Tag Archives: satellite

What is the Stratobus: drones and satellites

stratobus thales. image thales.com

StratoBus, a surprising vehicle halfway between a drone and a satellite, will be able to carry out a wide range of missions, including observation, security, telecommunications, broadcasting and navigation… and it offers a lifespan of five years.   The StratoBus project is led by Thales Alenia Space, along with partners Airbus Defence & Space, Zodiac Marine and CEA-Liten. It embodies a new concept for an autonomous airship, operating at an altitude of about 20 kilometers. This is in the lower reaches of the stratosphere, but well above air traffic and jet streams. StratoBus will be able to carry payloads up to 200 kg. The project is part of the creation of an airship company by the Pégase competitiveness cluster in southern France…

The platform itself is a high-altitude airship measuring 70 to 100 meters long and 20 to 30 meters in diameter. It will feature a number of technological innovations, in particular to make sure it captures the Sun’s rays in all seasons: a power generation system (coupling the solar panels to a solar power amplification system patented by Thales), an ultra-light reversible fuel cell for energy storage, etc.  The StratoBus platform will require continuous significant energy input to offset the wind: two electric motors will automatically adjust their output power depending on wind speed (up to 90 km/h).

STRATOBUS – HALFWAY BETWEEN A DRONE AND A SATELLITE, Thalesgroup.com, Mar. 10, 2013

Private Satellite Reveals Preparation for Conflict

Sudan has deployed a heavily armoured brigade along a road leading to an armed opposition group’s stronghold in Blue Nile State and may be poised to launch an attack, a satellite monitoring activist group said on Friday {Sept. 23, 2011}.  The SPLM-North opposition group said the Sudanese air force had conducted attacked an area in Blue Nile where fighting broke out between the army and opposition earlier this month.Washington-based Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) said at least 3,000 troops were “pointed south” along the road to Kurmuk, a town near the Ethiopian border which is seen as a SPLM-North stronghold.

Satellite images captured on September 21 and analysed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, showed a “wall of armour” near Dindiro, a town around 64 kilometers (40 miles) from Kurmuk, said SSP which was founded by actor George Clooney and other activists.  The group said it had identified what appeared to be main battle tanks, towed artillery, infantry fighting vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and troop transporters, apparently accompanied by six Hind attack helicopters.  The Sudanese army could not be reached for comment.

Events in Blue Nile are difficult to verify because most foreign media cannot travel there and aid agencies complain of a lack of access to fighting areas.  On Thursday, new clashes broke out in Blue Nile’s neighbouring state of South Kordofan where the army is also fighting SPLM-North groups.  Both border states are home to large populations which sided with South Sudan during decades of civil war and found themselves in north Sudan after the South became independent on July 9 under a 2005 peace deal.  Khartoum accuses its former civil war foe of supporting the armed opposition in the two border states. Juba denies the charges.

Excerpt, Sudan deploys troops, tanks in border state: group, Reuters Africa, Sep 24, 2011

 

Secret Space Weapons and More

NASA has done plenty of work for the Pentagon. But America’s armed forces maintain a separate space programme of their own, largely out of the public eye. Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, it is thought that the military space budget has matched or exceeded NASA’s every year since 1982.   All the signs are that it is roaring ahead. The air force’s public space budget (as opposed to the secret part) will increase by nearly 10% next year, to $8.7 billion, with much of it going on a new generation of rockets. Bruce Carlson, director of the National Reconnaissance Office, the secretive outfit that runs America’s spy satellites, announced in 2010 that his agency was embarking on “the most aggressive launch schedule…undertaken in the last 25 years”.

Much of the money goes on satellites—spy satellites for keeping tabs on other countries, communications satellites for soldiers to talk to each other, and even the Global Positioning System satellites, designed to guide soldiers and bombs to their targets, and now expanded to aid civilian navigation.

But there are more exotic programmes. The air force runs one for anti-satellite warfare, designed to destroy or disable enemy birds. Another includes experimental aircraft, such as the X-37, a cut-down, unmanned descendant of the space shuttle. The air force will not say what the X-37 is for….Other nations are flexing their muscles. American commanders report that China regularly fires powerful lasers into the sky, demonstrating their ability to dazzle or blind satellites. In 2007 a Chinese missile destroyed an old weather satellite, creating a huge field of orbiting debris. Afterwards, Russia spoke publicly about its anti-satellite weapons. This is one space race that is well under way.

The military uses of space, Spooks in orbit, Economist, July 2, 2011, at 68

Iran’s Satellite Program

Iran on Sunday opened its first centre to receive satellite images, a new stage in its space programme that coincides with celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.  Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the equipment used in the centre located in the desert was “manufactured by Iranian engineers,” state television’s website reported.  Iran does not have an operational satellite of its own but announced in December that it would launch two satellites — Fajr (Dawn) and Rasad-1 (Observation-1) by the end of the Iranian year in March 2011.

On Sunday, the Fars news agency quoted Vahidi as saying that the Islamic republic would unveil on Monday four satellites built “entirely by Iranian engineers.”  He said Tehran would also unveil a new rocket, Kavoshgar-4 (Explorer-4), and engines for a two-stage Safir Fajr rocket.  Vahidi said last week Iran would unveil two rockets during the anniversary celebrations: Kavoshgar-4 and Safir (Ambassador) 1-B. But the Fars report did not specify if Safir Fajr was a new name for Safir 1-B or a different rocket.

On Sunday, state news agency IRNA reported that Vahidi said a launch date for the two satellites, Fajr and Rasad-1, was “not fixed” but they would be unveiled on Monday along with two others.  Iranian media reports said last week that the Safir 1-B rocket can carry a satellite weighing 50 kilogrammes (110 pounds) into an elliptical orbit of 300 to 450 kilometres (185 to 280 miles).  The Kavoshgar-4 rocket can carry a payload up to 120 kilometres.

Iran in February 2009 sent into space the Safir-2 rocket carrying its first home-built test satellite, called Omid (Hope).  Twelve months later, it launched a capsule carrying live turtles, rats and worms aboard a Kavoshgar-3 rocket in what was Iran’s first experiment to send living creatures into space.

Iran uses the run-up to the revolution anniversary to tout its scientific and technological achievements, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week opening a new space research and training centre.  Iran’s missile and space programmes have sparked concern abroad that such advanced technologies, combined with the nuclear know-how which the nation is acquiring, may enable Tehran to produce an atomic weapon.  Tehran denies its nuclear programme has military aims.

Iran opens centre for satellite images, Agence France Presse, Feb. 7, 2011