Watch the launch live! (1)

celerityfm (181760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284488)

fyi the webcast hasn't started yet - the launch window extends from 9:37-11:42 p.m. EST. A live web cast of the launch will be available at this site. The web cast will begin approximately 20 minutes prior to the opening of the launch window.

How if Orbital Express itself breaks? (1)

w_lighter (995939) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284632)

Errr... i didnt read all the reply above mine but did any one think how if the Orbital Express itself breaks? Are they lunching just ONE Orbital Express or a PAIR? Coz according to the aritcle it looks like only one is lunch. And wut gurantees that it will have after spending 20 years up there and it itself is out of fuel and etc.... So i guess NASA like "hope" to lunch another before tht. Either tht or they just start shooting stuff of geosynchronous orbit one by one to make room.. haha

Re:How if Orbital Express itself breaks? (1)

donaldGuy (969269) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284822)

yea, seriously .. this very much a Quis custodiet ipsos custodes situation .. not only might the Orbital Express run out of fuel, it will probably do so fairly quickly if its zipping around fixing others. When it breaks down, will they abandon the project, make a new one, or make a smaller version to fix the first one.. this logically leads quickly to an "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" scenario where we have to keep sending robots to fix robots, and with all the fear of piling up space debris, this doesn't seem like a very complete solution

So this repair bot... (1)

Ibiwan (763664) | more than 7 years ago | (#18284730)

How long does it last in orbit on its own?

It launched! (1)

AdmiralLawman (1073516) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285196)

Yay!

Say what? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285378)

> Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations, the ASTRO

Hehe, their name, when you take the first letters, spells "Astro"! What are the odds of that?

OrbEx and Satellite Clarifications (1)

dswartz (749795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18285480)

The Orbital Express program consists of two satellites: ASTRO (servicer) and NextSat (servicee). The program will demonstrate the capability for ASTRO to service NextSat (e.g., doing a fuel transfer). If all goes well then there will be a follow on program. Orbital Express is not a GEO sat. The shuttle cannot service all GEO, MEO, and most LEO satellites. GEO satellites require constant maneuvering in order to maintain their orbits. Satellites do not last 20 years (but they do orbit for that period and longer). Congrats to all those who worked on the program, and good luck with the demonstration!
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