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The archaeology & futurology of Satellites



[Source: European Space Agency (ESA), Ireland, October 2005 Satellite Launch]


Its an understatement to say that satellites are a ‘blackbox’ technology that has become increasingly vital to every aspect of our lives. Euroconsult’s most recent 14th edition overview of the satellite industry amazingly projects an increase of 1,145 satellite over the next ten years- 51% more than the previous decade. As expected, this activity is clustered in the US, Europe, Russia, China, Japan and Israel where defense industries are robust. The good news for the GIS industry is that approximately 165 of those satellites will be devoted to commercial purposes, and another 200 will be given over to civilian governmental agencies tasked with operational missions in Earth observation, meteorology, navigation, and communication.



[Source: GeoEye-1, world’s highest resolution commercial earth-imaging satellite, as of 2008.]


While we plunge headlong into increasingly crowded orbits with all these new satellites, nostalgia for our sky’s wide open past seems to have taken over a research team led by PhD student Roger Duthie from University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey. As reported by the BBC, the team is hoping to re-establish communications with a ‘dead’ satellite- the Prospero spacecraft that was launched atop a Black Arrow rocket on 28 October 1971. The article is fascinating with the research team delving into dusty attics, finally to find the needed codes for the ‘resurrection’ typed on a piece of paper in the National Archives at Kew, London. Pics of the Prospero early in its life:



[Source: SPL] 




[Source: DailyMail Online.]
 

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