[Cerowrt-devel] spacebee

Ray Ramadorai ray at ramadorai.net
Thu Mar 15 16:22:03 EDT 2018

I'll throw in my 2cents on a couple of these items.  

With respect to launch costs.  If you are not picky about your orbit you can get a 3U cubesat into orbit for low 6 figures, this is especially true if you have something ready to launch and don't mind waiting for a slot to open up and can move quickly.  

I don't buy the idea that SpaceBEE 1,2,3,4 can't be seen by radar.  NORAD and others track objects smaller than that and regularly assign COSPAR id's to them.  This seems like a bureaucratic not a technical problem.  That having been said, getting FCC approval for spectrum for spacecraft is very much about talking to the right folks and following the rules.  At Planetary Resources we were able to get a license for a spread spectrum radio approved though it did require some back and forth with the FCC.  

It's true that most cubesats don't have prop and all are required to provide a de-orbit analysis as part of their FCC app.  That having been said almost any collision at orbital velocities is going to be destructive to both parties regardless of the presences of prop/batteries.  

One thought I have seen floating around out there is that, optical/laser comm, by its nature is not currently regulated by the FCC and as such it is *possible* to build a stabilized platform that has no RF capability and as such would not need an FCC license for launch.  To  date I don't think anyone has exercised that loophole but it is early in 2018...  


-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Taht [mailto:dave.taht at gmail.com] 
Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 9:53 AM
To: Jim Gettys
Cc: Christopher Robin; cerowrt-devel at lists.bufferbloat.net
Subject: Re: [Cerowrt-devel] spacebee

A couple things on the spacebee.

0) I LOVE the concept. Of late (due to my boat) I'd been digging into the evolution of AIS repeaters, and that insanely primitive protocol, and the hacks to make that scale over two channels of VHF up into orbit.

1) The costs of launching cubesats has dropped dramatically. I believe this particular launch cost about $.5m per 1u device. (I was paying attention due to my interest in Planetary Resources' work. Their 6u
arkyd-3 spacecraft was in this payload and is functioning nominally.)

Spacebee - Having a payload 1/4th the size of a cubesat *work* and be useable! is a major advance. And is 1/4th the space junk. Worrying about something smaller than baseball hitting anything strikes me as control freakery at the FCC.

2) Although the FCC denied the application based on having inadaquate radar reflectivity, according to their standards, the article states:

"Websites dedicated to tracking operational satellites show the SpaceBees in orbits virtually identical to those specified in Swarm’s application." Ground stations can only get better.

3) most (all?) 1u spacecraft have no maneuvering capability and half of cubesats tend to fail quickly, so there will be an increasing amount of space junk in low orbits regardless. But there's nothing to explode on board ('cept maybe a battery?), and probably the biggest source of space junk has been explosions. Yes, there have been collisions, but the smaller the device, the smaller the chance of collision.

4) Flat out bypassing a staid and boring agency, getting the thing launched, and proving the concept is just so american! but unless the regulations are reformed I could certainly see more and more sats created outside the USA. ITAR is a real PITA, and now testing, development, and regulation now dominate over launch costs.

5) I'd misread the article, and interpreted part of the denial based on some longstanding issues they've had with not allowing spread spectrum radio in orbit.

I'd love to see an independent, fast-moving, external and international group just start ignoring the FCC on certain matters, or acting in concert to help push small sats forward, faster.

On Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 9:12 AM, Jim Gettys <jg at freedesktop.org> wrote:
> The issue is that they can't track satellites that small using current 
> radar technology.  They literally move satellites out of the way if 
> there is some possibility of collision.  If there is a collision, then 
> you get lots of debris, that just makes the debris problem worse.
> See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_satellite_collision
> Certain orbits are much more of an issue than others; for example, low 
> earth orbits decay quickly enough that there is little issue, as the 
> satellites will reenter quickly enough that there is unlikely to be a 
> problem.  Other orbits are seldom used, so there isn't much to run 
> into.
> The satellite's vendor proposed using on-board GPS to send its location.
> The problem is that if the satellite fails, they would get no information.
> The FCC was unhappy with that.  Launching without solving that 
> objection is a real "no-no".a
> Jim
> On Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 4:29 PM, Christopher Robin <pheoni at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Now I'm not defending the FCC thinking it has global launch control, 
>> but I've actually done some academic reading on space debris and usable orbits.
>> The experts in the field have shown concern for how to handle the 
>> growth of space traffic for decades, and not just in GEO space. Someone "going rogue"
>> could have large scale impacts. This is different than flying planes 
>> or setting up a new radio tower without following the "rules of the road".
>> Space also has the additional factors that:
>> 1) there is currently no way (realistic) to clean up after an event 
>> in space
>> 2) any collision events in space tend to cascade into a much larger 
>> problem
>> There are some awesome technologies on the horizon, and I want to see 
>> them come about. But unlike terrestrial radio, fixing a mistake isn't 
>> currently feasible for small scale companies. Until that changes, we 
>> really need an independent, international organization that will 
>> verify that these small startups didn't miss something in their 
>> planning. Personally I'd rather be stuck with sub-par terrestrial 
>> signals than increasing risk to GPS & weather imaging.
>> On Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 3:10 PM, dpreed at deepplum.com 
>> <dpreed at deepplum.com>
>> wrote:
>>> To me that is analogous to the idea that since ancient TV sets would 
>>> show weird ghosts when various kinds of radio transmitters were 
>>> placed nearby (or even be disturbed by power-line noise) that the 
>>> entire effort and rulemaking of the FCC should be forever aimed at 
>>> protecting those TV sets, because someone's grandmother somewhere might still own one.
>>> It's a technologically backwards idea. It's the kind of idea that 
>>> made it next to impossible to legalize WiFi [I know, I was there]. 
>>> Only a very key person (named M. Marcus, now retired from FCC OET, 
>>> and a friend) was able to enable the use of WiFi technologies in the 
>>> ISM bands. Otherwise, the idea that all current poorly scalable 
>>> systems ought to be allowed to "block" new technologies takes over.
>>> All I can say is that if you really think about sharing orbital 
>>> space in a scalable way, there is a lot more "space" available. 
>>> Which is why I suggested "rules of the road" that operate in 
>>> everyone's interest and privilege no one use over another are almost 
>>> certainly feasible. As satellites get more capable (smaller, 
>>> lighter, more maneuverable, as they follow the equivalent of Moore's 
>>> Law for space) avoidance becomes feasible, *especially if all 
>>> satellites can coordinate via low energy networking protocols*.
>>> I know all the scare stories. Planes will fall out of the sky if 
>>> someone accidentally uses a WiFi device or cellphone on airplanes. 
>>> The Internet will be inhabited only by criminals. Encryption is 
>>> something no one with "nothing to hide" needs to use.
>>> Please. Think harder. Become an expert on space technology, etc. Not 
>>> just someone who "knowledgably repeats lines from news media 
>>> articles" as so many do.
>>> My point is that while it may be that *geosynchronous equatorial 
>>> orbit* is very tightly occupied, most MEO and LEO space is not 
>>> densely occupied at all.
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: "Christopher Robin" <pheoni at gmail.com>
>>> Sent: Monday, March 12, 2018 1:34pm
>>> To: "dpreed at deepplum.com" <dpreed at deepplum.com>
>>> Cc: cerowrt-devel at lists.bufferbloat.net
>>> Subject: Re: [Cerowrt-devel] spacebee
>>> The portion of space with usable orbital paths is much, much 
>>> smaller. One rogue rocket with a poor/flawed understanding of that 
>>> could endanger several other satellites. Many systems already in 
>>> orbit lack the redundancy to handle a major collision. And any 
>>> collision in orbit could ruin the usability of a much larger section of space.
>>> On Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 1:18 PM, dpreed at deepplum.com 
>>> <dpreed at deepplum.com> wrote:
>>>> Well, that may be the case, but it's a non-scalable and highly 
>>>> corruptible system. IMO it's probably unnecesary, too. Space is 
>>>> actually quite big.
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: "Jim Gettys" <jg at freedesktop.org>
>>>> Sent: Monday, March 12, 2018 12:26pm
>>>> To: "Dave Taht" <dave.taht at gmail.com>
>>>> Cc: cerowrt-devel at lists.bufferbloat.net
>>>> Subject: Re: [Cerowrt-devel] spacebee
>>>> I do believe that the international space treaties require our 
>>>> government to control all launches.
>>>> Launching satellites without permission is a big no-no.
>>>> Note that according to the article, it is collision risk, rather 
>>>> than radio radiation, that is the issue here.
>>>> Jim
>>>> On Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 12:13 AM, Dave Taht <dave.taht at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> This is awesome. The FCC (whic still doesn't "get" spread spectrum
>>>>> radio) just discovered it doesn't have authority over the airwaves 
>>>>> of the whole planet.
>>>>> https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/aerospace/satellites/fcc-accus
>>>>> es-stealthy-startup-of-launching-rogue-satellites
>>>>> --
>>>>> Dave Täht
>>>>> CEO, TekLibre, LLC
>>>>> http://www.teklibre.com
>>>>> Tel: 1-669-226-2619
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> Cerowrt-devel mailing list
>>>>> Cerowrt-devel at lists.bufferbloat.net
>>>>> https://lists.bufferbloat.net/listinfo/cerowrt-devel
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Dave Täht
CEO, TekLibre, LLC
Tel: 1-669-226-2619

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