SpaceJibe

April 25, 2016

Air Force maglev sled breaks record at 633 mph

Filed under: Cool, Government Policies, Military — bferrari @ 8:49 am

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In the New Mexico desert last month, a rocket-powered magnetically-levitated sled broke a world record after it blasted down a track at 633 miles per hour, faster than the cruising speed of a 747.

The test occurred at Holloman Air Force Base on a special 2100-foot track on March 4. Air Force video shows the one-ton vehicle rocketing down the track, a fiery, dusty plume behind it.

“We have a magnetically-levitated sled, where we use a very cold liquid helium to essentially levitate the sled via superconducting magnetics,” Lt. Col. Shawn Morgenstern, the commander of the 846th Test Squadron, said in the video.

“The test today was significantly faster than any test that we’ve previously done,” Morgenstern added.

The Air Force said that the sled accelerated at a rate of 928 feet per second. Before this test, the sled had reached 513 mph.

Magnetic levitation systems allow for vehicles to travel in a very low-friction environment, permitting incredibly fast speeds— last year, a Japanese maglev train traveled at 374 mph. And Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has proposed a system called the Hyperloop that would use a related technology to move people or cargo at breathtaking speeds.

Source

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April 27, 2015

Mars One Finalist Explains Exactly How It‘s Ripping Off Supporters

Filed under: Government Policies, Inner Solar System, Life, Mars — bferrari @ 7:53 pm

Mars One Finalist Explains Exactly How It‘s Ripping Off Supporters

No money, no process, no explanation: An insider speaks out on the hopelessly flawed scheme.
By Elmo Keep

When Joseph first signed up with Mars One — the media-hyped, one-way mission to colonize the red planet being floated by a Dutch non-profit — he didn’t think much of it. The former NASA researcher said he never really took the application seriously; he was just putting his hat in the ring mostly out of curiosity, and with the hope of bringing public attention to space science.

But eventually Joseph — who is actually Dr. Joseph Roche, an assistant professor at Trinity College’s School of Education in Dublin, with a Ph.D. in physics and astrophysics — found himself on the group’s shortlist of 100 candidates all willing to undertake the theoretical journey. And that’s when he started talking to me about the big problems he was seeing with Mars One.

It was difficult for him to break his silence, but he was spurred into speaking out by the uncritical news coverage. Many basic assumptions about the project remain unchallenged. Most egregiously, many media outlets continue to report that Mars One received applications from 200,000 people who would be happy to die on another planet — when the number it actually received was 2,761.

As Roche observed the process from an insider’s perspective, his concerns increased. Chief among them: that some leading contenders for the missionhad bought their way into that position, and are being encouraged to “donate” any appearance fees back to Mars One — which seemed to him very strange for an outfit that needs billions of dollars to complete its objective.

“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points,” Roche explained to me in an email. “You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.”

“Community members” can redeem points by purchasing merchandise like T-shirts, hoodies, and posters, as well as through gifts and donations: The group also solicits larger investment from its supporters. Others have been encouraged to help the group make financial gains on flurries of media interest. In February, finalists received a list of “tips and tricks” for dealing with press requests, which included this: “If you are offered payment for an interview then feel free to accept it. We do kindly ask for you to donate 75% of your profit to Mars One.”

The result, said Roche, is that high-profile prospects — including those in a list of “Top 10 hopefuls” published last month in The Guardian— are, in fact, simply the people who have generated the most money for Mars One. A spokeswoman confirmed by email that the positions were “based on the supporter points that our community can earn,” but said that “this number of points is unrelated to our selection process.”

As Roche also told me, that secretive selection process is hopelessly, and dangerously, flawed.

“I have not met anyone from Mars One in person,” he said. “Initially they’d said there were going to be regional interviews… we would travel there, we’d be interviewed, we’d be tested over several days, and in my mind that sounded at least like something that approached a legitimate astronaut selection process.

“But then they made us sign a non-disclosure agreement if we wanted to be interviewed, and then all of a sudden it changed from being a proper regional interview over several days to being a 10-minute Skype call.”

Mars One’s selection process to date has required candidates to complete a questionnaire, upload a video to the project’s website, and get a medical examination with each candidate’s local doctor (which they had to arrange themselves). Roche said he then had a short Skype conversation with Mars One’s chief medical officer, Norbert Kraft, during which he was quizzed with questions from literature about Mars and the mission that Mars One had provided to all the applicants. No rigorous psychological or psychometric testing was part of the appraisal. Candidates were given a month to rote-learn the material before the interview.

Mars One’s testing methods fall well short of NASA’s stringent astronaut corps requirements — not least in the case of anyone who would be training to be the mission commander, the individual who would actually pilot a theoretical craft to Mars. Commanders at NASA are required to have logged 1,000 jet aircraft flight hours to even be considered as training candidates for spaceflight.

Applicants were told they did not have permission to record the interview or to take any notes. Today, Roche said, he has still never had an in-person meeting with anyone associated with Mars One, and he is not aware that any candidate has ever been interviewed in person to assess their suitability to be sent one-way, forever, on a deep-space mission.

“That means all the info they have collected on me is a crap video I made, an application form that I filled out with mostly one-word answers… and then a 10-minute Skype interview,” Roche said. “That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything.”

The story continues here…

View story at Medium.com

December 8, 2014

America, Welcome Back to the Space Race

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Government Policies, Space Ships — bferrari @ 1:11 pm

On December 5th, NASA’s Orion capsule successfully lifted off from its platform at Cape Canaveral in Florida, reaching a max altitude of 3,600 miles in outer space. During the four-and-a-half hour test flight, it entered the Van Allen radiation belt, orbited the planet, survived its fiery re-entry into our atmosphere and dove into the Pacific Ocean to be retrieved by the Navy. Below, you can see images that represent each stage of the spacecraft’s flight, from launch to splashdown.

October 31, 2014

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashes, at least one pilot killed

Filed under: Gadgets, Government Policies — bferrari @ 5:01 pm

Space Ship 2

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo space tourism rocket crashed during a test flight over the Mojave Desert Friday, killing at least one of the two pilots aboard and seriously injuring the other.

The company tweeted  that SpaceShipTwo was flying under rocket power and then tweeted that it had “experienced an in-flight anomaly.”

“During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo,” Virgin Galactic tweeted, adding the mothership landed safely.

The California Highway Patrol reported one fatality and one major injury.  SpaceShipTwo is typically flown by two pilots.

Authorities said that the aircraft’s co-pilot was killed in the crash, while the pilot, who ejected, was injured, according to Reuters. Citing Kern County Sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt, Reuters reported that the pilot was found at the scene and taken to a local hospital.

Ken Brown, a photographer who witnessed the crash, said the space tourism craft exploded after it was released from WhiteKnightTwo, the ‘mothership’ plane that carries it to a high altitude.

“I could see that it was tumbling, and it wasn’t one piece,” Brown told Fox News’s Shepard Smith.

Parachutes were reportedly seen in the air, according to SpaceFlightNow.com, which said that the “anomaly” apparently occurred after the plane fired its rocket motor following a high-altitude drop from WhiteKnightTwo.

Virgin Galactic tweeted that its partner Scaled Composites conducted the powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo.

“We will work closely with the relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates ASAP,” the company also tweeted. Virgin Galactic will hold a press conference at 5 p.m. ET.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson is on his way to the test site. “Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support. I’m flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team,” he tweeted.

Friday’s flight marked the 55th for the spaceship, which was intended to be the first of a line of craft that would open space to paying civilians. At 60 feet long, SpaceShipTwo features two large windows for each of up to six passengers, one on the side and one overhead.

Virgin Galactic – owned by Branson’s Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS of Abu Dhabi – sells seats on each prospective journey for $250,000, with full payment due at the time of booking. The company says that “future astronauts,” as it calls customers, have visited Branson’s Caribbean home, Necker Island, and gone through G-force training.

Stephen Hawking, Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher and Russell Brand are among the celebrities to sign up for flights. Virgin Galactic reports taking deposits totaling more than $80 million from about 700 people.

A related venture, The Spaceship Co., is responsible for building Virgin Galactic’s space vehicles.

During testing for the development of a rocket motor for SpaceShipTwo in July 2007, an explosion at the Mojave spaceport killed three workers and critically injured three others. A California Division of Occupational Safety and Health report said the blast occurred three seconds after the start of a cold-flow test of nitrous oxide – commonly known as laughing gas – which is used in the propulsion system of SpaceShipTwo. The engine was not firing during that test.

Virgin Galactic did not immediately respond to a request for comment from FoxNews.com.

Source

December 18, 2012

World’s Largest Super Collider: Abandoned

Filed under: Big Bang, Black Holes, Cool, Gadgets, Government Policies — bferrari @ 10:46 am

A super collider is a large ring designed to accelerate particles of protons and anti-protons until they collide, the purpose being to create high amounts of energy.

In the mid 1980′s, the United States wanted to construct the largest particle collider in the world. What was to be called the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) began as an idea in 1983. By 1987 Congress had approved the $4.4 billion dollar budget for the project, and by 1991 a site had been chosen in Texas and construction began.

By 1993 the cost projection had risen to over $12 billion. With limited financial resources, the U.S. government was forced to choose between funding the International Space Station (ISS) or the super particle collider. Congress approved the ISS and on October 21, 1993, the SSCproject was cancelled. When the project was cancelled, 14 miles of tunnels and 17 shafts had already been dug, as well as all surface structures completed. Total spent: $2 billion.

After cancellation, the site was given to Ellis County, Texas. Numerous attempts to sell the property failed until 2006, when a private investment group purchased the property. It was rumored that there were plans to use the SSC as a tier III or IV data center, but today the property still sits derelict and abandoned. All of the collider equipment has been removed save for some underground generators in the tunnels.

Some might cite the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland as the largest particle accelerator in the world, and they would be correct if you’re using the “currently operating” caveat (the SSC is larger, but was never made operational). CERN LHC’s collision energy output of 14 TeV (Trillion electron-Volts) was dwarfed by the planned output of 40 TeV for the Superconducting Super Collider.

So why did construction of the LHC succeed where theSSC failed? Some point to LHC’s use of a property that already had tunnels. Excavating millions of tons of Earth proved to be the most expensive item during construction. Compounding the cost was the fact that the SSC was planning to be much larger than the Large Hadron Collider. The Superconducting Super Collider had to dig from scratch; the LHC did not have to dig tunnels, thus construction costs were lower (rumored to be about $5 billion USD).

The largest operating particle collider in the United States also happens to be the second largest in the world.  The Tevatron, completed in 1983 at a cost of $120 million, is located at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois. The Tevatron was much smaller in scale; it only produced 1 TeV at maximum output.

UPDATE 10/2011: Unfortunately due to recent budget cuts, the Tevatron has ceased operations as of October. The costs associated with operating a collider – even on a smaller scale – outweigh the benefits in today’s budget landscape. The second-largest collider in the world is now the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider run by Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in New York.

Source

October 28, 2012

Dragon ship back on Earth after space station trip

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Gadgets, Government Policies, Inner Solar System, Space Ships — bferrari @ 7:24 pm
May 27, 2012: With rays of sunshine and the thin blue atmosphere of Earth serving as a backdrop, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is berthed to the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station's Harmony node.

May 27, 2012: With rays of sunshine and the thin blue atmosphere of Earth serving as a backdrop, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is berthed to the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony node.

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –  An unmanned space capsule carrying medical samples from the International Space Station splashed down in the Pacific Ocean Sunday, completing the first official private interstellar shipment under a billion-dollar contract with NASA.

The privately owned California-based SpaceX company gently guided the Dragon into the water via parachutes at 12:22 p.m., a couple of hundred miles off the Baja California coast.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station used a giant robot arm to release the commercial cargo ship 255 miles (410 kilometers) up in space. SpaceX provided updates of the journey home via Twitter, including a video of the Dragon separating from the ISS.

The supply ship brought back nearly 2,000 pounds (900 kilometers) of science experiments and old station equipment. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited cargo is nearly 500 frozen samples of blood and urine collected by station astronauts over the past year.

The Dragon is the only delivery ship capable of returning items, now that NASA’s shuttles are retired to museums. Atlantis made the last shuttle haul to and from the station in July 2011.

With the Earth in the background, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is seen as it is grappled by the International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Reuters)

With the Earth in the background, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is seen as it is grappled by the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Reuters)

SpaceX — more formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — launched the capsule three weeks ago from Cape Canaveral, full of groceries, clothes and other station supplies. Ice cream as well as fresh apples were especially appreciated by the station residents, now back up to a full crew of six.

It’s the second Dragon to return from the orbiting lab; the first mission in May was a flight demo. This flight is the first of 12 deliveries under a $1.6 billion contract with National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“It was nice while she was on board,” space station commander Sunita Williams said as the Dragon backed away. “We tamed her, took her home and, literally and figuratively, there’s a piece of us on that spacecraft going home to Earth.”

She added to the SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California: “Congratulations Hawthorne and thank you for her.”

The Dragon will be retrieved from the Pacific and loaded onto a 100-foot (30-meter) boat that will haul it to Los Angeles. From there, it will be transported to McGregor, Texas.

The medical samples will be removed as quickly as possible, and turned over to NASA within 48 hours of splashdown, according to SpaceX. Everything else will wait for unloading in McGregor.

A Russian supply ship, meanwhile, is set to blast off this week. It burns up upon descent, however, at mission’s end. So do the cargo vessels provided by Europe and Japan.

SpaceX is working to transform its Dragon cargo craft into vessels that American astronauts could fly in another four or five years. Until SpaceX or another U.S. company is able to provide rides, NASA astronauts must rely on Russian rockets to get to and from the space station.

 

Source

October 22, 2012

Space Exploration – What is the point of that waste of time and money?

This was the first color image of earth ever taken from the moon, taken in 1968…

First Image of Earth from the Moon

First Image of Earth from the Moon

… the instant this photo comes out, it becomes the defining picture of the whole earth catalogue:

1970: the comprehensive clean air act is passed.
March, 1970: Earth Day became a holiday.
1970: environmental protection agency was founded.
1971: Doctors WIthout Borders was founded.
1971: Clean water act.
1972: DDT is banned.
1972: endangered species act.
1973: the catalytic converter gets put in.
1973: unleaded gas starts being used.

The vietnam war is still going on, and there is still chaos in the streets from protests and mass arrests and yet people still found the time to think about the earth as a whole.

That’s space exploration doing it’s part in influencing culture, and you cannot put a price on that.

September 25, 2012

Air Force to launch secretive X-37B space plane in October

Filed under: Cool, Gadgets, Government Policies, Military, Space Ships — bferrari @ 9:36 am
The U.S. Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is shown inside its payload fairing during encapsulation at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla., ahead of a planned April 2010 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (USAF)

The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is shown inside its payload fairing during encapsulation at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla., ahead of a planned April 2010 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (USAF)

The U.S. military’s hush-hush robotic X-37B space plane is slated to blast off again next month, Air Force officials say. The mission will test the robotic spacecraft’s reusability and may eventually land on the Florida runway once used for NASA space shuttles.
The X-37B space plane’s next mission — called Orbital Test Vehicle-3, or OTV-3, because it is the program’s third-ever spaceflight — is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) sometime in October.
“Preparations for launch at Cape Canaveral have begun,” said Major Tracy Bunko at the Pentagon’s Air Force press desk. “We are on track to launch OTV-3 next month; however, the exact date remains subject to change based on range conditions, weather, etc.”

 

A mysterious mission

As with the X-37B program’s two previous spaceflights — OTV-1 and OTV-2 — OTV-3’s payload and mission details are classified. But the focus remains on testing vehicle capabilities and proving the utility and cost-effectiveness of a reusable spacecraft, Bunko told SPACE.com. [Photos: The X-37B Space Plane]

Bunko said in an earlier communiqué that this third flight will use the same X-37B spacecraft that flew the first test flight, the OTV-1 mission, back in 2010.

That maiden voyage of the miniature space plane lasted 225 days. It launched into orbit on April 22, 2010, and then landed on Dec. 3 of that year, zooming in on autopilot over the Pacific Ocean and gliding down onto a specially prepared runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

A different X-37B vehicle made a similar Vandenberg touchdown this past June 16, having stayed in orbit for 469 days on its OTV-2 mission.

The X-37B program is being run by the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The two space planes — which are 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 15 feet (4.5 m) wide, with a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed — were built by Boeing Government Space Systems.

While they’re sparing with details about the X-37B program, Air Force officials say the vehicles enable them to test out how new technologies perform in space.

“One of the most promising aspects of the X-37B is it enables us to examine a payload system or technology in the environment in which it will perform its mission and inspect them when we bring them back to Earth,” Bunko said. “Returning an experiment via the X-37B OTV enables detailed inspection and significantly better learning than can be achieved by remote telemetry alone.”

A new landing site?

While both previous X-37B missions touched down at Vandenberg, the Air Force is considering landing future flights at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, next door to the Cape Canaveral launch site.

In fact, the Air Force is currently conducting taxi and braking tests as part of an ongoing appraisal. The prospect of a returning the robotic space plane to the KSC landing strip — which was used by NASA’s now-retired space shuttle fleet — is seen as a cost-saving measure.

“We are also considering consolidating landing, refurbishment and launch operations at KSC or CCAFS in an effort to save money,” Bunko said.

“We are seeking to leverage previous space shuttle investments and are investigating the possibility of using the former shuttle infrastructure for X-37B OTV landing operations,” Bunko added. “Those investigations are in an early state, and any specifics will not be known for some time, but could potentially be used as early as for the landing of OTV-3.”
Source

July 15, 2012

World’s most powerful laser fires most powerful laser blast ever

Filed under: Big Bang, Black Holes, Cool, Gadgets, Government Policies, Military — bferrari @ 7:37 pm
A service system lift allows technicians to access the target chamber interior at the National Ignition Facility for inspection and maintenance. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

A service system lift allows technicians to access the target chamber interior at the National Ignition Facility for inspection and maintenance. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

And you thought you saw fireworks on the 4th of July!

The largest laser system in the world was turned on for a fraction of a second July 5, and it unleashed the most powerful laser blast in history — besting a record set mere months earlier.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) — a laser test facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. — turned on its 192 laser beams for a scant instant the day after the nation celebrated its birth, unleashing a record-setting 1.85-megajoule blast into a target chamber that delivered more than 500 trillion watts of power.

Five hundred terawatts is 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time, the facility said.

Scientists celebrated the historic test, which created conditions in the laboratory that had previously only existed deep within the heart of a star.

‘Scientists are taking important steps toward … the quest for clean fusion energy.’
– NIF director Edward Moses

“For scientists across the nation and the world who, like ourselves, are actively pursuing fundamental science under extreme conditions … this is a remarkable and exciting achievement,” said Dr. Richard Petrasso, senior research scientist and division head of high energy density physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The test bested a record set March 15, when NIF unleashed a record-setting 1.8-megajoule blast into a target chamber.

In the historic test, NIF’s 192 lasers fired within a few trillionths of a second of each other onto a 2-millimeter-diameter target. Beyond its sheer power, the beam-to-beam uniformity was within 1 percent, making NIF not only the highest energy laser of its kind but the most precise and reproducible.

“NIF is becoming everything scientists planned when it was conceived over two decades ago,” NIF director Edward Moses said.

“Scientists are taking important steps toward achieving ignition and providing experimental access to user communities for national security, basic science and the quest for clean fusion energy.”

In fission, atoms are split and the massive energy released is captured. NIF aims for fusion, the ongoing energy process in the sun and other stars where hydrogen and helium nuclei are continually fusing and releasing enormous amounts of energy. In the ignition facility, beams of light converge on pellets of hydrogen isotopes to create a similar, though controlled, micro-explosion.

As the beams move through a series of amplifiers, their energy increases exponentially. From beginning to end, the beams’ total energy grows from one-billionth of a joule to a potential high of four million joules, NIF said — a factor of more than a quadrillion.

And it all happens in about five millionths of a second.

Because the laser is on for the merest fraction of a second, it costs little to operate — between $5 and $20 per blast, spokeswoman Lynda Seaver told FoxNews.com in March, when an earlier test set the stage for the July 5 blast.

NIF’s managers hope by the end of the year to reach a break-even point, where the energy released is equal to if not greater than the energy that went into the blast.

“We have all the capability to make it happen in fiscal year 2012,” Moses told Nature.

Source

July 11, 2012

50 years in SPAAAAACE: Telstar celebrates half-century since launch

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Gadgets, Government Policies, Inner Solar System, Military — bferrari @ 7:03 am
Telstar

Telstar

World’s first active comms satellite stopped bouncing signals in’63

On 10 July 1962, the privately-owned Telstar 1 was blasted into orbit on the back of NASA’s Thor-Delta rocket, and despite only working for a year it proved that commercial satellite communications was possible.

Telstar 1 was owned by the US telephony monopoly Ma Bell, and was built in the Bell Telephone Laboratories, though it was a joint project: the French and UK post offices both chucked in some cash as well as expertise and a couple of ground stations to receive the bounced signals. Those signals could, and did, include 600 simultaneous phone calls, and (most importantly of all) a single black-and-white TV stream:

Telstar wasn’t the first satellite to bounce radio signals, that was “Courier 1B” from whose name one can identify as a military project, but Telstar was privately owned and thus ushered in a new age of space exploitation that would eventually let us all watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer at seven in the morning.

Arthur C Clarke is often credited with inventing the idea of satellite communications, though in fact his contribution was to point out that three birds in geostationary orbit could provide global coverage. Geostationary orbit is more than 35,000km up, beyond the reach of radios in 1962, so Telstar’s orbit peaked at less than 6,000km up and dipped down to less than 1,000km during its two-and-a-half-hour circumnavigation.

Alcatel-Lucent, inheritors of Bell Labs’ legacy, are celebrating that achievement with a collection of images, information and video, but an equally good tribute is to spend the day watching satellite TV and remembering that Telstar made it possible.

That dip is also what caused Telstar’s downfall. Its repeated drops into the Van Allen radiation belt did allow the satellite to gather information about the belt (which was part of the plan) but the information it gathered was largely the havoc such radiation plays with electronic circuits. If Wikipedia is to be believed then US nuclear tests at the time had left the Van Allen particularly charged, but either way the satellite failed intermittently for a few months and finally stopped relaying signals entirely in February 1963. However, it remains in orbit to this day, faithfully tracked by the US government as required by international treaties.

Telstar was solar powered, with 3,600 solar cells feeding 19 nickel-cadmium batteries which received a 6GHz signal and retransmitted it with 2.25w of power at 4GHz. The electrics necessary were all suspended by shock-absorbent nylon cords in the middle of the spherical body, which had to spin at 180 rpm for stabilisation (gyroscopes perform the same function on modern satellites, but weren’t reliable enough back then).

Even when it was working, Telstar was only over the Atlantic for 20 minutes per orbit, so developers envisioned 20 more satellites filling the gaps for global communications. In fact the radios got better and rockets more powerful, so as Arthur C Clarke had predicted, the vast majority of communication satellites end up in geostationary orbit these days (though they aren’t manned, as he had expected them to be).

But geostationary orbit carries with it a latency, as the signal has to travel all that way up and back down again. This is fine for TV broadcasting but irritating when one is making a phone call … and fatal if you’re playing Call of Duty. The vast majority of global communications now takes place over cables draped across the sea bed, and the first of those to cross the Atlantic only worked for three weeks (by which measure Telstar was an overwhelming success).

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