Monthly Archives: February 2008

How How How?

Why is it so expensive to shoot down a spy satellite?
By Michelle Tsai

A missile fired from a Navy warship on Wednesday night shot down a U.S. spy satellite that had been malfunctioning 130 miles above the Earth. The price tag for the endeavor has been pegged at upward of $30 million and even as high as $60 million, depending on the news report. Why did it cost so much money to shoot one missile?

They needed to reprogram the weapons. Once the orders were given on Jan. 4 to destroy the satellite, the Department of Defense had just a few weeks to outfit two Navy cruisers—the USS Lake Erie and USS Decatur—with rejiggered Aegis defense systems and a total of three SM-3 missiles. Only one missile was fired on Wednesday, but the other two had to be ready, in case a second or third attempt was needed. Since each SM-3 missile costs $9.5 million, the tab for the munitions alone adds up to almost $30 million.

Customizing the Aegis system and missiles for the satellite mission was a major expense. The technologies were originally designed to intercept ballistic missiles using heat sensors, but the spy satellite was cooler in temperature. To account for this difference, the three SM-3’s needed new software, hardware, and sensors, and the launching systems had to be given new sensors and software updates. The bulk of this task would have been assigned to high-priced contractors—like Raytheon, the maker of the missile, or Lockheed Martin, maker of the Aegis system. And it would have taken a large crew of engineers to rewrite the code, debug it, and test it over and over again—all within three weeks. The stakes were also higher than they would be for a commercial software release, as the system had to work perfectly in a 10-second window; there was no opportunity to fix problems with software patches later on. (Before this week’s launch, the same anti-missile system had been successful on eight of 10 tries.)

Which begs the question, how did they manage this within the timeframe? What kind of software model did they follow? What was their internal structure to actually allow such things? Imagine this kind of productivity and quality within everyday software scenario! So many problems solved!

Facebook Banned

Facebook has been banned at my workplace. 😦

I don’t know what the obsession of companies Censorship board is, just because I cannot access Facebook or Orkut or YouTube, does that mean that I will be more productive? Or that I will concentrate more on my work? Will my work quality improve?

Previously it used to be that looking at a computer out of office was unheard of for me, except maybe for half-an-hour on weekends.

This used to not only provide a refreshing change but also help keep the eyes fresh, the mind clear and what-have-you.

Now that all my lunch entertainment sites are banned, what’s to say that I won’t go back home and plonk myself in front of the computer? Thus making myself even more tired.

One can argue that the onus is on the individual to manage his/her time and have some sense of discipline etc etc etc but when we spent almost 12 out of 24 hours in office, what harm is there spending 1 hour, or even 2, browsing; entertaining ourselves, and in the process learning something new?