ITAR and Australia – Not Happy!

Tidbinbilla NASA Deep Space Network DSN 70m dishThe US ITAR Regulations and Australia

My rant for the day about ITAR. Well, I am ranting about ITAR most days! It is a rather difficult situation where another country’s regulations are imposed on your country. Well how did this happen? First I had better explain what ITAR is. This from Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Traffic_in_Arms_Regulations

International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is a set of United States government regulations that control the export and import of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List (USML). These regulations implement the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), and are described in Title 22 (Foreign Relations), Chapter I (Department of State), Subchapter M of the Code of Federal Regulations. The Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) interprets and enforces ITAR. Its goal is to safeguard U.S. national security and further U.S. foreign policy objectives. The related Export Administration Regulations (Code of Federal Regulations Title 15 chapter VII, subchapter C) are enforced and interpreted by the Bureau of Industry and Security in the Commerce Department. The Department of Defense is also involved in the review and approval process. Physical enforcement of import and export laws at border crossings is performed by Customs and Border Protection, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security.

Simply put, Australia has forged a close trade alignment with the USA and to obtain those trade concessions, we had to agree to ITAR. This makes it very difficult indeed to work in the space sector and still obey Australian laws and ITAR. One simple issue is Australian Discrimination law. These are strong and rigidly enforced and in essence making everyone equal. Even those with temporary visas that allows work in Australia. There are also those with dual or multiple citizenship and ITAR has issues with this. It even affected NASA’s Australian Deep Space Network near Canberra. I was there last April and recently posted this on Facebook:

I was invited to NASA’s 40th Anniversary celebrations of the 70m (230ft) diameter dish at their Deep Space Network (DSN) site near Canberra in Australia. It was in April 2013 – earlier this year. Note the three flags in the image below – the US, Australian and CSIRO. The CSIRO is an Australian organisation that has been contracted to run the site for many years – CSIRO stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.  Continued below…

IMG_0827
Australia has close security arrangements with the US and we have access to ITAR restricted material under special trade arrangements with the US government. Australia is therefore somewhat controlled by the ITAR regulations in unusual ways. CSIRO ran into issues with ITAR as some of their employees were legally citizens from other countries. This is a bit of a red flag under ITAR rules and it is also a breach of Australian law if you remove staff from certain areas because of race – we have strong anti-discrimination laws here in Australia. The only way that we got around this was to absorb all the Australian DSN staff into the government as government employees and that satisfied ITAR. So basically we now have rules written by a foreign government that are also enforced in Australia – crazy. I guess if they change ITAR, we also have to change!

I am glad that we have good security arrangements with the US, but it is hard for me to work in the space sector when one of my main aerospace engineers at PlusComms holds three passports! I remain concerned about the ITAR minefield I am crossing in my company.

This is also a minefield for our team in the Google Lunar X-Prize – Stellar Aerospace – our new name. We have many countries involved and their laws on exporting knowledge and equipment are all part of the equation.

Robert Brand

13th Australian Space Science Conference Pt2

13th ASSC Uni NSWTriple Play in the Space Sector

by Robert Brand

As I mentioned in the last post, I was fortunate to present at the 13th Australian Space Science Conference at Sydney University a little over a week ago. The only unfortunate thing was a mix-up by yours truly and I ended up there on the wrong day. I was meant to be delivering a talk on “Triple Play in the Space Sector” and poor Alice Gorman, who was hosting the panel, was asking if I had turned up. My biggest apologies ever Alice!

I did however get a chance to present in the education stream and I am including this presentation here. My son Jason came along to help me as it was school holidays. Luckily every talk was about some of the work that he does with me, so it was pretty interesting most of the time.

Below is the PDF version of my PowerPoint presentation. It is interesting to note that we are doing so much that I can easily put together a complete presentation during a few other people’s talks. As you can see I gave my WotzUp website a plug!

You can download it here: Click to Download

Download (PDF, 1.4MB)

13th Australian Space Science Conference Pt1

13th ASSC Uni NSWSpace Education

by Robert Brand

I was fortunate to present at the 13th Australian Space Science Conference at Sydney University a little over a week ago. The only unfortunate thing was a mix-up by yours truly and I ended up there on the wrong day. I was meant to be delivering a talk on “Triple Play in the Space Sector” and poor Alice Gorman, who was hosting the panel, was asking if I had turned up. My biggest apologies ever Alice!

I did however get a chance to present in the education stream and I am including this presentation here. My son Jason came along to help me as it was school holidays. Luckily every talk was about some of the work that he does with me, so it was pretty interesting most of the time.

Below is the PDF version of my PowerPoint presentation. It is interesting to note that we are doing so much that I can easily put together a complete presentation during a few other people’s talks. As you can see I gave my WotzUp website a plug!

You can download it here:  Click to Download

Download (PDF, 3.5MB)

NASA Canberra DSN road signs.

NASA Canberra Celebrations

NASA Canberra DSN road signs.NASA’s Canberra 70m Dish Celebrates 40 Years

NASA Canberra has a great celebration last April 13th 2013. Jason and I went down to help in the celebrations and it was a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the big dishes. We also got to meet a lot of great people and some of the NASA DSN’s top managers from the US.

We also meet with long time Facebook friend and now a full space friend Peter Aylward seen in the picture above right. It was a great weekend full of space fun and a special visit to the site that brought us Armstrong’s first steps on the moon – Honeysuckle Creek.

There is a great piece of moon rock in the visitors centre as well as lots of real objects from the early space missions. A real “must visit” for those interested in space and NASA.

The photos below are from my Facebook pages:


“My son Jason and I visited this complex on the 40th anniversary of the 70m Dish.”

From Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex 2013-04-13. Posted by Robert Brand on 4/15/2013 (32 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


Robert Band at Spacefest IV 2012 (Archives)

Australia’s Space History at Spacefest IV

by Robert Brand.

As many of you know that I have recently moved into the Space sector, but I am not talking about just comms. I am talking about designing and engineering a space mission.

Because of this I was asked to speak at Spacefest IV. It was held at Tucson Arizona in the US. My talk was on a bit of the past and the future. In fact it was this talk detailing my experiments at 20-30km that got me the space mission job.

After 18 hours from waking to arriving at Las Angeles with no sleep, I drove the 10 hours to Tucson.Quite a trip and I did try to sleep and rest along the way, but managed to get there safely. It was an amazing resort (J. W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort) with a facilities you can only dream about like the massive circulation pool and water slide. This picture was taken close to my room.

I was in interesting territory. This all started just over 3 years ago when I was contacted to do an amateur radio moon bounce event to celebrate the Apollo 11 40th anniversary. Since then things have grown and I was drawn into amateur rocketry and amateur satellites. My balloon experiments at 20km and 30km got noticed as did my current attempt at purchasing the  Jamesburg Earth Station. I ended up on the speakers’ list at Spacefest IV and I was amongst some formidable speakers. I was amongst Apollo astronauts and moon-walkers, mission controllers and planetary geologists. I certainly had to given them their money’s worth (they were paying). Until my talk I was enjoying the visual feast of the area and the people. There were about 18 astronauts and mostly Apollo astronauts.

All the astronauts are pictured here – That’s Al Worden with his shoes off. He was getting annoyed at the long time it took to shoot the photos and got a little fidgety:

Above: There is a crew member from every manned Apollo flight represented in this photo. Apollo 7: Cunningham, Apollo 8: Gordon, Apollo 9: Scott, Apollo 10: Cernan, Apollo 11: Aldrin, Apollo 12: Bean, Apollo 13: Haise, Apollo 14: Mitchell, Apollo 15: Scott & Worden, Apollo 16: Duke, Apollo 17: Cernan, Skylab 2: Weitz, Skylab 3: Bean & Lousma, Skylab 4: Gibson, ASTP: Brand.

I even got to meet the elusive Buzz Above: Aldrin, but he does not let his guard down easily and unless you are signing a $400 autograph it is hard to speak with him..

My talk went over very well. I told the story of Carnavon, Paddington and Moree’s contribution to Apollo 11 and other missions such as ESA’s Giotto probe to Halleys Comet. It was a fantastic opportunity to remind the US that they did not do this all by themselves. Well they pretty much did, but I certainly reminded them that Australia was important in the actual mission as the earth turned!

Above: Even my namesake Vance Brand, command pilot of the Apollo Soyuz mission was on hand and we got along famously just because I had the same name as his brother! That is us below:

The talk covered the Paddington site, manned by NASA staff:

Above: In the lead up to talking about NASA and OTC’s Carnarvon site I mentioned this story that I published here a few months ago – in fact it is a cut and past from the exOTC website:

 

Above: I went on to talk about the current high altitude experiments and the future of Do-It-Yourself Space – experiments that I am doing with my 10 year old son Jason who has his amateur radio license

 

I am looking forward to next year’s Spacefest where I expect to be in late May 2013. Here is a video of a few parts of my talk. The photographer accidentally interprets the bit about  the Giotto mission as tracking rogue asteroids, but he only filmed fragments and put some words together. Thanks to my good friend John Sullivan for the video.

High Altitude Balloon Experiments

Here is a picture taken at 26km from a recent weather balloon flight from Rankin Springs in central NSW:

You can click and click again to enlarge the image. Use the “Back” button to return here.

Below is a little image to show how amazing the results are even at 26 km. my photos are unaltered and taken from the above image:

The Sydney Morning Herald did a story on one of the flights. Here is the video:

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/sydneys-very-own-space-agency-brand-and-son-20120116-1q26j.html

After Spacefest I traveled to Jamesburg and I have already written about that in an earlier post.

 

 

Stellar Launch Rocket

WotzUp Update (Archives)

Stellar Launch RocketWotzUp Update

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Published March 25th 2013

Team Stellar

It is full steam ahead with a range of activities. The biggest one of all is the risk assessment of the navigation systems and choosing the system that best fits the mission. As for that activity, usually a risk assessment is done of a mission plan, we are changing that to be the other way around – developing a mission plan after we chose the navigation systems. Having said that we would like to land somewhere historic to be able to visit some amazing leftover systems like Apollo sites or other landers.

We do have one favoured site where man walked on the moon, but we are yet to see if the navigation capability supports the mission. NASA have a “No Go” zone around some of these sites and also do not want rocket exhaust too close to their site so it will be a long haul for our little rover if we do visit.

As well as the everyday navigation available to anyone, I am looking at developing my own ideas about a novel system to give precise distance to our landing site and an exact speed. This will enable us to be very efficient with fuel. It will be interesting to see if we can construct a system to achieve this and thus need a very good secondary system. More later…

Some of my radio broadcast have focused on Team Stellar. Stay tuned.

kicksatKickSat

Seems that our KickSat will be launched later this year. Some good news on that front and I have a prototype of what will fly – lots of updates soon.

Better still I have been taking pictures from the ISS with EarthKAM – WOW. Lots of photos of Australia and if you students in high school can get your science teacher across this, you too can take your very own ISS photos. Read more below.

EarthKAM

ISS EarthKam Coopers CreekDid you know that there is a 12 MegaPixel camera on the ISS that students can control and snap photos from space? All you need to do is get your science teacher to sign up to the site and get an allocation of photos for students to take pictures of almost anywhere on Earth. More in a future article, but to get you going, here is a photo taken by my good friend David Galea (a Melbourne Science teacher) of the Exmouth area in Australia.

Note I have not checked whether these photos are north up or North down and sorry, but I don’t have the time.

and below another one of David’s photos of the Kakadu Area

Like around New Orleans in the US, you can see how sediment from this river has extended the river mouth out to sea.
In the News

Linda mottramLinda Mottram Sydney ABC 702 Mornings

It seems that Australia’s new space policy about to be tabled may not suit everyone and especially entrepreneurs like me. I personally want to see more funds for space and to make sure our brilliant minds graduating from university have somewhere in this country to actually work and not be lost to other countries.

Because of that I have engaged with several groups and I am hoping that we can develop a common narrative so that the general public and the media will know our desires and capabilities in the space sector.

I have been on many programs, but two in particular in Australia – One in Melbourne with a panel to discuss the issues and one on ABC radio in Sydney where I discuss the issues and also Team Stellar. Links to those broadcasts shortly.

http://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2013/02/21/3695429.htm

On another note I made it into a Croatian TV show all about Team Stellar!! My piece was videoed in Abu Dhabi during the first Team get-together in December last year.

Public Speaking

I start professional Public Speaking gigs soon and it will be all about SPACE! For the moment I will be with Ovations exclusively, but they have been slow to kick off. I will still do free talks for universities and other deserving groups for free, but I am now in an interesting area.

I have a long history supporting space missions starting at the age of 17 when I wired up some of the Apollo 11 video and switching equipment in Sydney Australia back in June 1969. I supported most NASA missions from then to 1986 and that included communications support for NASA’s Apollo, Shuttle, Voyager and other missions. Also ESA’s Giotto Mission to Halleys Comet.

But the real interesting stuff is that I am involved in current space missions. Team Stellar’s lunar mission within the next 2 years and the UK’s Median experiment scheduled to touch down on Mars in 2020 (lots of green lights to get past) plus all the other great space stuff like EarthKAm and KickSat

If you want to get me to speak at your event go over here and you can book me:

http://www.ovations.com.au/speakers/robert-brand.html

I can promise you lots of great photos, the odd video and an amazing tale of being at the heart of so many incredible projects. I am also very animated. Don’t expect me to stay still when I get so excited about the subject. I also have a great tale about changing careers from Telecommunications to Aerospace!
UpLift Videos

I have completed a number of UpLift flights that were commercial. Since our first flight in December 2012, we completed 14 flights and 13 were commercial. We recovered all 14 payloads for 100% success rate. We are also available for commercial payloads with prices starting at $5,000.

Here is one video for a frozen Yoghurt company – we froze the yoghurt in the clouds!!

HAB / Weather Balloons

We sold the 20 x 350g weather balloons that I bought in November last year. They sold out within a month! I have tried to get more balloons, but no luck.

Andrea Guzmán

Just got a Skype message from Andrea Guzmán from Columbia. I encouraged her to not only follow here dreams but to take action. I interviewed her recently and she had done so well. Now she seems to have even done better and so fast. This interview from June 2011.

Andrea Guzmán: Hey Robert. Long time no talk to you. Hope you’re Okay. Let me tell you I’ve done very interesting stuff so lately. I earned an internship in Mexico, I was there a whole month working at the 1meter Telescope.
Robert Brand: Wow – great work!
Andrea Guzmán: Now, im working with the second colombian satellite and well, everything is going just great
Robert Brand: Living the dream !!!
Andrea Guzmán: just wanted to let you know, as you have been also my mentor 🙂
Robert Brand: It is one thing to Dream, it is another to make it happen! One day we will meet!
Andrea Guzmán: I was actually applying for a workshop in satellites in Australia. Let’s wait and I’m sure we will meet someday.
Robert Brand: That will be fun. Lots to see if you are here!
Andrea Guzmán: sooo… thanks a lot to have confidence in me, without even knowing who I was
Robert Brand: It is easy to see who will make and who will not!
Andrea Guzmán: Thanks Robert 🙂

Wow! Things seem to be going great for Andrea and I want to remind everyone that you HAVE TO TAKE ACTION and not just dream. I encouraged Andrea to follow her dreams with action and she would have done this without my help, I am sure! It is, none the less, a great example of success through hard work.

Jamesburg Old Photos

Jamesburg - Counter weight in place 1967Jamesburg Historic Photos

I am have some background photos of Jamesburg Earth Station. My company, PlusComms, is still trying to but the site. We are working hard on financing at the moment so that we can build our deep space network.

These are some historic photos from the web showing Jamesburg’s past glory. The photos include one of the NASA racks used in support of the Apollo missions.

If you have some more that would be of interest, please let me know.

“Built just in time for Apollo 11 mission. It brought video, voice and data from the Honeysuckle Creek and Parkes stations back to the US via Moree in NSW Australia.”

From Jamesburg Earth Station – Comsat. Posted by Robert Brand on 10/15/2009 (18 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


Jamesburg For Sale (Archives)

Jamesburg Earth Station For Sale

Robert Brand and Jamesburg Earth Station.

It was about when I was 17 years old that I (Robert Brand) first heard of Jamesburg Earth Station. I was a second year trainee at the Dept of Civil Aviation Regional Training School at Waverton and assigned to the International Maintenance Centre (IMC) at Paddington for field training. I was asked to wiring up some Apollo 11 jumpering for Wayne Ozarko and I learned of this site as the received dish for the transmissions from Moree for the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I ended up doing most of the TV broadcasts each morning when I was on duty and was talking with Jamesburg staff each and every day. The location and history of the site was of little interest in those days and the Internet was not invented for the public so data, photos and everything else we take for granted was just not there to be able to find anything out at all. That has changed and I now know Jamesburg inside out.

The site was basically abandoned by ATT in 2002 and sold as a farm with a unique set of buildings. It has sort of been a holiday home in a valley mainly producing wine and way of the beaten track.

So what is different? “Jamesburg for sale” is now on a sign at the front gate.  Today, my small company, PlusComms, is considering buying the Earth Station!

Whether this eventuates or not is still in the hands of the owner. He may have other offers or waiting for a better offer. Although I would like to buy a dish in the US, this one is no where near perfect for the job I would like it to do and to that end I am actually only after the 2,000 square metre building that is part of the site. Simply it will make a great boutique Data Centre.

Much of the old building will need clearing of all the old office partitions and such, but the data centre is a valuable commodity. It is worth far more than the very badly damaged dish. The feed window was broken at some stage and the whole assembly was filled with water for many years. When the dish was moved from stow a few years ago, it was evidently like waterfall.

If any exOTC people are interested in this project and feel that they can contribute, please contact me ASAP on 02 9559 6879 or robert.brand@pluscomms.com

I will post more on Jamesburg in the next few weeks after I return from a site inspection. In the meantime here are a few historic videos:

Above: Jamesburg Earth Station Part 1 of 3 (no audio – slideshow only)

Above: Jamesburg Earth Station Part 2 of 3 (no audio – slideshow only)

Above: Jamesburg Earth Station Part 3 of 3 (no audio – slideshow only)

Jamesburg Visit (Archives)

Visiting Jamesburg Earth Station (USA)

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AT&T’s Jamesburg Dish Visit – by Robert Brand

Jamesburg Visit

In early June 2012 I visited the Jamesburg site with the intention of surveying the site and turning it into a data centre. The site was abandoned by AT&T in 2002 following the attacks on the NY World Trade Center buildings. It was thought by AT&T that Jamesburg was too vulnerable to aircraft attack of a similar nature. I recently set up a company that is now looking to buy the site. The 2 day Jamesburg visit was like a trip back in time as many of the site’s offices and systems were still fully intact.

The picture above shows that the dish is still able to move as it was taken out of stow for a movie being made on site at the time of my visit. The large vertical appendage on the left of the structure is a covered stairway giving access to the upper rooms. Although the tracking system is still installed, the owner was using a manual controller. The tracking system is shown below (Note you can click on the images to enlarge them):

The halls are still filled with pictures of the Intelsat family that was worked by Jamesburg and the battery room still filled with batteries:

The power switchboard is also 100% active and capable of switching half a megawatt.

Below is the current owner (Jeff Bullis – r) with his nephew (Scotty – l) in the lunchroom as it was when it was vacated – fully operational and well appointed. I am in the picture on the right with the rather interesting map with 2 Australias. One showing the pacific Intelsat coverage and the other showing the Indian Ocean Intelsat coverage.

The site had a room filled with filling cabinets with every bit of AT&T correspondence. A Jamesburg fax cover sheet is seen below (left). The waveguide below the dish is able to swivel and transition from the vertical to the horizontal in the photo to the right.

I certainly remember working with Jamesburg regularly on day shift as the morning US TV news feed was sent to Paddington from Moree. It is amazing to think that this site was so completely abandoned 10 years ago. It is like using a time machine to go back to when it was operational. An amazing experience   More on Jamesburg in a future post.

Jamesburg in a Movie (Archived)

Battleship (2012) uses Jamesburg Earth Station (graphically).

*** Retrieved from Archives ***Posted on by

My company is currently looking to buy Jamesburg Earth Station with a view of using it as part of a deep space network. Sure Jamesburg Earth Station is not the only dish with this design, there are two others. One still in use in South America and another somewhere in the US – possibly Alaska from memory. The identical AT&T sister dish on the east coast was demolished many years ago. Jamesburg, however is the most well photographed and documented of the remaining dishes and thus attracts attention.

Jamesburg in a Movie

I was watching a movie set in current times in Hawaii (Battleship) on the weekend and was surprised to see this very early dish design from 50 years ago being used to contact aliens from a distant star system. It was hard to concentrate on the movie each time the dish came into view on the screen. In fact there were three of these dishes on the island mountain top and all equipped with a very modern system to beam signals somehow to a relay satellite. Yes, the movie was technically unbelievable anyway, but this made it worse. It was also heart wrenching to see the three dishes explode at the end of the movie. Of course the dishes were graphically reproduced as were the explosions.

So how close was the reproduction. Well, extremely close. They added a box to the top of the subreflector quadropod and the base was a bit slimmer, but that was it. The staining was also identical, but emphasised in the movie. I doubt that we will ever see Ceduna, Moree or Carnarvon dishes in this way, but if one relic from the past can manage a resurrection, then who knows?

While I was visiting the Jamesburg site, a film crew was actually filming the dish for an iPad interactive game to be called “200 seconds” so we can expect to see it emerge again from the archives!

Here is a comparison and some shots from the movie:

Note that the structure on the right of the movie dish is on the original also, but obscured due to the angles

Occasionally, s

A Visit to Honeysuckle Creek

hsk_1971_tnMy Return to Honeysuckle Creek

It had been 42 years since I visited Honeysuckle Creek. I was still a teenager at the time – 19 years old. I had just been working on comms for Apollo missions and had completed a lot of work wiring up comms for Apollo 11 gear at OTC Paddington. I had been on a pilgrimage to know ground zero zero for the reception of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon – Honeysuckle Creek. Many may have been mislead by the movie “The Dish” that indicated that Parkes had been the site that brought us those first steps. It was Honeysuckle Creek. Parkes did bring us the majority of the moonwalk, just not Armstrong’s first steps. The dish was about 30m and now resides at the NASA Deep Space Centre in Tidbinbilla near Canberra.

I had come to Canberra with my son Jason who had just turned 11. It was a massive space weekend. We came down for the 40th anniversary of NASA’s 70m dish at Tidbinbilla. We visited Mt Stromlo, Had dinner with the Honeysuckle Creek staff and wives, we were live on Canberra’s Fuzzy Logic science show with Robert Brand, Jennie and Len Limpus at Honeysuckle Creek in 1971Rod Taylor (2XX) for a whole hour and then we went to visit the Honeysuckle Creek site. Only foundations and storyboards are left at the site, but we had our own tour guides and what guides they were! Some of the original staff that brought those moon pictures back to earth. This picture (above) is of a young Colin Mackellar who has created a fabulous history of the Honeysuckle Creek site and even the role that my government department (I worked for OTC(A)) played in the the Apollo missions.

I too have a photo from my visit in 1971. I went there with some friends and my new bright red Toyota Corolla. Honeysuckle Creek was out on Apollo Road in the mountains south west of Canberra and south of Tharwa.

Our trip to the site was very pleasant and easy to drive since the entire road was sealed when the NASA site was established in the 60s. It is a campground now and an absolutely beautiful place to visit. The open areas are still grass. John Saxon (Honeysuckle Creek staff) and Hamish Lindsay (Honeysuckle Creek staff) gave us a really great tour of the site, explaining the operations and what the staff had to do. Jason loved rubbing shoulders with those history makers and enjoyed the drive, tour and the entire weekend.

John Saxon and Hamish Lindsay ex Honeysuckle Creek staff

John Saxon and Hamish Lindsay – ex Honeysuckle Creek staff

To visit the Honeysuckle Creek site website: CLICK HERE

Below are some photos from our visit.


“This was the site of the dish that brought the world Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon..”

From Honeysuckle Creek ACT. Moon Central. Posted by Robert Brand on 4/15/2013 (12 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


Queensland Spaceport on Radio

Rebecca McLaren ABC RadioRobert on Radio re: Queensland Spaceport

The last couple of days have been spent talking to people about the possibility of a Queensland Spaceport. This has come from some someone outside my company and it is about space recreational activities. The media seems hopeful to discuss the possibility of a Queensland Spaceport. Previously Queensland was discussed as a possible launch site for more traditional rockets. I was contacted by Rebecca McLaren Australia’s ABC radio network to talk about this. I try to keep my distance from the recreational side of space and concentrate on the benefits of having a spaceport in this country. Rebecca broadcasts over regional Queensland.

There is plenty of discussion about Team Stellar and what Australia is doing to land a private mission on the Moon.

The audio file is here: Click here to play (PC users can “Right Click” to save)

You can also use our flash player below:

Team Stellar Appointment (Archives)

PlusComms Square LogoRobert Brand Joins a Reformed Team Stellar

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Get the background on Team Stellar

Team Stellar is a Google Lunar X Prize contestant. This week I accepted the position of Director of Spacecraft Communications, Navigation and Data. My company PlusComms has accepted a partnering role in providing the communications for the Team Stellar moon mission. That is our new logo pictured above. PlusComms is involved in buying old Satellite Earth Stations and finding new roles for them. We expect that we will be doing this for Team Stellar.

PlusComms has a significant investment in new technology and it is fitting that the older technology also be used in the most modern of moon missions. Of course only the mechanics of the dish are suitable. The electronics, especially on the space communications side, all need to be upgraded. Many dishes are good for almost 100 years of operation if well kept.

MissionTrax CoverageMissionTrax is PlusComms Global Deep Space Network product and it should be providing 24 hour a day global coverage of the sky and space missions using both “S” band and “X” band communications with dishes that are approximately 30m in diameter.

We expect our US west coast site to be available for bookings in the next 6 months.

The diagram to the left is indicative only, but if well placed we will be even able to tack continuously in mid orbit out to Geostationary and past that to the planets.

Our US dish candidate can also track at 1 degree per second making communications with low earth orbit vehicles a reality.

Our US dish will have both Receive and Transmit capabilities. We expect it to support smaller dishes on site and a large data centre. Why am I talking about a company and its abilities in this page? Simply because it is a company built around my person push into the space sector. This website is about my personal interests and activities in space (and near space ballooning) and bringing you along for the ride. I love Do-It-Yourself space (DIY Space) and if I can do this, anyone can if they are motivated enough.

More on PlusComms here: http://pluscomms.com/space-comms/124-2/

Team Stellar

Team Stellar was an old entrant for the Google Lunar X Prize and it has slowed in its efforts to reach the moon. Recently an offer was made and the new Team Stellar arose from the ashes. This only happened ion the last couple of months. With good management and funding, it was easy to accept their offer of being involved in what will be an exciting mission.

Below is their video announcement from July this year detailing an outline of the team structure.

 

A more recent video explains the team makeup in more detail, but it was made a week ago before I had accepted the position with them.

I am pretty excited by all the potential of this team and what it has already accomplished. I will be keeping you all updated with a mission scheduled for 2 years time.

A bit more detail here: http://www.teamstellar.org

PlusComms MissionTrax (Archives)

MissionTrax Coverage*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Building a Global Space Network

This is a project that I am involved in and although it is not a personal project at this time, it is none the less a project that I have instigated. It is a project that is being handled under my Company PlusComms – I am a major shareholder. Press Release below:

Date: Thursday 22nd September 2011

Sydney, Australia

PlusComms Pty Limited based in Sydney, Australia has announced that it is building a Global Deep Space Network (DSN) subject to financing. The project involves 3 x 30m dishes in key locations around the world. The Project, called MissionTrax could be operational by first quarter 2014.

The driver for the project has been to locate large dishes with a 30 year or more lifetime and bring them back to full service. Not only is this a very environmentally friendly approach, but it also has the added benefit of costing 1/10th the price of building a new service with the same specifications. The first dish is located in California on the east coast of the USA. The site will be purchased and refurbished to operational standards, but it will be no longer used as a satellite “Earth station”. It will soon be part of a global network able to continuously track almost anything around the equatorial plane + or – 40 degrees. Although the coverage has yet to be tested at a range of frequencies, it is expected that missions as far away as Mars will have continuous coverage from Earth (excluding the rotation of Mars). The distance to Mars at the at the furthest point from Earth is 401 million km / 250 million miles – that is just under 3 Astronomical Units – or just under 3 times the distance from the earth to the sun. The three sites need to be on longitude that is 120 degrees from each other.

CTO of PlusComms, Robert Brand said “The extent of the coverage of course depends on the frequency being used and the power of the spacecraft. It is expected that communications with spacecraft near outer planets will also be part of the GSN’s capabilities but further testing will be done to confirm the overall performance of each dish and the complete network”.

“Modern satellite technology now allows dishes to be small and able to be placed in city locations. These older 30m dishes were built big to gather the weak signals and were located in “radio signal” quiet areas because the signals were hard to process. This makes these original workhorses redundant for tracking communications satellites, but perfect for building a DSN. Each GSN site will provide overlapping coverage of the previous site at a distance around 30,000 to 35,000km from the Earth’s surface (the blue circle in the attached diagram. These dishes were also built to a high tolerance and have specifications to over 15GHz. They are also Beam Wave Guide (BWG) dishes and thus the signal is beamed in a big tube right to the control room. This allows us to build a railway track to quickly disconnect and shunt in new equipment for different bands and capabilities. It is expected that it will take 45mins to connect and align a unit and 15 minutes to disconnect, allowing a one hour booking for a quick link with a spacecraft or rover / experiment on Mars or the Moon. The site will also provide full TT&C capability to fire engines and control satellites

In addition to the GSN capability, the US site will also be equipped as a large hosting centre for servers and other systems, with the ability to have individual partitions for companies. These sites were built to withstand a nearby blast from a nuclear bomb. With massive concrete walls the US site has amazing security and the ability to act as redundant site for most applications and secure the continued data operations of companies. The site already has fiber connectivity and plenty of room for more dishes. It is expected that this site will have multi-tenant uses.

“We would also like to return something to the global community and stimulate students by allowing automated access for basic Radio Telescope work when not booked for space tracking. We will employ automated systems via the Internet to explore the sky. The large dish may also be used for special events by other not for profit groups” Brand said. “The service will be headquartered in Sydney Australia. With the number of private space missions predicted to climb rapidly and a focus on the Moon and Mars, we expect a real growth in business over the next few years.”

Potential users of the facility should contact:

Robert Brand

robert.brand@pluscomms.com