President Donald Trump has withdrawn the nomination of Michael P. O’Rielly for another five-year term on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
SpaceNewsreports the White House withdrew the nomination because O’Rielly opposed a petition by the Trump Administration asking the FCC to re-examine section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Section 230 provides free speech protections to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Conservatives have accused the companies of censoring their views and want the immunity removed.
O’Rielly’s nomination was already on hold in the Senate at the time it was withdrawn. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced on July 28 that he had put a hold on the nomination until O’Rielly publicly committed to overturning the FCC’s Ligado order.
In April, FCC commissioners approved a modification to Ligado’s license to operate L-band communications services. The approval was opposed by the Trump Administration, the Defense Department, and other agencies that believe it will interfere with Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals.
“I understand that O’Rielly has stated that he would give ‘due consideration to a stay’ ‘based on new data or evidence’ – but that isn’t enough,” Inhofe said in a statement. “This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition. All of America can’t be wrong, and he understands that. I need his commitment in plain English to vote to overturn the order, not just consider it, before I will allow his nomination to proceed.”
Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is working on a satellite Internet project designed to provide broadband access around the globe, Wired reports.
The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world,” according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC.
With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February.
The emails, which date back to July 2016, and subsequent confirmation from Facebook, confirm a story published in May by IEEE Spectrum, which used public records to speculate that Facebook had started a satellite internet project.
The new emails detail meetings between FCC officials and lawyers from a firm Facebook appears to have hired, which specializes in representing clients before government agencies. In one exchange from 2016, a lawyer from the firm requests to meet with FCC officials in the Office of Engineering & Technology and the International Bureau Satellite Division to discuss applying for an experimental license to construct and operate a “small LEO [low Earth orbit] satellite system with a limited duration mission.” The emails indicate that Facebook also set up subsequent meetings with the FCC in June and December of 2017.
Editor’s Note: It’s not exactly 4,000 satellites, but Facebook is looking to provide broadband to part of Africa with Eutelsat.
PARIS, 5 October 2015 (Eutelsat PR) – Eutelsat Communications and Facebook today announce they are partnering on a new initiative that will leverage satellite technologies to get more Africans online. Under a multi-year agreement with Spacecom, the two companies will utilise the entire broadband payload on the future AMOS-6 satellite and will build a dedicated system comprising satellite capacity, gateways and terminals. In providing reach to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Eutelsat and Facebook will each be equipped to pursue their ambition to accelerate data connectivity for the many users deprived of the economic and social benefits of the Internet.
Forbes has published its annual list of the planet’s billionaires. A small but growing number of them are either directly supporting major space projects or doing so through the companies that they run.
2015 NET WORTH (BILLIONS)
SOURCE(S) OF WEALTH
Global satellite network
SpaceX, Planetary Resources, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
SpaceX, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
SpaceX, Google Lunar X Prize, Planetary Ventures, Skybox
Virgin Galactic, Planetary Resources, OneWeb
Kavitark Ram Shriram
Google, venture capital
H. Ross Perot, Jr.
Computer services, real estate
University of Phoenix
I’ve added Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook to the list this year. His company is reportedly working on a global broadband network that would involve satellites, although details of the plan have not been made public.
I’ve left off Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberte, who came in at number 1006 with a net worth of $1.9 billion. Although he once took a trip to the International Space Station, he is not known to be funding any major space projects at the moment.
Update: I’ve added Charles Ergen and Peter Sperling to the list. Big shout out to Rex Ridenoure over at Ecliptic Enterprises.
It was a busy year for a number of commercial space companies. While most of them made considerable progress, the news wasn’t all good.
A Dream Deferred
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) had a pretty rough year, losing out on two major contracts and laying off more than 100 employees.
On a Friday in May, just as everyone was preparing for the long Memorial Day weekend, Virgin Galactic announced it was dumping the hybrid rubber motor SNC developed for SpaceShipTwo in favor of a hybrid nylon one produced by Scaled Composites.
The year 2014 was one of steady progress and major setbacks in commercial space. Here is a rundown of some of the major developments and trends of the year. A later will look more closely at some of the companies in the industry.
A Crash in the Desert. The tragic loss of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and death of Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury on Oct. 31 sent shock waves through the space community. The ship was ripped apart over the Mojave Desert about 13 seconds into a powered flight test when its twin tail booms suddenly deployed. Pilot Pete Siebold was thrown free of the wreckage and landed under parachute, battered and bruised but alive.
While Elon Musk’s lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force has dominated the headlines, another development with the potential to restructure the space industry has flown completely under the radar: a deepening relationship between Virgin Galactic and Google.
Overt the past month, Virgin Galactic conducted a series of Google Hangouts about its space tourism program in conjunction with the Google Science Fair. One hangout featured VG Vice President William Pomerantz and Richard Branson’s son, Sam; a second had three engineers live from The Spaceship Company’s FAITH hangar in Mojave, Calif; and a third featured two ticket holders who will be aboard future SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism flights.
Clark Lindsey over at New Space Watch reports on the following rumor from Silicon Valley:
NSG Analysts have heard from several usually reliable industry sources that a major company, possibly “Google or Facebook,” could be announcing the launch of a very large constellation of satellites in the near future.
“Very large constellation” is defined as up to 1,600 small satellites. Based on information Parabolic Arc has received, the story seems to be true. Google appears to be pursuing a plan to provide global broadband services that is similar to a failed attempt by a company called Teledesic.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (September 26, 2012) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization now managing research on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, announced today that it is assuming management responsibility for the Facebook and Twitter social media accounts previously operated by NASA, starting October 1, 2012.
NASA, Booz Allen Hamilton find treasure in social networking Computer World
â€œExplore these [social networking] technologies because the Gen Y kids are probably right,â€ says Chris Howard, vice president and research directory for the Burton Group. If history is any indication, social networking could become the next instant messaging, which grew from a teen-girl chat service into a core element of corporate unified communication systems.â€œYou have to focus on the business value and de-emphasize the cool factor,â€ Howard said Thursday at the annual Burton Group Catalyst Conference.