Sunday, April 24, 2016

LEO's come of Age

I was never much of a space nut in terms of enthusiasm.  Some guys went nuts with all kinds of computer controlled AZ-EL ground stations etc.  My contribution was to drill some holes in a broom stick and poke some #10 wire through to make a beam and put that on a tripod next to a lawn chair.  I  remember when QST was full of news about  LEO (low earth orbit) Oscar satellites etc.  I made some contacts and learned a little bit and it was all very interesting but where's the practicality?   I even set up a ground station one field day to provide the ISS points.  That was fun, totally minimalist.  I remember there was a port and forward packet radio contingent where you could store and forward messages.  Precursors, all precursors.  Ham radio continues to be cutting edge IMHO.

Fast  forward about 30 years.  I came to FL when I was in the Navy in 1989.  I was an anesthesiologist/critical care/pain management specialist at NHO the naval hospital attached to the Naval Training Center (NTC) in Orlando.  Eventually I got out when NTC closed.  I moved around FL and wound up in Titusville.  Titusville is part of the space coast.  My hospital was the designated NASA hospital in case of disaster and I could look out the window and see the vehicle assembly building directly across the Indian River.  There were rockets going off all the time and my house was 13 miles from the shuttle launch pads.  I knew it was 13 miles since I could watch the candle light to the SSE and 61 sec later I would hear the noise.  Since sound travels at 1127 fps at sea level I was 13 miles away.  I knew that physics would come in handy.  

So my life progressed in a space community.  It was the local industry with employees from a 70+ mile radius filtering into my berg every morning.  Then the shuttle went away and doom and gloom, except this is America and we don't doom and gloom it for long.  Private space has taken hold.  We have Bezos we have Musk we have United Space Alliance and half a dozen others.  What Silicon Valley is to high tech, Titusville is to space.  

Just released:  OneWeb

LEO's are going commercial.  The idea is to promulgate a grid of LEO's across the sky giving internet access to everyone who needs it.  Imagine a train of LEO's flying over head.  As soon as one goes out of sight another comes into range and all you need is a ground station therefore to have continuous access.  This leapfrogs the infrastructure hurdle and it also leapfrogs the attempt by governments to put a lid on information.  An African village can set up a ground station, access the LEO system and then the ground station could act as a repeater to cell phones and tablets around the village.  Now I find LEO's VERY exciting.  We were flying satellites and port and forwarding messages decades ago and now look what's happened.  

73  W9OY