Sunday, 23 March 2014

We, Our & I

If you start a campaign for something and use the words we or our, without having had a vote or you make any claim to speak for any group of people, where that is a village, town, city or country and you haven't got the explicit support of a majority of them or won an election, then you are amongst the most vile of human beings, you are a liar and a thief.
You steal their voice and use it for your own cause, you show your moral cowardice in that you cannot stand up and "say this is my idea, this is my opinion, I take responsibility for it". You seek to intimidate others with supporters, you do not have and use the threat of ostracisation .
In the unlike event that you are right in the opinion you promulgate, you are weakning its position by your behaviour.
In short you are scum.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

MH370 and Space Hardware

When an aircraft like Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 goes missing all hopes are placed on finding the BlackBox data recorder in the hope of finding out what went wrong. In the earlier case of Air France Flight 447 some data had been transmitted by the onboard system via satellite and the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System. This is not the normal flight data, but specific information about faults, in the case of 447 it was far from conclusive and what happened was only discovered when the flight data recorder was recovered.
There are now calls to transmit data in real time. In the case of trans-oceanic flights
Original Satellite by Cliff
this would have to be via satellite and this would be very expensive and would likely require considerably more capacity than currently exists, the obvious way to solve this is to launch more satellites but that will not be cheap. The Iridium Next constellation of 72 satellites, to be launched from 2015, will cost $3billion to build and over $500million to launch. While this is expensive is is far less than the

US$6 billion from the original set of satellites, and is even better value when you consider that these new satellites will be more capable and offer higher data rate than the 1st generation.
Iridium in Antartica
The 1st generation was so expensive that the company that launched it went bust just after completing the system. The assets of the company were bought for $25 million and a successful service was built out of it. In no small part due to the US military's use of it through the world, in the wars since 2001. In part the failure was due to the need to complete the constellation before it would work properly and the relatively small user base to provide income.
That finance can be found to replace the system signifies that there is a big enough finance stream to fund the new equipment, however if the cost was the original 6 billion would it be affordable and that is not taking into account any inflation?
Fortunately the costs are not as high as they were in 1998 it cost $10,000 to launch a pound of cargo, for the latest generation it will be $1,864/lb, less than 1/5 of the cost, accounting for most of the decrease. In realty the Satellites offer better price performance because of the increased utility. Over the next 10-15 years, it is hoped to drop the price to more like $100 per pound. This will have some profound effects in the case of satellite comms and other use of space.
The hardware in space is beyond repair, at the moment, so it is designed with great care and the highest quality components are used and then only the most reliable and tested. In a discipline such as electronics the rate of progress is so rapid that this inevitably means that space hardware is 1 or more generation behind ground based electronics, but if the cost of launch goes down then it becomes practical to have a higher failure rate which will mean more modern and cheaper components, because the economics will allow more in orbit spares and cheaper replenishment.

So by 2025 it should be possible to launch a far more capable satellites and a greatly reduced costs. Plans are underway to develop systems for the servicing and refuelling spacecraft in flight so further extending the life of the hardware and further reducing costs.
The cost will have reduced to such an extent that there will undoubtedly be other, competing systems which will allow not only the real time logging of aircraft data but far far more. It will allow services to be provided that we can only hinted at by current systems. One of the other uses of long distance satellites comms is control of UAVs. In Afghanistan and elsewhere, the RAF's Reaper aircraft are controlled from Lincolnshire.
While people are aware of the GPS system, less are aware of the equally venerable  Russian GLONASS or the upcoming European system Galileo. Even fewer are aware of International Cospas-Sarsat Programme.
These systems will be great for tracking anything, whether it's for scientific purposes or commercial and also exchanging messages with an object on the Internet of things. This is a logistics manager's idea of heaven. It will enable logging of medical implants from anywhere and potential hacking of them.
The world of Satellites, UAVs and Stratolites is going to be an amazing place it is time to start trying to work out what to do on it now.
The Iridium satellites are in Polar orbit, the means they don't go around the equator, but from pole to pole, their orbits all converge at the poles, unusually giving these remote places the best coverage.