Technology Update September 2023

Written by Roger Horner


Written by Roger Horner


Roger Horner is the founder and CEO of e3 Systems since 1996. He has been a contributor for The Islander Magazine since 1997.

This month’s technology update brings you the highs and lows from the world of LEO and GEO satellites, as well as news that an AI-takeover ma

A start has been made by the White House to develop AI guidelines. 

Last month I mentioned in my column that mankind has created AI, so mankind should be able to control it. Happily, it looks as though this may happen, as the White House announced in July that the Biden administration had reached a voluntary agreement with seven leading companies building artificial intelligence products. This agreement establishes guidelines intended to ensure that the technology is developed safely.

“These commitments are real, and they’re concrete,” President Joe Biden said in comments to reporters. “They’re going to help the industry fulfil its fundamental obligation to Americans to develop safe, secure and trustworthy technologies that benefit society and uphold our values and our shared values.” The companies that sent leaders to the White House were Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI. The firms are all developing systems called large language models (LLMs) that will enable us to talk to our computers and they will talk back to us.

In a statement, OpenAI, which created ChatGPT said, “This process, coordinated by the White House, is an important step in advancing meaningful and effective AI governance, both in the U.S. and around the world.”

I decided to ask the ChatGPT service for a comment and was surprised to be told, “I apologise, but as my knowledge cut-off is September 2021, I am not aware of any specific AI safety guidelines deal being struck with the White House.” It sounds to me as if it is already being censored and is not allowed to comment. Maybe this is just a ruse to show it’s already happening?

What’s happened in the LEO and GEO space this last month?

Good news from Viasat! 

The existing Viasat-2 GEO service is, in our opinion, the best of the rest. Viasat announced a new pricing scheme that starts off slightly less than the Starlink 1TB service, with a bandwidth of 25-50Mbps. It is better than the Starlink service in that there is no data cap, and it includes guaranteed committed data. The service has a fixed amount of high bandwidth priority data. Once this fixed amount has been consumed, the service continues at the same speed, unless there is saturation of the network, which could result in slower speeds. Any speed reduction caused by saturation is unlikely now with so many Starlink users around, so this looks like a great deal.    

Viasat has had some bad news too.

As I reported in the June issue, Sharon Phillips, Director of e3 USA, was invited by Viasat Inc. to Kennedy Space Centre in April to watch the launch of the first of the new huge Viasat-3 satellites. It is the most powerful satellite ever built at 20KW, and the heaviest Viasat satellite ever launched, being 6 metric tons – that’s the same as an African elephant!

Since the launch, the satellite travelled to its orbit location and once there the satellite started the deployment of its main antenna. That’s when it all started going wrong.  

On July 12th, Viasat stated “an unexpected event” took place during the deployment of the large reflector on the satellite after its launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The reflector is a larger derivative of the James Webb Telescope’s mission-critical sunshade that successfully deployed last year.

Nothing further has been heard and it appears it’s non-recoverable, which caused Viasat’s share price to fall instantly by 20% on 12th July. There are now concerns about how the subsequent $7 billion insurance claim will affect the aerospace insurance market! Viasat have several other Viasat-3 satellites in build, so this malfunction may delay this expansion only for a year.

Amazon’s Project Kuiper LEO system faces yet another launch delay. 

Amazon’s Project Kuiper, the company’s competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink, is experiencing another delay in its launch schedule. The delay is due to an issue with the Vulcan Centaur, the rocket that will carry the prototype satellites into space. United Launch Alliance (ULA), Amazon’s partner on the project, announced that the rocket’s launch has been pushed back to late 2023 after an explosion occurred during a test in March. This means that Amazon’s planned inclusion of its first two Project Kuiper prototype satellites on the maiden launch will have to be postponed.

This is the second delay as these prototype satellites were due to be launched in late 2022. This delay may well mean Amazon will need to file for an extension to their deadline with the FCC to make half of the planned satellites operational by July 30th, 2026.

Rivada LEO update.

We had an update from Rivada last month. As I mentioned before, this constellation is fundamentally different to all others in that it will be “gateway less” and as a result it is not constrained by coverage. Connectivity will be uniform throughout, from the middle of the ocean to the middle of the desert to the middle of a big city.    

Their target is to have 300 satellites launched by the end of Q3 2026 but with Med, Atlantic and USA/Carib by end 2025. We think this will be a complement to Starlink as it would provide highly secure, point-to-point connectivity for the owners of large yachts.  

OneWeb Kymeta – one step at a time. 

We have probably installed the first of a couple of Kymeta Peregrine u8 LEO panels on a yacht. However as of the date of writing, we haven’t been able to activate them yet with the OneWeb service…

New features we have introduced to support Starlink. 

We have had several yachts using the Starlink bandwidth for streaming video but are not having a great IPTV experience using unreliable VPNs. Keep your eyes open for a new product that we will be launching to complement Starlink, which will provide a native connection to a selection of countries worldwide.  

Over the last months we have upgraded the networks on a larger than expected number of yachts so that they can use the bandwidth provided by Starlink throughout the vessel. We have seen older networks throttle the bandwidth down to 20-40Mbps from the 250+Mbps provided by Starlink due to bottlenecks in the system.

Starlink started charging for all data used above the data cap of the plan in July. As an Authorised Starlink Reseller this transition went smoothly, as we had already setup an automatic warning in our client portal my.e3s, which informs our Starlink Clients when they are nearing the threshold of their plan and heading into overage. If they elected to go into overage, then we automatically let them know the amount of dollars they are running over by. Our clients have reported that they find this service extremely useful.

We have been contacted by several users this last month who have purchased direct from Starlink and have had problems paying by credit card. If you have any issues with this that you can’t resolve, we can help so please contact us.

SpaceX tests its Starship Water Deluge Flame Deflector.  

SpaceX completed the first full-throttle test of its water deluge system at Starbase at the end of July, setting the stage for a super heavy booster static fire on the new system before the next test of the huge Starship rocket.

The system is a water-cooled steel plate, which is installed underneath Starship’s orbital launch mount (OLM) to diffuse the energy from 33 Raptor engines. The rocket’s first orbital launch attempt this spring caused serious damage to the pad and scattered debris for miles. 

This is the ultimate case of water vs fire!

y not be as imminent as some feared. 


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