Tethers Unlimited Has Just Announced A Successful Test Of Its SWIFT-SX Software Radio

        Tethers Unlimited is a U.S. private aerospace company with its headquarters in Bothell, Washington. They carry out research and development of new products and technologies for space, sea, and air. TU was founded in 1994 to research and develop space tether technology. Applications of space tethers include removal of orbital debris and momentum exchange tethers for moving payloads to higher orbits. Space tethers enjoyed a brief popularity in the space industry community, but interest has fallen off since the 1990s.
        In order to survive, TU branched out into other space technologies including power propulsion, actuation and communications for small satellites, robotic technologies for orbital fabrication and assembly, optical fiber winding and deployment, software defined radio communication and 3D printed radiation shielding.
        In December of 2018, TU delivered a 3D printer to the International Space Station for testing. Firmamentum, a division of TU, is currently working on its “Spiderfab” technology to “enable on-orbit fabrication of large spacecraft components such as antennas, solar panels, trusses, and other multifunctional structures.”
        TU has developed the SWIFT-SLX software defined radio system. U. S. satellites must be assigned frequencies by a federal agency before launch. The conventional approach has been to insert a frequency specific crystal in the radio once the frequency has been assigned. A big problem with this approach has been that the frequency assignment process runs parallel to the construction of the satellite and sometimes, the frequency is not assigned until the last moment. This means that the engineers have to open up the satellite and insert the frequency chip just before launch which is risky.
       The SWIFT-SLX takes a different approach. The operating frequency of the radio is determined by onboard software. This means the frequency can be easily set any time before the satellite is launched. It can also be changed after launch while the satellite is in orbit.
       The SWIFT-SLX is designed to fit within a cubesat satellite. Cubesats are based on a unit cube four inches on a side and are launched as secondary payloads with big satellites. The SWIFT-SLX can be configured for a variety of mission needs. It can adjust operating frequencies in the S and L band communication channels while in orbit. The development of the SWIFT-SLX was aided by Small Business Innovation Research grants from the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Army Space and Missile Defense Center.
        TU has just announced a successful test of two-way radio communication between the Earth and an orbiting satellite carried out by the TU SWIFT-SLX radio. The test allowed communication between Harris Corporation’s first small satellite, the HSAT-1, and satellite ground control. The HSAT was launched last November by India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
        Rob Hoyt is the CEO of TU. He said, “Our team has worked very hard to bring the SWIFT radios to the level of maturity and quality necessary to meet the needs of top-tier customers such as Harris Corp. The great performance of the SWIFT-SLX right out of the gate is a big testament to our SWIFT team’s efforts and the collaborative support of the Harris integration team.”

Trump Administration Is Pressing NASA And NASA Is Pressing Boeing For 2020 Moon Mission - Part 2 of 2 Parts

Part 2 of 2 Parts (Please read Part 1 first)
       Boeing has been criticized for years for the way it was handling the SLS project. Last year, the NASA inspector general delivered a harsh report criticizing Boeing. The report stated that Boeing had already spent five billion three hundred million dollars and is expected to spend the rest of the allocated money by the end of this year three years before the program was supposed to be completed. So far the project has been delayed for two and a half years and four billion dollars of cost overruns have been racked up. The report also said that Boeing had consistently underestimated the scope of the work that had to be done.
       John Shannon is Boeing’s SLS program manager. He has admitted that there have been a lot of problems in the program but claims that progress is being made. He said, “We’re late and I completely own that, but we are dialed in now and the team is producing extremely well. I have high confidence that we’re going to come out with an amazing capability by the end of the year, and I can’t wait to get to that point.”
       In 2017, the NASA agency watchdog said that NASA had spent a total of fifteen billion dollars so far on the SLS launch vehicle, the Orion crew capsule and the necessary ground systems between 2012 and 2016. It has been estimated that the ultimate cost may reach as high as twenty-three billion dollars. The construction of the SLS and the Orion spacecraft has been parceled out so that every state in the Union now has jobs related to the EM-1 program. All in all, the SLS program supports around twenty-five thousand jobs nationwide. It has had a total economic impact of four billion seven hundred million dollars.
      The widespread impact of the SLS program has resulted in strong support in Congress. Some critics have referred to the SLS program sarcastically as the “Senate Launch System.” Boeing is the primary contractor but Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman and the United Launch Alliance are also key contractors. Senator Shelby’s home state of Alabama has benefitted more than any other state from the SLS program. Alabama is the home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The SLS program has brought Alabama thirteen thousand jobs and two billion four hundred million dollars.
       When the NASA administer raised the idea at the hearing that perhaps the SLS program should be tabled, Senator Shelby said, “While I agree that the delay in the SLS launch schedule is unacceptable, I firmly believe that SLS should launch the Orion.” Following this statement by Shelby, Brindstine said that NASA is committed to building and launching the SLS. The next day, Bridnstine tweeted “Good news: The NASA and Boeing teams are working overtime to accelerate the launch schedule of the NASA SLS.
       Critics of the SLS point out that it has been in development for so long that its mission has changed several times and it is based on obsolete technology that has been replaced by advances in the private space sector. The commercial launch industry has been growing beyond the big companies that have supported NASA programs with their hardware in the past. Companies like SpaceX and Blue Orion have been building and launching reusable rockets, boosters and engines which have seriously reduced costs. The SpaceX Heavy Launch vehicle costs about a hundred million to launch. For contrast, it is estimated that the launch of the SLS will cost about a billion dollars per launch.
       NASA has been considering replacing the SLS with two commercial launch vehicles. One would send the Orion crewed spacecraft into Earth orbit and the other rocket would carry the Orion to orbit the Moon after Orion docked. Brindstine says that this approach would not be optimum but might be necessary to make the 2020 deadline. NASA has been working on speeding up the schedule for the SLS. The ultimate choice for launch vehicle has not yet been made.

Trump Administration Is Pressing NASA And NASA Is Pressing Boeing For 2020 Moon Mission - Part 1 of 2 Parts

Part 1 of 2 Parts
      On big national projects there may be friction between politicians who want to show off a new ship, missile, tank, etc. and the engineers who have to build it and sign off it its completion. Sometimes this has led to embarrassment when the demonstration is not successful because the politicians rushed the engineers. We may be headed for just such a situation here in the United States.
      The Trump administration wants to demonstrate advancement in their agenda to return to the Moon to create a permanent settlement. They have been pressing NASA to show some progress before the 2020 presidential election such as sending an unmanned capsule around the Moon and returning it to Earth. NASA, in turn, is pressing contractors like Boeing to get the demo flight ready by 2020 and there are problems.
       The launch vehicle that Boeing has been building for NASA is now years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Boeing has notified NASA that there is just no way that the system will be ready for launch by 2020. Currently there is an estimate that the vehicle might be ready to launch by November 2021. Reportedly, NASA was furious when notified that Boeing would miss the 2020 deadline.
       There was a hearing on March 13th at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that NASA would consider shelving the massive Space Launch System for lunar missions being built by Boeing and instead they may use commercially available launch services for the Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) lunar mission in 2020.
       Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) is chairman of the appropriation committee and has been the chief Congressional supporter of the Boeing SLS project which has brought a lot of jobs and money to Alabama. Political pressure has kept the dollars flowing to the SLS project in spite of delays and cost overruns. Critics have taken the opportunity provided by the status of the SLS project to attack the rubber stamp attitude of Congress for Boeing and the SLS.
        The announcement by the NASA administrator rattled the U.S. space industry. NASA may radically change its approach to launch space missions. The reputation of NASA will suffer because of this major problem with the NASA flagship rocket program and Boeing, its main contractor. It does not help Boeing to have these criticisms surface at the same time as Boeing is being attacked for the crash of two of its 737 airliners. One of the main questions raised at the hearing was whether or not NASA needs to construct and own a heavy-lift rocket. The private space sector already has launch vehicles in operation. They may not have the capacity of the SLS but they are much cheaper to operate and can reuse some components. Some companies are working on rockets that could rival the SLS in launch capacity. The latest budget request from the Trump administration includes mention of a commercial rocket replacing the SLS in a planned mission to send a robotic probe to Europa, a moon of Jupiter that may harbor life.
       The Trump budget also requests the use of commercial launch vehicles to place a new space station called the Gateway in an orbit around the Moon. Bridenstine also testified that commercial space vehicles could be used to ferry astronauts to the Gateway station. A planned mission to use the SLS to haul an asteroid into lunar orbit for investigation has been cancelled.
Please read Part 2

Geiger Readings for Mar 24, 2019

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  =  94 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 106 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 102 nanosieverts per hour

Red potato from Central Market = 80 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 97 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 93 nanosieverts per hour