back to article So, that's cheerio the nou to Dundee Satellite Receiving Station: Over 40 years of service axed for the sake of £338,000

While the UK government has been trumpeting Blighty's ambitions in the great beyond, a little bit of Scottish satellite infrastructure will close its doors for the last time this month. Following a decision last year by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to cut funding for the facility, the University of Dundee …

  1. MAF
    Mushroom

    New Reg unit?

    That's about the retirement pension of 3 MP (just saying)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: New Reg unit?

      One 1 if you consider support staff they have (normally at least one relative).

  2. ridley

    40 Students

    Just get another 40 students across the University curricula. Sorted.

    Of corse thinking of Students as cash cows makes me sad for what has become of the university system.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 40 Students

      Good idea!

      Maybe they could do something like a 3-4 year electronics degree making use of something interesting and unique to Dundee and that might attract, say, 10-15 students per year? Any ideas?

      Oh bugger, its now closed...

    2. lybad

      Re: 40 Students

      Just in case you don't know - Scottish and EU (but not rest of UK) students do not pay tuition fees in Scotland. So it would need to be English, Welsh or Northern Irish students, or non EU citizens to top up that income.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 40 Students

        Scottish and EU (but not rest of UK) students do not pay tuition fees in Scotland.

        They are not educated for free - the Scottish government cover their fees. So one way or another, skulls mean money (not, as one might assume, brains).

        1. lybad

          Re: 40 Students

          I'm well aware of that - however, iirc, the Scottish Govt pay less than £2000 per year per student to the Universities, whereas they can charge £9000(+?) for RUK and non-EU students.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 40 Students

            Thanks - had no idea there was such a difference in funding per student.

          2. Dal90

            Re: 40 Students

            >the Scottish Govt pay less than £2000 per year per student to the Universities, whereas they can charge £9000(+?) for RUK and non-EU students.

            Bugger...

            Connecticut, USA:

            *Community College* which is the lowest cost, usually non-residential (i.e. live at home), tier average tuition is $5200 per student in tuition PLUS $14.000 in taxpayer money.

            Our public research university on par with Dundee the tuition and mandatory fees for state residents are $13,000/year on top of the state taxpayer subsidies. Add another $12,000 for room and board if you want to live on campus, thought quick googling Dundee that looks to be about the same for what the list as "living expenses" near the campus.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: 40 Students

              Alas, the US has had to slash funding for higher ed in order to pay for the Eternal Global War on Everything.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 40 Students

              Our public research university on par with Dundee the tuition and mandatory fees for state residents are $13,000/year on top of the state taxpayer subsidies. Add another $12,000 for room and board if you want to live on campus, thought quick googling Dundee that looks to be about the same for what the list as "living expenses" near the campus.

              * * * *

              The US has always seemed expensive to me in that regard.

              Curious, I looked up my old school, and tuition runs about $7,000 a year for locals and more like $50K a year for international students.

              On the other hand, Dundee comes in at about #300 in the world, as opposed to in the top 50. I'm not sure it matters, but not sure it doesn't. YMMV.

  3. IDoNotThinkSo

    Pity - although these days the images are all available elsewhere.

    The login to their website is, however, my oldest active internet account. I've not changed the password for about 25 years. :-)

    1. CountCadaver Bronze badge

      The university cut mine off about 5 years after I left, up until then my applied computing email address still worked, was nice to be kept in the loop about what the dept was doing.

    2. gnwiii

      images are all available elsewhere -- until something breaks

      No ground station is 100% reliable. The NASA direct download mailing list sometimes has requests for missed data.

  4. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Not sure if the Muirhead Fax machine would have dated from the first half of the century - according to the history, Alexander Muirhead didn't build a demonstration FAX machine until 1947 ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Presumably not this Alexander Muirhead who died in 1920 then? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Muirhead

  5. lafnlab
    Holmes

    Budgetary constratints

    With Brexit looming, it's only a matter of time before Downing Street puts the ghost of Ron Obvious in charge of the space program. Obvious, known for his attempts at jumping across the English Channel and at running to Mercury, is sure to bring much-needed enthusiasm to the troubled Space Agency.

    Sherlock, because Obvious.

  6. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    > The decision also seems perverse in light of predictions that Scotland's space sector could be worth £4bn by 2030

    Don't mix up dreams (free) and expenses (cost £££).

    Prestige projects are only proper as long as someone else pays for them, else they just cut into what you could put into your own pocket.

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Don't mix up dreams (free) and expenses (cost £££).

      Stop calling them dreams and start calling them advertising and it's sorted or at least a lot easier to justify in the minds of some people.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Headmaster

        @Robert Helpmann

        Not advertising--MARKETING!!! :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh money is available for space work, just not for Dundee it seems:

      "Lockheed Martin will receive £23.5 million ($31.1 million) and Orbex will get £5.5 million ($7.3 million) from the U.K. Space Agency to advance work on their launcher programs."

      https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/07/16/scotland-site-selected-as-launch-base-for-lockheed-martin-orbex/

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice history, but sometimes you just gotta let go...

      As far as I remember, keeping the Muirhead machines going was not so difficult as they got something like 4 or 5 machines originally, and for a while ran 2 and cannibalised the others for mechanical bits.

      The biggest issue was the light source as originally it was a galvanometer-style cell with a tapered aperture to deflect the light from a filament lamp and so modulate the brightness (with gamma correction for the photographic paper's sensitivity). Replacing that was difficult as at the time LEDs were not really available with the intensity and short wavelength needed for normal photographic paper, so instead "glow modulators" were used. There were cold cathode valves that gave off a modest amount of blue-violet-ish light and so could be used for exposing the paper, but needed a current drive for a few/tens of mA but with some 100-200V capability to get them going.

  8. tiggity Silver badge

    small change

    I wonder how much gets spent on glossy uni promotional materials (be that paper, online, video etc)

    Article already mentioned the top paper shufflers salaries (not forbetting golden handshakes, pension pots)

    Dundee head honcho has buisness (and China relations) in their background, so a bit of short termism like cutting the satellite data processing (as data can be done elsewhere and regarding the unit purely as a lossmaker instead of something that adds prestige and hidden addes value) will come naturally .

    1. lybad

      Re: small change

      The current principal only started at the University in January - you would think that the decisions around this would have been taken before then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: small change

        The decision could well have been taken long before then, but the staff of the DSRS were not told of that until 13th March.

        AC - well obvious...

  9. knarf

    Dundee space and Titan

    I worked for a company in Dundee, that done microwave coms bits for space and telecoms, they have sent bits to Titan, Mars and other places. But that relies on having a skilled enough workforce with practical and theoretical experience.

  10. Alister Silver badge

    Let's not forget that it's not that long ago that the British Science and Technology Facilities Council were going to withdraw their funding for Jodrell Bank, which would have probably led to its closure.

    It seems that whether it be the English, Scottish or Welsh governments, they really don't understand the benefits of science and technology, and only look at the short-term costs.

    I mean, £338,000. It's a rounding error in an MP's expenses claim, isn't it?

    It doesn't sound like the uni really tried hard to find alternative funding.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It doesn't sound like the uni really tried hard to find alternative funding.

      They (as an institution) did nothing to find alternative funding. Instead the staff (who are all engineers, not business folk) were given that task. Also it might have been futile anyway, as there were a number of aspects that suggested top brass' minds were made up as soon as NERC pulled the plug.

      Some existing users of the data were already paying (if not eligible for NERC grants) and others had indicated their willingness to pay for the combination of reliable delivery (over 99.95% of passes were successfully taken in the year), timely delivery (essential for services like fire or flood risk monitoring, etc.), and having multiple satellites all from the same easy-to-use site. So really the station was closed for the risk of it being £50k short or thereabouts.

      Also it is worth noting the university talks of internal re-deployment of the staff, but in fact not a single person has been offered an interview via the internal process, let alone a job!

      AC for obvious reasons!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Also a university that turned out a lot of good computing grads, had an industry board to guide the course and yet did nothing to assist graduates into work, not even by approaching their industry board to discuss what skills they really wanted from graduates but weren't seeing.

        "no thats not the kind of thing we would do" "you come here for the experience not to help you find a job"

        The former art college is now chock ablock with massive class sizes, little or no contact with teaching staff and requires students be in 9-5 5 or more days a week as they are seemingly terrified the university will shut them down (it also encompasses architecture, product design and other useful stuff and one of their buildings is listed)

        Its all going to hell in a handbasket at under grad level from what I hear, very much cost of everything, value of nothing.

    2. MarthaFarqhar

      I believe its worth 205.47112462 duck houses at MP expenses rates.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You can get a degree in history or classical literature without needing Jodrell Bank. Even if you are a complete Jodrell Banker.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        STEM Education is Expensive

        Degrees in Art History (for example) are cheap by comparison.

        Uni's in Scotland have been cutting whole Science departments for several decades.

        From Memory, Edinburgh Uni flushed its Chemistry department down the drain around 2000 (give or take 5 years).

        1. Hugh Pumphrey

          Re: STEM Education is Expensive

          "Edinburgh Uni flushed its Chemistry department down the drain around 2000 (give or take 5 years)."

          We did? What, then, is that big building across the street from here which has suspicious smells coming out of it?

          1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: suspicious smells

            The students union?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: STEM Education is Expensive

          "Uni's in Scotland have been cutting whole Science departments for several decades."

          That sounds just... wrong, in so many ways.

          A flight back to the 15th century, before this science stuff started to happen and made the world complicated.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: if you are a complete Jodrell Banker.

        Speaking of which, how many weeks of a working year does it take for a Banker to pay themselves £338K or thereabouts?

        1. Matt Ryan

          Re: re: if you are a complete Jodrell Banker.

          Why would it matter? Are you proposing appropriating their earnings?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: why would it matter

            IF MPs expenses are relevant to this discussion, then why wouldn't banksters bonuses matter?

            I'm pretty sure there's historic evidence that a few days worth of bankster bonus would cover at least £half a milliion.

    4. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Coat

      I mean, £338,000. It's a rounding error in an MP's expenses claim, isn't it?

      I calculate it as about four and a half feet of HS2. A hundredth of the compensation paid to EuroTunnel for Chris Grayling being a wanker.

      The one with the 'Making Britain Great Again' hat in the pocket. Yes, the one with the 'Made In China' label.

  11. JJKing Silver badge
    Flame

    SAD!

    So little money for such a rich resource. What a tragedy.

  12. earl grey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    It's a shame

    sad, really.

  13. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Let them eat Dundee cake

    says the bean counters

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And yet....

    .... and yet the brexiters seem to be happy that brexit has so far cost us £65,000 million.

    https://costofbrexit.netlify.com/

    1. jacquesfrancis

      Re: And yet....

      Brexiter happy? Remoaner happy? Do you actually read the news?

    2. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      Re: And yet....

      "... laying the blame for the closure of the station firmly at the door of the agency and its decision to turn off the cash taps, and 'move a substantial part of its service from Scotland to Plymouth'."

      TBH, this line DID have me wondering... Didn't a majority of Scottish voters go for "remain"? could the initial government funding decision have had any "We want to keep this in our hands if that lot up north decide to split" component to it?

  15. Esme

    Crowdfunding?

    Heck, I have little understanding of finances, but that sounds like the sort of amount that might be raised by crowd-funding. And as noted, given the claimed desire to boost the UK's space industry, it seems insane to have closed this down for such a paltry amount given the huge amounts wasted on oh, I dunno, slightly faster trains and aircraft carriers that can't (yet), to name but two.

  16. CPU

    In the future

    We don't need this, once we have Brexit'd we can negotiate our own weather ¬_¬

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the future

      If anyone thinks that in ten years the UK will still be a major player in ESA they are deluded.

      For the past sixty years we have seen a steady decline in our capability in science, engineering and production. Don't worry though as I'm sure we can buy everything we need from the rest of the world, not sure how we'll pay for it though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In the future

        "I'm sure we can buy everything we need from the rest of the world"

        That was the belief around GEC HQ when Weinstock was on his decades-long investment strike. They didn't need to invest in people, products, technologies; they could put the money in the bank instead, and if push came to shove, use it to set up a Joint Venture with a company that had the skills but not the money. It had worked for decades, why would it not carry on working.

        "Not sure how we'll pay for it though."

        Why does it have to be paid for? Surely if the right accountants and auditors are on the job,,,

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NERC should bin off funding to PML.

  18. doug_bostrom

    The "hostile environment," pinch-purse beat-ups on disabled people, library closures, sackings of legions of police and other civil servants along with this particular degenerative event all seem to indicate a general loss of pride in the UK. Pretty much along the lines of not mowing the lawn at home, letting the paint on the walls of a home flake off, etc.

    These days, political leadership is an exercise in humiliation of constituents. Let no opportunity for embarrassment go untapped.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Good job the Tories announced austerity was over... any time now, I'm sure...

  19. Grinning Bandicoot

    Multidisplinary program

    Change the operation to one of a required internship and under the a little suffering improves the soul doctrine attach a fee. The lower division undergraduates do the scut work at the station. The upper division is privileged to perform ROUTINE maintenance on suitable equipment. Graduates do what all graduates do but add APPLIED SUPERVISION to the description as they will deal with the undergraduates and the post docs just carry on. Now the station has personal and janitorial taken care of, the accounting people will as their part of the multidisciplinary juggle the books to show a profit. Let's do a department check: Accounting, Management, and Electrical Engineering. We've now created a new program and one that might teach electrical design engineers not to put the most likely to fail component behind soldered in PC boards. Marking and Drama can get involved if public tours are offered.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A sad loss for Dundee. Where is the Scottish govt in all of this? I did my honours project in the lab on the top floor of the Ewing building. If I remember the staff were having great difficulty in persuading the Sun computer to read the data in real time - as it insisted on doing it's data checking routines - which slowed everything down

  21. Glenturret Single Malt

    Scottish pronunciation

    It is more likely that any Scotsman worth his salt would pronounce now as noo (rhyming with moo). See also coo (cow) and doo (dove/pigeon).

  22. Fat_Tony

    Crowdfunder open for this now - https://www.gofundme.com/f/dundee-satellite-receiving-station

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