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posted by martyb on Saturday March 21 2020, @07:35AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the But-it's-only-$2-milllion-per-week! dept.

NASA spent a decade and nearly $1 billion for a single launch tower:

"NASA exacerbated these issues by accepting unproven and untested designs."

A new report published Tuesday by NASA's inspector general looks into the development of a mobile launch tower for the agency's Space Launch System rocket.

The analysis finds that the total cost of constructing and modifying the structure, known as Mobile Launcher-1, is "at least" $927 million. This includes the original $234 million development cost to build the tower to support the Ares I rocket.

After this rocket was canceled in 2010, NASA then spent an additional $693 million to redesign and modify the structure for the SLS rocket. Notably, NASA's original estimate for modifying the launch tower was just $54 million, according to the report by Inspector General Paul Martin.

<no-sarcasm>
Does NASA understand what a sunk cost is?
</no-sarcasm>

Related: NASA to Launch 247 Petabytes of Data Into AWS - but Forgot About Egress Costs


Original Submission

Related Stories

NASA to Launch 247 Petabytes of Data Into AWS - but Forgot About Egress Costs 36 comments

NASA to launch 247 petabytes of data into AWS – but forgot about eye-watering cloudy egress costs before lift-off

Audit finds that error could actually mean less data flows to boffins because space agency may not be able to afford downloads

NASA needs 215 more petabytes of storage by the year 2025, and expects Amazon Web Services to provide the bulk of that capacity. However, the space agency didn't realize this would cost it plenty in cloud egress charges. As in, it will have to pay as scientists download its data.

That omission alone has left NASA's cloud strategy pointing at the ground rather than at the heavens.

The data in question will come from NASA's Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) program, which collects information from the many missions that observe our planet. NASA makes those readings available through the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS).

To store all the data and run EOSDIS, NASA operates a dozen Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) that provide pleasing redundancy. But NASA is tired of managing all that infrastructure, so in 2019, it picked AWS to host it all

[...] "Specifically, the agency faces the possibility of substantial cost increases for data egress from the cloud," the Inspector General's Office wrote, explaining that today NASA doesn't incur extra costs when users access data from its DAACs. "However, when end users download data from Earthdata Cloud, the agency, not the user, will be charged every time data is egressed.

How many petabytes is SLS worth, I wonder?


Original Submission

NASA Wants to Buy SLS Rockets at Half Price, Fly Them Into the 2050s 27 comments

NASA wants to buy SLS rockets at half price, fly them into the 2050s

NASA has asked the US aerospace industry how it would go about "maximizing the long-term efficiency and sustainability" of the Space Launch System rocket and its associated ground systems.

[...] In its request NASA says it would like to fly the SLS rocket for "30 years or more" as a national capability. Moreover, the agency wants the rocket to become a "sustainable and affordable system for moving humans and large cargo payloads to cislunar and deep-space destinations."

[...] Among the rocket's chief architects was then-Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who steered billions of dollars to Kennedy Space Center in his home state for upgraded ground systems equipment to support the rocket. Back in 2011, he proudly said the rocket would be delivered on time and on budget.

"This rocket is coming in at the cost of... not only what we estimated in the NASA Authorization act, but less," Nelson said at the time. "The cost of the rocket over a five- to six-year period in the NASA authorization bill was to be no more than $11.5 billion. This costs $10 billion for the rocket." Later, he went further, saying, "If we can't do a rocket for $11.5 billion, we ought to close up shop."

After more than 10 years, and more than $30 billion spent on the rocket and its ground systems, NASA has not closed up shop. Rather, Nelson has ascended to become the space agency's administrator.

Previously:


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @07:48AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @07:48AM (#973761)

    Meanwhile, the US military lost, literally, 3.4 Trillion in failed adventures in the Middle East, including pallets of cash for "allies". And anyone here dares to bitch about NASA spending? I hope you die in a corona.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:29AM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:29AM (#973781) Journal

      SLS is a Boeing and Lockheed Martin cash cow that will accomplish nothing of consequence in Earthican history. You might as well bomb some countries, the same companies will be getting that cash.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:29PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:29PM (#973966) Journal

      And anyone here dares to bitch about NASA spending

      There are plenty of reasons people could dare: foolishness, impotence of the target, etc. Here, it's just the right thing to do. It's the same evil that leads to those adventures you speak of, vast sums of our wealth and future spent to little purpose.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by canopic jug on Saturday March 21 2020, @09:01AM (17 children)

    by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 21 2020, @09:01AM (#973768) Journal

    Even though there are still quite a few skiled people lower down in the hierarchy, NASA, like most of the US, has been infected by that MBA mindset described above. It is mostly driven by ideology and not facts, figures, or logic. That is an unfortunate and inevitable followon from the war on science that Reagan started. That grew and shifted into a more general war on knowledge. Finally, after enough decades, that has mutated into a general war on skill and competence. The country needs to become the recipent of a Marshall-plan built around education to restore it. There is plenty of money, it is just ending up disappearing directly into a small number of pockets. Invest in the education once again and in a decade or three, the US will be in the top again. Fail to do that and it will succumb to the external and internal factors driving it into the dirt.

    People only ever seem to learn through example these days and about all they've seen time and time again are bad examples. They see over and over that people get tricked into software which is not fit for purpose but which they nonetheless continue to try to use because "it is what we have". The less it works the more money they throw into it, bleating all the while, "we have to work with what we've got". There are many examples there and some of the worst have included PeopleSoft, SAP, and most other ERP software, too.

    However, by far, the worst and most commonly encountered money pit is M$ software. Through the prevalence of the M$ unfit-for-purpose garbage, the idea has spread through society that is acceptable or even necessary to continue to throw good money after bad instead of adapting. That money is gone. Stop being stupid about it [lifehack.org]. Move on from that and fix the problem instead, and that means doing and using something different.

    --
    Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @09:51AM (13 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @09:51AM (#973771)

      "That is an unfortunate and inevitable followon from the war on science that Reagan started."

      Your biases are showing.

      The movement against competence and knowledge began with the idea "we're all equal" which really got pushed on us a couple decades *before* Reagan. You can thank Hollywood and the hippies for that.

      Not that I'm a fan of Reagan - everyone always forgets he gassed college students when he was governor of California and signed some pretty heinous anti-gun laws as president.

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by canopic jug on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:18AM (12 children)

        by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:18AM (#973774) Journal

        ... began with the idea "we're all equal" which really got pushed on us a couple decades *before* Reagan.

        I read what you are saying and disagree. Not only was your fossil, St. Reagan, not as old as you imply he is, unless he really was the shell he appeared to be, but the idea "we're all equal" got pushed on use a couple of millenia before Reagan:

        Galatians 3:28 - There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

        What Reagan did was different. In the single area where he led the way, he led the way in disparraging science and, through cutting funding, began to dismantle US world lead in science and education. That is well documented in both the budget cuts and the resulting declines in education and capabilities.

        --
        Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
        • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by NateMich on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:01AM (7 children)

          by NateMich (6662) on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:01AM (#973776)

          Why does everything have to end in a liberal vs. conservative argument?

          Look, NASA wasted tons on money on this program going through entire Republican and Democratic administrations. I'm convinced that as soon as a Democrat is in office again, they will be changing course again and wasting even more billions (maybe trillions) just trying to complete the SLS, or maybe just cancelling it altogether, who knows.

          • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Arik on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:25AM (6 children)

            by Arik (4543) on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:25AM (#973779) Journal
            "Why does everything have to end in a liberal vs. conservative argument?"

            Because you've swallowed some ideological poison, that makes you see things that way.

            What's liberal or conservative about criticising Reagan? Why would you assume there's a connection?

            He was neither liberal nor conservative, he was an empty vessel for Madison Avenue and Hollywood and Boeing.
            --
            If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
            • (Score: 2) by NateMich on Saturday March 21 2020, @12:14PM (5 children)

              by NateMich (6662) on Saturday March 21 2020, @12:14PM (#973794)

              "Why does everything have to end in a liberal vs. conservative argument?"

              Because you've swallowed some ideological poison, that makes you see things that way.

              Well, when I see an argument about cost overruns during the Obama and now Trump administrations, and then it's somehow being blamed on long dead Reagan for being anti-science, which I don't remember being one of the many things he was accused of at the time. But that was 30+ years ago and a very different time. Which is my point.

              Yeah, it's looking like a typical political blame game to me.

              • (Score: 5, Informative) by canopic jug on Saturday March 21 2020, @12:36PM (3 children)

                by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 21 2020, @12:36PM (#973799) Journal

                Read some history then. Reagan's administration was the watershed. Before Reagan, the US funded education and science quite generously as befitting the need. Up untill him, both were a high priority, and the US position in the world rose with the increased knowledge and capabilities. During Reagan's administration the cuts and ridicule started. They have continued since and increased, up to and including present day.

                If you want to drag this into a "blame game" then I will blame him for having blown up the space shuttle through his policies. Yes. I am still angry that Reagan's policies destroyed the Challenger and took the US out of the space race [globalresearch.ca]. That pretty much single handedly ended the planet's chance at space for at least two or three generations. No serious attempts at regaining those capabilities have been allowed [brainyquote.com] to be made, what with all the outsourcing and games of pork barrel politics.

                --
                Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
                • (Score: 2) by Captival on Saturday March 21 2020, @06:01PM (2 children)

                  by Captival (6866) on Saturday March 21 2020, @06:01PM (#973882)

                  So then why the fuck didn't the enlightened metropolitan forward-thinking Democrat geniuses who came after him restore NASA to their previous science-loving glory? Oh yeah, because they were much too busy doing more important things [realclearpolitics.com] with it.

                  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by canopic jug on Saturday March 21 2020, @06:44PM

                    by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 21 2020, @06:44PM (#973895) Journal

                    Don't pull that game about playing opposites. They aren't. While neither group has the best interests of their nation at heart, one of the groups causes far more damage than the other. The one group is in it for themselves and their lobbyists, the other appears to just be out to stir up shit, tear things down, and otherwise engage in sedition. I find that the seditionists are far more harmful and observe that over the years they have been able to block any forward progress regardless of who sits in the White House.

                    --
                    Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
                  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Sunday March 22 2020, @07:29AM

                    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Sunday March 22 2020, @07:29AM (#974051) Journal

                    Do you know why the US ran a surplus during Clinton's 2nd term? Neither really gave a damn about fiscal responsibility. The Republicans sought to cut government services in a lose-lose game in which they hurt themselves, and knew it, but they're okay with that as long as their perceived enemies are hurt worse. Also, it was dog whistling. By running a surplus, Clinton made their arguments hollow.

                    It's a big world with thousands of agendas. Lot more going on than science funding.

              • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Arik on Saturday March 21 2020, @12:43PM

                by Arik (4543) on Saturday March 21 2020, @12:43PM (#973803) Journal
                I don't think the comment laid all the blame on Reagan. The blame for what's happening now lays on those who are doing it now.

                But momentum is a thing, and Reagan was a likeable face to distract us from some major changes in momentum that occurred while he was in office.
                --
                If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @12:45PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @12:45PM (#973804)

          He's not my fossil. I didn't like him then and I don't like his legacy now.

          Also, pause for a moment and consider why you thought a religious quote was pertinent to the death of competency and knowledge. Or why it would carry any weight here, of all places.

          Behold the death of competence and knowledge, I call it...

          "Late-Stage Equality":

          https://gap.hks.harvard.edu/paradox-meritocracy-organizations [harvard.edu]

          https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_mantra_of_meritocracy [ssir.org]

          https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/12/meritocracy/418074/ [theatlantic.com]

          TLDR: Various reasons why these people believe meritocracy is a sexist/racist sham.

          When you replace merit-based policies with diversity nonsense, it's not just the death of, but the deliberate murder of competence and knowledge.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday March 22 2020, @12:32AM (2 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 22 2020, @12:32AM (#973976) Journal

          he led the way in disparraging science and, through cutting funding, began to dismantle US world lead in science and education.

          Have you actually looked at US funding of science and education? For example, the Department of Education increased spending from $3 billion a year at the end of 1980 (Reagan's chopping of that budget came after) to $20 billion at the end of 2017. That's not keeping up with GDP, but it is growing significantly faster than inflation over the same period. I don't have exact numbers for the 1980s, but public funding is moderately higher in 2017 than it was in 1980, even adjusted for inflation (looks like $10 billion a year in 1980 growing to $38 billion a year in 2015, with huge growth in private side research).

          The money is there. We should instead look at why the money isn't delivering the expected result. My take is that the whole public side system in the US is slowly growing more parasitic and less effective (and less interested) in delivering education and research. I'm not going to blame that on Reagan since it was decaying even before he came to power, and continued to decay after he left.

          • (Score: 2) by canopic jug on Monday March 23 2020, @06:03PM (1 child)

            by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 23 2020, @06:03PM (#974505) Journal

            Again, history countradicts that assertion. Here are some stats on the budget cuts to general education in the recent decade [neatoday.org]. These go back through Obama and Bush II and somewhat with Clinton and the GOP fighting about cutting further than Reagan had. Back in the day, Reagan aimed for a 30% cut out of educational capabilities for the US which was mitigated to only 10% damage as a "compromise". His real target was to just plain abolish the Department of Education.

            Nowadays, further proposed cuts are on the agenda [go.com] of the current administration.

            That is all intentional damage to the US and its future: it is shown again and again that education is an investment that returns many times over and, conversely, cost society more than is saved when it is cut back.

            --
            Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday March 23 2020, @06:36PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 23 2020, @06:36PM (#974518) Journal
              I notice a couple of interesting phrases in your linked article: "currently 17 states divert more than $1 billion per year to private schools" and "Vouchers exist in many forms, sucking untold billions of dollars from our public schools." So in other words, considerable educational spending is ignored because it doesn't go to the right recipients. And, of course, the story obsesses over Arizona, the only state in the United States. A quick glance shows that spending per pupil [ed.gov] in the US has gone up massively, contrary again to narrative.

              Back in the day, Reagan aimed for a 30% cut out of educational capabilities for the US which was mitigated to only 10% damage as a "compromise". His real target was to just plain abolish the Department of Education.

              Ignoring that eliminating the Department of Education was probably a really good idea, we see that there was no long term decline in spending for the Department of Education contrary to narrative.

              Once again, we're ignoring that we're spending more on education and getting progressively worse results. I would look at the people demanding more funding without demanding more accountability as the starting point for why this happened.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday March 23 2020, @04:42PM (2 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 23 2020, @04:42PM (#974476) Journal

      the prevalence of the M$ unfit-for-purpose garbage

      When I was young, I heard the saying "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM". I asked my boss to explain that one for me. The sales guy stepped up and explained it very well. "The project failed. But I bought IBM. Axiomatically, we couldn't have bought any better. So maybe there was just no way to actually computerize this operation."

      Maybe we now also have the phenomena . . . nobody ever got fired for buying Boeing.

      --
      Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
      • (Score: 2) by canopic jug on Monday March 23 2020, @06:09PM (1 child)

        by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 23 2020, @06:09PM (#974507) Journal

        Yes. It used to be that if you wanted to get any senior IT staff irate, all you had to do was just mention IBM. Recall that M$ learned most, but not all, of their dirty tricks from IBM before refining them and taking them to the next level. Back then, what IBM was doing was considered bad enough.

        Now even the idea of having an IT department is long gone. All that are left in their place, if there are any staff on site at all, are just packs of M$ resellers. The double bite is that the M$ resellers are on company payroll despite working actively against their ostensible employer on behalf of M$.

        --
        Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday March 23 2020, @07:36PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 23 2020, @07:36PM (#974549) Journal

          The double bite is that the M$ resellers are on company payroll despite working actively against their ostensible employer on behalf of M$.

          1. A "double byte" is called a "word". Thus: "the word is that . . ."

          ;-)

          2. M$ resellers are on company payroll despite working actively against their ostensible employer

          Yes. Remembering back to 1989. I was a lot younger. A coworker of that time, formerly worked at Boeing (remember 1980s) on military contracts told me a few stories. One was how IBM had a sales shop right in the department. If you needed anything related to a computer, the IBM shop and sales sharks are right there on your coat tails. I'm sure it was to ensure that taxpayers got the best value from their money.

          --
          Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by theluggage on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:50AM (7 children)

    by theluggage (1797) on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:50AM (#973786)

    Does NASA understand what a sunk cost is?

    Used that way, a meaningless buzzword used to sweep past mistakes under the carpet and help incoming managers justify "not invented here/new broom" policies without learning from past mistakes. So, probably, yes - that's part of the problem.

    Your 5 years of accumulated Moviepass subscriptions are certainly "sunk costs" (and were from day one) along with any processing fees you've sent to the former crown prince of Nigeria. That nearly-finished $100M bridge that just needs another $10M to become a valuable, working asset... well, you'd actually have to do some investigation into whether it was still needed and, if not, what the scrap value vs. demolition cost was etc. Or, of course, as incoming Vice President of Building Bridges you could just declare it a "sunk cost" and sell it to your nephew for $1... Thing is, to invoke "sunk costs" you need a well-researched evaluation (with no thumbs on the scales) of the potential value of the work to date (not just "can you get the cash back").

    In this case, NASA had spent $230M on building a launch tower for a rocket that got scrapped and got an estimate of $54M for adapting it to the new rocket (presumably vs. a 9-digit sum for junking what they'd done and starting from scratch). The problem was that $54M somehow spiralled up to $700M - but I very much doubt that was because of any "sunk cost" fallacy as opposed
    to political (NASAs job is to distribute government money to contractors who will lobby for us) and legal (if you cancel a large contract these days you are liable to be sued regardless of how justified you are, and it costs a fortune even to get a case laughed out of court) reasons.

    Also, if after dumping the contractor you still need a frigging launch tower who are you gonna call? It's not some commodity product that dozens of companies can compete for. The real elephant in the room is that these over-running projects are the result of a fundamental flaw in the tendering and subsequent management process for complex, non-routine projects: result - completely unworkable bids with unrealistically low prices and impossibly short timescales based on ignoring the advice from engineers that would have failed anyway even if the management didn't move the goalposts after the contract was signed.

    NB: From the wiki article "In other words, a sunk cost is a sum paid in the past that is no longer relevant to decisions about the future"... which excludes virtually all examples, even if the relevance is "don't do that again" - or, in this case, "fix your methods of predicting and managing the cost of projects!" - but, hey, no, that's hard and may involve difficult decisions and actually listening to those sweaty engineers and snobby scientists - better to write it off as "sunk costs" and pretend the past mistakes didn't happen.

    • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @03:59PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @03:59PM (#973856)

      How much is that in F-35s?

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday March 23 2020, @07:37PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 23 2020, @07:37PM (#974552) Journal

        A more useful currency comes in several denominations:

        * representatives
        * senators
        * judges

        Forger F-35s, how many senators is that worth?

        --
        Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
    • (Score: -1) by MyOpinion on Saturday March 21 2020, @06:27PM (4 children)

      by MyOpinion (6561) on Saturday March 21 2020, @06:27PM (#973887) Homepage Journal

      There is no "outer space": gas always expands into all available space, filling up its container entirely. Whatever "gravity" theory you come up with, and even in theory, cannot stick it to the outside of a ball against empty space, because gases expand into empty space. It is what they do, this is a fact of life, 100% verifiable 100% of the time.

      Yet, some men want to convince you that there is some "outer vacuum" where they venture to, conveniently have their cameras off most of the time, "losing signal" despite the "tens of thousands of satellites", and see the world we live in from a vantage point that is thermodynamically impossible to exist.

      I don't know what NASA do, if they are solely clowning around scamming you for more than $50 million a day, or if they actually do some work that they do not publicly disclose, but I surely know how gases behave because I can test and observe them all day long. And so can you.

      Cool story, "sphere worlds inside a vacuum", not a single shred of proof though. Pure fantasy.

      --
      Truth is like a Lion: you need not defend it; let it loose, and it defends itself. https://discord.gg/3FScNwc
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:00PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:00PM (#973941)

        Get coronavirus.

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday March 23 2020, @04:42PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 23 2020, @04:42PM (#974477) Journal

          No thanks.

          I'll wait until it goes on sale.

          --
          Calmly vote. Fill out your ballet and drop it in the ballet box. Don't dance around bothering the pole watchers.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @12:19AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @12:19AM (#973975)

        Hilarious! But how do you explain that the higher you go from the Earth's surface, the thinner the atmosphere is? Obviously some sort of evil scientist trick probably already debunked on facebook.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday March 22 2020, @12:39AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 22 2020, @12:39AM (#973977) Journal

        gas always expands into all available space, filling up its container entirely.

        It still remains that there's many orders of magnitude less dense gas in space than on the surface of Earth, and it has a vastly different composition, mostly of hydrogen and helium, some which is ionized.

        "losing signal" despite the "tens of thousands of satellites"

        There's a variety of reasons that happens, for example, passing over the limb/horizon of Earth so that communication needs to switch from one communication node to another, or reentering Earth in which case, the spacecraft is surrounded by relatively high density plasma (visible from the ground, I might add) which blocks communication via radio waves.

        Further, most of the "satellites" are bits of debris, unsuitable for any purpose, much less communication.

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