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Space United States Science

Expensive U.S. Spy Satellite Not Working 251

Posted by Zonk
from the should-have-had-an-open-beta-first dept.
Penguinshit writes to mention a Reuters article about some trouble the U.S. is having communicating with a spy satellite. The sensor package was launched last year by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, and is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It has apparently hung in a low orbit for months now, and efforts to communicate with it have been unsuccessful. From the article: "The official said the problems were substantial and involved multiple systems, adding that U.S. officials were working to reestablish contact with the satellite because of the importance of the new technology it was meant to test and demonstrate. The other source said the satellite had been described to him as 'a comprehensive failure.' There was no suggestion by either of the sources that the satellite had been purposely damaged as part of a terrorist attack. Another government official said he had no information about any attacks on U.S. satellites."
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Expensive U.S. Spy Satellite Not Working

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  • Re:Terrorism? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:22PM (#17578592)
    I agree.

    Terrorists = those who attack on civilians to induce terror (presumably to induce civilians some kind of change driven by the civilians).

    Resistance, Insurgents, Freedom fighters = those who attack military and government units (not 5 year olds).

    Nihilists = those who attack civilians really just because they like death and destruction and not because they have any particular goal of any kind in mind.

    "Total War" is not really terrorism. You are not trying to induce a civilian population attitude change- you have decided to kill everyone on the other side.
  • Re:Terrorism? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kfg (145172) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:24PM (#17578620)
    The military knows that it is a target and is capable of responding, and so it's generally considered a valid target. The world gives a kind of grudging acceptance of your right to do it.

    Tell it to the people talking about the U.S.S. Cole.

    Terrorism comes much closer to Clausewitz's "total war".

    Beware of leaving your opponant without options.

    KFG
  • by supabeast! (84658) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:30PM (#17578724)
    This is business as usual at the NRO. The NRO is the most pathetic of the US intelligence agencies, and is known for failing more often than not in just about all endeavors. For the NRO, a satellite making it into space at all is a big deal, because NRO projects have a history of dying in the design stage, and there have been other big failures such as a specialized launch vehicle blowing up on the launch pad, taking satellites with it.

    If you're wondering why you've never heard of the NRO before, it's because the government does everything it can to keep the agency under wraps, mostly because it doesn't want the taxpayers to realize how many billions of dollars are flushed down this worthless toilet of a spy agency yearly.
  • Re:WTF (Score:2, Interesting)

    by denbesten (63853) on Friday January 12, 2007 @03:40PM (#17578914)
    There are many ways to sabotage such a complex system...

    Complexity itself is likely the biggest cause of the problem. No sabotage needed. Although complexity (somewhat) needs to be part of the normal operation, there should be non-complex survival modes that kick in when things start to go wrong, such as:

    • A low battery could trigger a spring loaded mechanism that opened one solar panel. Then move the panel around semi-randomly until charging begins. Once there is enough charge, smarter (i.e. more complex) aiming circuitry could be turned on.
    • Loss of communications from mother earth for a few weeks could trigger a mechanism which points the antenna directly towards the strongest source of gravity, so that we could get a communication airplane under it.
    There are likely these sorts of gizmos already, but one really needs to consider why they fail and how they could be made simpler to eliminate the failure cause.

    Incidentally, this doesn't just apply to satellites. Lots of things have (or should have self-preservation built in). My camera, for example, retracts and covers its lens when the battery gets low, so that it does not get hurt when I throw it back in my pocket. All it requires is a bit of forethought and contingency planning on the part of the designers.

  • Reading the comments posted above is chilling. Generally, people don't even begin to understand the issues.

    Weapons and spy contracts can be mostly secret. In practice, that means there will be less supervision and much more opportunity to make and sell junk at very high profit. It is very common that an entire project is so poorly designed that it is useless; however, the politics is such that the failures are kept secret. The U.S. government has been corrupted by secrecy and dishonesty.

    Here is my summary of U.S. government corruption: George W. Bush comedy and tragedy [futurepower.org]. I hope you will write your own summary and send it to friends and government leaders.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 12, 2007 @05:57PM (#17581782)
    he NRO is the most pathetic of the US intelligence agencies, and is known for failing more often than not in just about all endeavors. For the NRO, a satellite making it into space at all is a big deal, because NRO projects have a history of dying in the design stage, and there have been other big failures such as a specialized launch vehicle blowing up on the launch pad, taking satellites with it.


    Riiiiight. And you know this how? Do you have a cite? Are you currently vetted and disclosing classified information? If not, then you likely have no idea as to the ration of screwups to successes. I'm not ex-NRO but I have worked under the auspices of another agency in that area whilst in the military and the maxim holds true: "you only hear about the screwups."

    If you're wondering why you've never heard of the NRO before, it's because the government does everything it can to keep the agency under wraps, mostly because it doesn't want the taxpayers to realize how many billions of dollars are flushed down this worthless toilet of a spy agency yearly.


    You mean the agency that helps my country keep an eye on what's going on with the rest of the planet? Yeah, that's real worthless to us. Say what you will about the war machine but you can never have enough good intel.

    My favorite quote from a Brit when they were looking at going in with the French on some of their programs: "The French don't even know how far behind they are." [fas.org] I'd wager it still holds true. If anything research in this area has probably accelerated.

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