Thursday, November 29, 2007

And we wonder why governments get poor value for our money.

I always like to read upon satellite stuff. Being a bit of a techie I like to think we will actually make it into space and take our pioneer spirit to the stars. If we still have one at this point of course and to the stars actually just means our star but other planets. Of course while most of those with the spirit to do this are still forced to pay for those who can't be bothered we will never make any progress.

Anyway back to the space stuff. I have many times believed that some things have no tangible benefits but are simply preparing the building block for things that do show tangible asserts. Look at the many items we have discovered whilst searching for items for the US space programme. Microwave Ovens, Velcro, religious cults. The list goes on. However I have never before heard that the second one down this route has the same sort of discoveries. They tend to come out from the first explorers. After all, what did the second team into Tutankhamen's tomb discover that was outstanding. They just added little bits to the first lots documentation. A team composed of a totally different type of person.

Now I thought of this when I read that Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) have been talking to the press. They are going to be the second going into the Global Positioning market. Already there are millions of sat nav units out there all connected up the the US GPS for free. We already have all the software and hardware to interact with this and all the little discoveries made along the way have already been done. So there will be no new markets created for the EU version. Despite what our socialist masters teach us it's the winners that take it all. In it's height of power Russia didn't come out with many advances. They were all ways chasing the US and only really stayed where they were because they had plenty of spies to help them.

So when SSTL have always maintained that once the system becomes even partially operational, the benefits will be obvious. I have to question that. I think we can quantify the benefits now.
1) SSTL are going to make a load of dosh.
2) The EU have control over their own system for their own uses.
3) The EU can control the market for EU devices.
4) The EU can legislate for the sole use of the EU GPS within the EU. thus making 2 & 3 worth something.

Well its not just SSTL that are going to make money out of this. It will open up competition? How is it going to do that? There are a finite number of satellites and a finite number of people able to make them. So money in the coffers for anyone with an existing interest.

The control over their own system is an illusion at best. If you think about it. The US assert can be tuned down by the US sure. But it is still good enough for our commercial use. The only issue is battlefield use and do we really think the US is going to degrade it's system and allow ours to function in it's place. The EU satellites will be destroyed or jammed if it became necessary. And we know the US's version of necessary isn't the same as ours.

But one thing does worry me a little. When you roll out something like this you eventually need a good reason to justify the spend of all this money. The obvious reasons will make an appearance soon and I suspect that it will be our traffic toll system leading the way. Which will actually mean that when we get down to it the UK will be required to fund most of this white elephant.

When someone won't explain what the benefits are in a few words they are either hiding something, lying or they are stupid. SSTL is not stupid and in this day and age they need to be careful about lying. The time is not right from the plebs to be told what the main use of this will be and who will be paying the bulk of it. Once all is committed it will be.

In the meantime this system is being specified to be able to handle our requirements for the next million years. These guys have never heard of phase 1 and so on. Of course they can't get any private company to invest in this. They are not stupid they know that at the end we will have some very highly specified satellites floating around which won't work properly and will have come in well over budget and nobody except the government wants to use. So they wont do it themselves they want it funded by the government in which case their profits are guaranteed and they won't be left holding the baby so to speak.

Yet more money down a black hole. Money that need not be spent and money that is ultimately going to be wasted.


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