How Much Money Does NASA Spend?

Right up front, I admit I am a fan of the US Space Program (see info on working the International Space Station on 2M FM). This does not mean that I think NASA always spends the taxpayer’s money effectively,but I basically support the US Government spending money on space exploration. Thus, my interest was snagged by a recent survey that shows the American public is clueless about how much money NASA spends. The question posed was what portion of the national budget is allocated to NASA?

According to The Space Review:

NASA’s allocation, on average, was estimated to be approximately 24% of the national budget (the NASA allocation in 2007 was approximately 0.58% of the budget.)

I wonder how I would have answered the question. I probably would have gotten it wrong but would have put NASA’s budget in the one to two percent category.

Even more telling is this item from The Space Review:

In October of 2006, on the 49th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, CBS News anchor Katie Couric summarized this attitude when she concluded her nightly broadcast by saying, “NASA’s requested budget for 2007 is nearly $17 billion. There are some who argue that money would be better spent on solid ground, for medical research, social programs or in finding solutions to poverty, hunger and homelessness… I can’t help but wonder what all that money could do for people right here on planet Earth.”

Thanks, Katie…that is really insightful reporting (NOT). The NASA budget is roundoff error in the federal budget, so it will not make the difference in solving poverty and homelessness. I think the basic problem is that when the dollars get above about about $100M, the general public can’t really comprehend the number. They just lose track of the relative magnitude since it is so freaking big. You might as well be saying “we are spending a bazillion gazillion dollars” on NASA. While $1 trillion is 1000 times bigger than $1Billion, it all pretty much sounds the same.

I think there should be a short math quiz at the voting booth….otherwise, we’ll end up with people voting on stuff that they are incapable of understanding. Uh, oh, too late.

73, Bob K0NR

Motorola, Yaesu (Vertex), Kenwood and ICOM

The amateur radio community has been buzzing about Motorola’s purchase of Yaesu. Actually, the deal is structured as a joint venture with Mot owning 80% of Vertex Standard (Yaesu is the marketing name for Vertex ham products.) The speculation is running wild on and other forums about what this means. As usual, these opinions are mostly bull hockey speculation… worth about what you paid for it.

This caused me to dig into the numbers behind this deal. How big is Vertex and how much of that is amateur radio? The total purchase price for 80% of the shares will be approximately ¥12.3 billion (or about US $108 million). From a PRNewswire report, Vertex sales for the fiscal year ending March 2007 were approximately ¥21.98 billion or $192.8 million. On the Vertex web site, I found a breakout of their revenues by product type: 27% ham radio, 70% land mobile and 3% data terminal. This means their ham radio sales are about $52M annually. A look at Kenwood’s 2007 Annual Report reveals that their Communications Equipment Business is about 36% of their total business, or $514M. The Communications Equipment Business includes Land Mobile Radio, Amateur Radio and some consumer wireless devices. I did not find the amateur radio number broken out separately. It is interesting that Kenwood’s annual report emphasizes their Land Mobile business and claims they are #2 in market share in that business. (I assume Mot is #1.) ICOM’s 2007 Annual Report shows their annual sales at $263.5M, almost all in the category of “Radio”. Just like Kenwood and Vertex, ICOM sells radio equipment to both the land mobile and the amateur radio markets. I can’t conclude from the data the specific amateur radio market share for these companies. However, if we look at the combined amateur+land mobile markets, these companies look like this:

  • Vertex: $192.8M
  • Kenwood: $514M
  • ICOM: $263.5M

This is probably not a true “apples to apples” comparison, but it gives a rough feel for the relative size of these businesses. If we assume that Vertex is representative of these companies, then we see that the land mobile business is over twice the size of the amateur business. Not a surprise.

What does this mean for Motorola and Vertex? Hard to say, really. The main conclusion for me is that the land mobile market is the dominate business, with amateur radio playing the role of “little sister.” The amateur radio portion of Vertex probably lives or dies based on its profitability and how well it can leverage the land mobile R&D investment.

73, Bob K0NR

BPL Provider Ambient Gets FCC Hand Slap

I guess things must be a bit slow at the FCC Enforcement Bureau this month. They finally got around to responding to the complaints about Ambient’s Briarcliff Manor, NY BPL (Broadband Over Powerline) system. It seems that the FCC has concluded that Ambient has “violated the radiated emission limits of Section 15.109 of the Commission’s Rules”.

You can view the complete FCC letter at

Let’s see…the ARRL first filed a complaint via a letter to the FCC on March 29, 2006. Various hams had filed complaints long before this date. I suppose that the FCC has been rather busy and hasn’t had time to actually do its job of enforcing its own regulations.

OK, so Ambient is clearly violating FCC rules. What’s next?

73, Bob K0NR

FCC Reports on Broadband

From the ARRL web page:

FCC Releases Broadband Report (Nov 5, 2007) — The FCC has released their latest report summarizing the state of broadband in the US as of December 2006. It shows that in December 2006, Internet-access BPL has increased slightly over December 2005, but also shows that it has been decreasing slightly from a peak that occurred sometime around mid-2006. According to the report, BPL ended up with a deployment total of 0.006 percent of the total broadband lines in the US, compared to 0.011 percent at the end of December 2005.

OK, let’s just see how BPL is doing in terms of adoption. Here are the number of BPL subscribers listed in the report:

June 2005: 4872
December 2005: 4571
June 2006: 5208
December 2006: 4776

So in the last six months of the study, BPL actually declined in use while the other broadband technologies increased by 17 million. See Slow Death for Broadband Over Powerline.

73, Bob K0NR