back to article SpaceX lofts two all-electric ion-drive comsats to Clarke orbit

Another month, another successful SpaceX launch. This time, a Falcon 9 sent into orbit a twin set of communications satellites that eschew chemical-engine propellant in favor of solar power. Typically, half the weight of a satellite is its propulsion fuel, used to maneuver it into position once in space. However, the two just …

  1. BigFire

    Fast Cheap Good

    You get 2/3 most of the time. In this case, it's sort of cheaper (less moving parts, less mass into orbit) and good (if it works). And just confirming my initial thought, slow.

  2. CCCP

    That ain't no moon

    Bloody hell, those things are enormous... as the vicar said to the maid.

  3. MrDamage

    Curious

    The EU (French) mob are deploying theirs over the Americas, and the American (Carribean) based mob are planting theirs over Europe.

    <tinfoil hat>Something arranged by the NSA/GHCQ as part of their information sharing regime no doubt. </tinfoil hat>

    1. M Gale

      Re: Curious

      They're communications satellites. Doesn't say who's communicating with who.

      Also: Wut? Iain Thomson, you might want to check your doubleposting.

    2. DrMordrid

      Re: Curious

      If 2 satellites make you paranoid try this;

      later this year SpaceX launches 11 ORBCOMM satellites at once, then they launch 70 Iridium Next satellites in 7 launches, 10 per. Then they and Google plan to launch 4,025 internet satellites with global coverage.

      #TheyBeEverywhere

  4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Nice to see...

    ...someone talking about a Clarke orbit.

    Now tell us whether Skylon could do this even cheaper, and we'll start to see some of the British contributions to space flight...

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      SpaceX vs Skylon

      SpaceX concentrated on minimising R&D cost and time. Last year's prices were $61.5million for 13150Kg to low Earth orbit. After paying off R&D, the launch cost is expected to fall to $1100/Kg assuming recovery of stage 1.

      Skylon is a much more challenging design. The budget figures are $12billion R&D, 15000Kg to low Earth orbit for £650/Kg (including R&D). I could not get dates for the prices (probably 2004), so I have not tried to adjust them for inflation. Skylon has not yet received 1% of its R&D budget. If the money appeared tomorrow, the first test flight could be in 2021.

      Skylon would have to stay on budget for years to compete against a mature Falcon in 2022. On the other hand, SpaceX could keep their prices near current levels and buy Skylon. Plenty could happen in the next seven years. The Chinese are eating their own dog food, even though it costs more than SpaceX. The EU are looking for ways to cut costs. The US government are looking for ways to increase launch costs and I have no idea what the Russians will do.

  5. Captain DaFt

    Whoa! Those are some industrial looking pieces of machinery!

    http://regmedia.co.uk/2015/03/02/stacked_satellites.jpg

    Hardly the sleek, shiny, graceful vision of ion propelled vehicles science fiction promised, is it?

    But then, these are real, and they (hopefully) work, so I guess I can live without the bling.

    1. stucs201

      I'd not exactly call a TIE fighter sleek and shiny. Even less sleek for the TIE bomber.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Hardly the sleek, shiny, graceful vision of ion propelled vehicles science fiction promised, is it?

      No, but Red Dwarf got it right. So I'll see your Petersen and raise your Kochanski.

      <DOES_FULLY_DOUBLE_RIMMER SALUTE>>/>

      1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        "So I'll see your Petersen and raise your Kochanski."

        Maybe but 'Read the Instructions' is pure Ian M. Banks.

        1. James Hughes 1

          *Just* Read The Instructions.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > "Hardly the sleek, shiny, graceful vision of ion propelled vehicles science fiction promised, is it?"

    Maybe a few crufty movies promised it, but nothing in print did. Sleek and graceful is fine for atmo-hindered fast-movers, but in a vacuum no one can hear you woosh.

  7. david 12 Bronze badge

    >first described by Arthur C. Clarke. ??

    Well, I guess "(22,236 mi)" might have first been discussed by Arthur C Clarke, but "35,786 km" was discussed by SF writer Konstantin Tsiolkovsk, and later by Herman Noordung.

    Clarkes contributions were:

    He wrote in English.

    In a popular tech. publication (not science or fiction).

    About communications satellites (not space stations or research or gun platforms or anything else).

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: >first described by Arthur C. Clarke. ??

      "Wireless World", as I recall - ever so slightly scientific, no?

      Either way, Robert Heinlein would have approved.

  8. Ru'

    I'm confused how one geo-stationary object could be deployed over "Latin America, Canada and Alaska", without also including USA etc.?.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      The satellite will be over the equator, but will have several directional antennas concentrating signals north or south.

    2. Carrawaystick

      Have a little re-read of your post and ask yourself: What country is Alaska in?

      1. druck Silver badge

        Carrawaystick wrote:

        What country is Alaska in?

        What country is Alaska a part of?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          The free Palin republic?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Noooooo.....don't free her. Keep her there!!!!!

    3. Alan Edwards

      > I'm confused how one geo-stationary object could be deployed over

      > "Latin America, Canada and Alaska", without also including USA etc.?.

      Alaska is roughly level with the top of Canada, so you could have one satellite in geosync orbit with two beams. One covering Alaska and Canada and one covering the middle of South America, neither would cover (much of) the mainland US.

  9. JCitizen
    Headmaster

    May be slow now but...

    if you give ion drive enough fuel and time, it can reach a speed about as close to the speed of light as you are going to get with a vehicle that has any mass at all.

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