back to article Sneaky satellite launch raises risk of Gravity-style space collision

The space-disaster movie Gravity – where an escalating wave of space debris wipes out a space station and shuttle – now looks like a slightly more plausible scenario. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has pulled permission from Silicon Valley startup Swarm Technologies to launch four satellites into space after what …


        1. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: I recall an incident

          @rh587 au contraire - we found that gold a long time ago (well ok, not THAT long ago)...

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Interstellar of Twats

  2. cavac

    Guess who gets audited my every U.S. government agency this year...

  3. Joerg

    Like they would know about secret military satellites either...

    Like they would know about secret military satellites either... ... have they ever regulated those perhaps? Surely not.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Like they would know about secret military satellites either...

      But the agency that monitors for space objects can officially deny those.

      "Boss, I've detected something that doesn't officially exist"

      "Correct, that doesn't exist"

      "It doesn't exist?"

      "Correct, I'm glad you understand me. Carry on."

    2. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Like they would know about secret military satellites either...

      They work with the military and the FCC (or at least staff within the FCC with clearance) know where the mystery satellites are but not what they can do. The military when moving a satellite need to know that their stuff isn't going to be hit by a commercial satellite not because they care about the commercial satellites, they don't, but they do care about their own stuff and don't want to break it.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Like they would know about secret military satellites either...

        "or at least staff within the FCC with clearance"

        Indeed, back in the day, when I worked with a bunch of astronomers and satellite tecchies, I had trouble compiling a version of 'Satellite Toolkit' to install on our Solaris boxes,... it was the early days of the Internet, I put a shout out on a few forums, and I got contacted by a guy that wrote some of it, and he hadn't realised it had been declassified. He was ex-Marine Corps when he contributed. I downloaded my copy from NASA, and it seems at that point, there were two catalogues, one for general distribution, and one that contained everything.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The US won't let us play, India will. Where shall we move our corporate registration to? Ooh, that's a hard one!

  5. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    I'm not sure I understand the gripe

    The four comsat launched in this exercise are about the same size as a 1 unit cubesat (10cm cube) of which literally hundreds are on orbit. Per international agreement (United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) these either require deorbit thrusters or an orbital altitude low enough that drag will cause reentry at most 25years after their 3-4 year service life is up. Generally, small SATs below about 600km will decay in that timeframe.

    The problem with cubesat is that you hitch a ride and therefore do not necessarily know at design inception bahere you are going to be. A significant number have ended up in orbits with decay times over a century:

    So I wonder if the real issue is whether some damned fool put these in meo or geo, thereby burning a perfectly good orbital slot allocation.

    Note that the worst debris problems up there now are due to China scragging a weather sat testing an ASAT system and the Russian satellite bonking into an Iridium sat. Other than that mess most space debris is due to booster upper stages breaking apart, separation debris, etc

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      According to the linked article

      they're 0.25U. So four of them stacked together are the same size and shape as a cubesat. But if you happen to be looking at one side on it'll appear significantly smaller. Which is what matters.

      1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: According to the linked article

        Right; thanks for clearing that up. Wondering how tough it would be to make an inflatable corner reflector

  6. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Just get Hoover and Electrolux to build the mother of all vacuum cleaners and put it in orbit....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mega Maid?

      Just make sure she can't go from suck to blow. Oh, and be careful where you put the self destruct button. Make sure nobody can press it unless they really, really, mean it.

    2. herman Silver badge

      That would be the first real vacuum cleaner.

  7. JaitcH

    What About All The Other 194* Countries Who Might Want Their Own Satellites?

    It's all very well the USA slinging it's junk into space, whether bribing Pai or not, but what of those countries whose budgets can stretch only to smaller devices?

    Satellite coverage of the USA can, in many cases, be achieved by terrestrial fibre cables whereas there are many countries where communications can only be achieved by satellite. Take Republic of Indonesia with 17,504 (officially listed) islands. How else can so many points be covered other than by satellite?

    Anyone listening to entertainment satellite traffic knows how much spectrum and space real estate is wasted. How many people listen to I LOVE LUCY (circa 1951)? Aficionados are well catered to, even today.

    The USA has many space monsters, the size of double-decker buses, two of which are circulating around the Korean peninsula. Perhaps KIM Il-Jun can switch from nuclear to concrete and knock out these things and make room for others with lofty goals.

    *There are more countries but not all are recognised.

    1. Bill Gray

      Re: What About All The Other 194* Countries Who Might Want Their Own Satellites?

      Possibly (another) good argument for improving space surveillance capabilities. It would be good in any case to track the smaller stuff; if your payload is hit by an object a few centimeters across, it can ruin your day quite as thoroughly as one ten centimeters across. Quite aside from non-US companies, being able to launch and track smaller satellites would help everybody.

      Allowing/encouraging smaller payloads would actually improve the space debris problem, in that smaller objects decay faster. (Of course, smaller payloads would also mean you could launch more of them, so the net benefit/drawback might go either way.)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ajit Pai is killing net neutrality in space.

    Sounds like the sky is about to fall in.

  9. Colin Tree

    space junk


    4 more isn't going to make a difference

    "... 29,000 larger (10cm>) debris were estimated to be in orbit ..."

  10. mpentler

    The satellites have already been tracked and added to the database though?

    Saying they're untrackable is misleading.

  11. Spanners Silver badge

    None of their business

    The US FCC does not have a say on what can be launched from the US and its colonies. That is the job of NASA and, even, the FAA.

    The FAA does not have any say on what is launched from India. It is hard for US "official" bodies to understand but the rest of the world (over 95% of it then) does not have to follow the whims of extremely dodgy US bureaucrats. Sometimes they may choose to cooperate with the USA. That is their free right.

    As for the FCC. They have proven their irrelevance to their own title by their recent activity of trying to destroy a working internet so that their owning corporations can increase their profits at the expense of everyone else. With that level of incompetence, they need to be kept out of space!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: None of their business

      Satellite orbits are a shared and finite resource, even more so than the frequency spectrum.

      International coordination is key and due to the wavelengths of ground-based tracking radar, objects put into space need to display a minimum cross-section from all angles. While there are volunteer COSPAR tracking stations all over the world, NORAD probably still does most of the routine space debris tracking tasks.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. antimatter

    As I have possibly independently developed a way to generate antimatter in bulk for the drive via some improvisation inspired by efforts at CERN, it might be possible to harness most of it from the solar wind or inner Van Allen belts once in orbit. This avoids many problems, and if the antimatter storage unit can be modified to be refueled in flight (tricky but doable) using a magnetic conduit then it may just work.

    see paper to be released. Would presenting at M3 be a bit too esoteric, as the technology does tangentially use AI for physics optimization tasks.


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