Saturday, 13 December 2014

Twelve Years Ago

It's worth memorialising some of the trials and tribulations the FedSat team underwent when it came to building that bird.

Originally, the task was contracted to SIL - Space Innovations Limited
SIL is a space engineering company that specializes in the design and manufacture of satellite products, subsystems and complete small satellites, which generally weigh between 50 and 500 kilograms. This type of Earth orbiting satellite is often used for scientific and remote sensing applications. They could also form the basis of satellites for constellations similar to Teledesic, Globelstar and Iridium.
SIL recorded sales of approximately 745,000 U.K. pounds and profits of 20,800 U.K. pounds according to unaudited company records for the six-month period ended June 30, 1998. Based on current exchange rates, this is approximately $1.25 million in sales and approximately $35,000 in profits.
The wheels fell off though
Jan. 14, 2000 -- SpaceDev Inc. the world's first commercial space exploration and development company, and Space Innovations Limited (SIL), a wholly owned SpaceDev subsidiary in Newbury, England, today announced that SIL management has reacquired the company from SpaceDev. Commenting on the decision, SpaceDev Chairman Jim Benson stated: ``During the past year it became clear to the boards of SPDV and SIL that continued joint operations was not of sufficient long-term benefit to either firm, due primarily to the stringent U.S. State Department restrictions on the transfer of technology-related information implemented about a year ago. At times we found it difficult to discuss basic marketing strategies or product enhancement plans with our own employees.''
Professor Leonard Culhane, chairman of SIL, said: ``We all thought at the time that this acquisition would be synergistic and would benefit both firms, but the environment changed unexpectedly. We look forward now to assisting SpaceDev as a customer rather than one of its subsidiaries.''
In October 1998, SpaceDev acquired 100 percent of SIL via a stock-exchange agreement. The SIL acquisition was one of several strategic moves made by SpaceDev during the past 18 months to position it as a worldwide, integrated provider of affordable, reliable space missions involving small satellites. The decision to rescind the merger agreement was made final on Dec. 17, 1999. Terms of the amicable separation agreement include a re-exchange of common stock and Culhane relinquishing his seat on SpaceDev's board.

SIL found itself in very deep financial trouble. There were severe cash flow problems - they didn't have the money to complete the work they'd contracted to do. It was necessary that they get stuff out of the door, regardless of quality, just to get progress payments to keep the doors open. They could always remediate it later, after the immediate crisis had passed.

But not only did they cut corners, they tried to make the circles rounder. Components that would never have passed even the most basic Quality Assurance checks at the first stage of production went through to the end. What they produced and delivered wasn't just shoddy - it was junk.

What was delivered wasn't usually repairable. It was industrial waste. So we had to build the components ourselves, to SIL's design. You see, before they got into financial difficulties, they produced really good product, both in design and manufacture.

What you see there was made after they fired their highly talented team of competent staff, and got pretty much anyone present on site to attempt Rocket Science. Cleaners, Managers, Apprentices, Trained Monkeys for all I know. But not the SIL scientists who made the company what it had been - a by-word for excellent space engineering.


Anonymous said...

Government is controlled by the lobbyists with the money not common sense or quality. Get government out of technology and let the public vote with their money.

Global problems are because of countries too big to fail. We do not need spies in the sky.


Zoe Brain said...

SIL wasn't government - it was private industry.

FedSat had a Star Camera for navigation. It imaged constellations, recognised them, and from that deduced spacecraft orientation.

In terms of "spying", the only thing it could do was listen in to buoys in the world's oceans reporting recorded temperature, wave height, salinity etc and relay that to ground stations.

The Dept of Defence then used that capability to communicate securely with forces operating clandestinely. Recon, SASR etc.