Posts Tagged ‘SkyTerra’

Financially oriented prelude(s) to a post:

I am staggered at how easily the concepts of Democracy and the Rule of Law – two of the pillars of the modern world – have been brushed aside in the interests of political expediency.

And this as well:

Bond and Currency markets are now so rigged by policy makers that I have no meaningful insights to offer…

Now, on with the countdown!

From the annals of crony capitalism, rent-seeking, and regulatory capture it is revealed that the regulatory concerns regarding LightSquared, a world-class GPS signal-killer, appear to have been brushed aside in the interests of political and personal expediency.

Before Barack Obama became president, he was personally an investor in SkyTerra [the company that would become LightSquared]. [Philip] Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners [LightSquared’s financial backers] donated $50,000 to Obama’s inaugural committee on Jan. 20, 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. At the time, Falcone was still looking for the FCC’s sign-off on his hedge fund’s desire to purchase a majority stake in SkyTerra . The George W. Bush administration had failed to green-light the deal.

According to White House visitor logs, Obama’s new FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, a classmate of the president’s from Harvard Law School, met with White House Personnel Director Don Gips on Feb. 18, 2009. Gips’ personal financial disclosure forms show he had between $250,000 and $500,000 of his personal finances invested in SkyTerra via stock options. Gips bundled at least $500,000 in donations to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, and served on the advisory board of Obama’s White House transition team.


On the same day Goldberg [Henry Goldberg of Harbinger’s law firm, Goldberg, Godles, Weiner & Wright] sent that email to [FCC International Bureau Chief Howard] Griboff — July 24, 2009 — SkyTerra asked the FCC to allow it to delay the launch of a new satellite because there was a “potential delay in [its] delivery.” The FCC approved the request, but later denied a near-identical one for SkyTerra competitor GlobalStar based on “extenuating circumstances” in 2010. This appeared to be one in a long line of instances in which the FCC favored SkyTerra, the future LightSquared, over GlobalStar.


…later, Falcone and his wife each donated the maximum legally allowed — $30,400 each — to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Of course, largely ignored is the effect of the LightSquared network on GPS. To quote myself, should LightSquared be looking for a new logo, something like “The first full-fail 4G network” or “SkyJam”?


LightSquared is in full back-pedal on their GPS interference issue, which is the point of the title of this post. 

Backstory: when I was young and my heart was an open book, I used to enjoy Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Rocky and Bullwinkle normally (always?) closed their episodes with a teaser for the next session which often included multiple bad puns.  I’ve been told the pun is the lowest form of humor but since I’m not sure how humor is measured, I don’t really hold to such a position myself.

So this is a tribute post title (to Rocky and Bullwinkle) on a space topic (LightSquared and GPS).  And in further tribute, ponder if a new LightSquared slogan/naming convention needed like “The first full-fail 4G network” or “SkyJam.”

The LightSquared front-man, Phil Falcone, judged the subprime mortgage mess correctly and ended up making a fortune.  Can LightSquared do the same?

SkyTerra 1’s 22-meter antenna has apparently been successfully unfurled according to Boeing and SpaceNews. It’s definitely good news because the anomaly threatened mission success:

El Segundo, Calif.-based Boeing said that all SkyTerra 1 systems are healthy, and that further satellite checkout procedures will continue “over the next several months” before the satellite, which was launched Nov. 14, is handed over to its customer, LightSquared of Reston, Va. LightSquared is owned by New York hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners.

What went wrong?  The article doesn’t say, but chances are it was some sort of “stiction,” which causes a part to stick and keeps it from deploying correctly.  How do defeat stiction?  Normally by jiggling the part in question, if that’s doable.  Depending on the satellite’s design, in this case it might entail cycling the reaction wheels or the likes to let the antenna unfurl, just as you might jiggle a door that’s jammed.

Earlier this week the antenna was described as 98 percent unfurled, but a very smooth antenna is required for optimal performance so it’s great the issue appears to be completely fixed.

So what’s next?  More check out:

“We congratulate the Boeing, Harris and LightSquared teams who have worked diligently over the past week to successfully deploy the SkyTerra 1 L-band reflector,” Martin Harriman, LightSquared executive vice president of ecosystem development and satellite business, said in a statement. “We look forward to Boeing’s completion of in-orbit testing of the SkyTerra 1 satellite and handing [it] over to us in early 2011. LightSquared is proceeding on schedule with its rollout of the nation’s first integrated wireless broadband and satellite network.”



Glitch = Bad

Posted: December 5, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Glitches are bad.  Very bad.

LightSquared’s SkyTerra 1 has been unable to fully deploy its 22-meter reflecting antenna. The satellite launched 14 November, but

Boeing began deployment of the antenna Nov. 30. A glitch-free unfurling would have taken no more than several hours.

So who loses?  Everyone, especially the insurer.

SkyTerra 1 is insured for about $268 million, a policy for which LightSquared paid a $37.5 million premium. A second, identical satellite, SkyTerra 2, is nearly completed at Boeing and presumably could be launched within a year if needed. It remains to be seen whether insurance underwriters would agree to maintain the company’s 14 percent premium rate or would insist on a sharply higher rate in the event that SkyTerra 1’s antenna fails to fully deploy.

Alternatively, insurers could insist on rewriting the existing policy to exclude the SkyTerra 2 antenna from coverage. The second satellite is also insured for $268 million.

Reflector size has increased steadily in the last 10 years: 5, 9, 12, 18 and with SkyTerra, 22 meters.