Telesphere’s prototype Airship, will deliver 802.11b to laptops on the ground located within a 10-mile radius. During the demo, Sanswire intends to randomly deploy a series of laptop computers that will all be interconnected. The balloon-based platform will broadcast the demo live over the Internet from the company’s website on December 11th.
The unmanned Stratellite platform, which resembles a large round balloon, would be held stationary in the stratosphere at an altitude of 68,000 feet for up to 12 months. A hybrid electric system, driving large, slow -turning propellers, will be remotely controlled from tracking stations on the ground using technology patented by 21st Century Airships. The first production Stratellite is scheduled to be launched in 2004.
21st Century Airships, a research and development company based in Toronto, signed a multi-million dollar contract with Atlanta-based Telesphere Communications to send 10 of 21st Century Airships’ aircraft up to the stratosphere early in 2004.
Telesphere’s ‘Stratellite‘ intends to go after cellular, 3G mobile, MMDS, paging, fixed wireless and HDTV broadcasting markets. Flying 13 miles high, each Stratellite can cover up to 300,000 square miles. Balloon stationkeeping is the trick.
ATG (above), plans “Bladerunner” advertising balloons with possible wireless broadcasting. Flarion and Arraycomm might be better matches for these aerial platforms than the brain-dead ATSC standard.
Another balloon solution, Space Data, plans to ride piggyback on Weather Service balloons. Their wireless data collection system is not stationary. It will use disposable balloons traveling at 100,000 feet for store-and-forward data services. Space Data was the high bidder on more than 1.4 MHz in the 900 MHz band at the FCC’s most recent auction.
Other high-flying “hot spots” include Skytower which uses a solar-powered airplane. It has been used for 802.11b-enabled aerial photography. Skytower is designed to circle overhead, unmanned, for as long as six months, drawing power from the sun by day and from fuel cells by night.
Terrestrial cell towers cost up to $230,000 to build, and at least that much to wire up. Balloons and unmanned airplanes could expand the “footprint”. Focused beam antennas, like those developed by Vivato, promise to provide extended range for the unlicensed 802.11 band up to 4 miles.
Getting approval from both the FAA and the FCC may be ultimate trick.
Satellites aren’t getting cheaper. Yesterday, the world’s largest telecommunications satellite became trapped in a 109-mile-high orbit. A 2nd stage that would have boosted it into geosynch orbit malfuntioned trapping it in a useless low orbit. Insurance rates may have taken another hit as well.
The ASTRA-1K satellite was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, central Asia, using a Proton K rocket on Monday. The rocket’s second stage engine malfuntioned placing the communications satellite in a temporary low Earth orbit. Space.com reports it’s at least theoretically possible that the Astra-1K could be raised into a slightly higher orbit and survive. NASA’s space truck could be dispatched to rescue the satellite. Some observers have speculated that a similar rescue about 10 years ago, was more of a photo op for NASA’s shuttle, than a cost-effective salvage operation.
Providing heavy lift to the highest bidder, private launch companies are providing competition to government operations like NASA and ESA. The International Launch Services (ILS), is part owned by two Russian companies, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and RSC Energia, and the US company Lockheed Martin. Let’s hope ILS doesn’t screw up the Nimiq 2 launch this December. The high power satellite at 91 degrees West will feature 32 active Ku-band transponders with 120 watt power amplifiers, and features Ka-band spot beams that could (finally) may space-based internet access economically feasible.
Competitor Sea Launch is an international consortium involving Boeing’s Space division, RSC Energia, providing the Block DM-SL upper stage, launch vehicle integration and mission operations; SDO Yuzhnoye / PO Yuzhmash, providing the first two Zenit-3SL stages, launch vehicle integration support and mission operations; and Kvaerner, providing operational services of the launch platform Odyssey and assembly and command ship, Sea Launch Commander.
TDRS-J features the following capabilities:
- S-band Single Access: Two 15-foot diameter steerable antennas, used at the 2.0 to 2.3 GHz (gigahertz) band, supply robust communications to user satellites with smaller antennas and receive telemetry from expendable launch vehicles during launch.
- Ku-band Single Access: The same two antennas, operating from 13.7 to 15.0 GHz, provide higher bandwidth for user satellites, provide high-resolution digital television for Space Shuttle video communications and can quickly transfer large volumes of data from tape or solid-state data recorders aboard “NASA scientific spacecraft” (quotes mine).
- Ka-band Single Access: This new higher-frequency service, which operates from 22.5 to 27.5 Gigahertz and increases data rate capabilities to 800 megabits per second, will provide communications for future missions requiring higher bandwidths such as multi-spectral instruments for Earth science applications.
- Multiple Access: This system is capable of receiving signals from five user spacecraft simultaneously at rates up to 3 megabits per second, while transmitting to a single user at up to 300 kilobits per second. The system operates using a phased-array antenna in the 2.0 to 2.3 GHz range.
Since the military is essentially calling the shots, the shuttle has been abandoned for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. Boeings new Delta 4 had its first successful launch earlier this week (Nov. 20th) and Lockheed’s Atlas 5 (SpaceDaily) first launched this summer. On November 28, Europe is scheduled to launch an improved version of Ariane 5 that will be capable of placing up to 10 tons of payload in geostationary transfer orbit. Top satellite companies may also use these heavy boosters although big satellites are fast becoming unfashionable. China’s first manned launch may be imminent.
The new homeland security department will require a massive global network. But transoceanic fiber is easily cut and the $800 million TDRS replenishment program with three satellites doesn’t have the bandwidth. Intercepted SIGINT data is reportedly transmitted to Earth on a 24 GHz downlink using narrow-beam antennas. But the frequency swaths allocated for links are less than consumers can get on cable television. More bandwidth is needed.
One might speculate that a secret optical/IR satellite network downlinked in Hawaii might be developed. The European Space Agency, not to be outdone, says they’re thinking of building miniaturised optical systems that fit onto a microchip. These optical networks might use optical CDMA which encodes each pulse,across a segment of wavelengths. The receiver uses a key to decode the signal and re-create the original pulse.
I can imagine the conversations between the AF and NASA; “Look, Dan, we can’t have this thing on the cover of SPIE Proceedings, okay? You’ll have to play by our rules”. Rogue aristrocracies will NOT enjoy this funny story about the NRO.
There’s big money in “defense”. In 2003, Northrop’s revenue may top $25 billion. Northrop wants to merge with TRW in a $6.5 billion stock deal making it the nation’s second-largest weapons maker behind Lockheed Martin.
More satellite information is available at Network Magazine, Lloyd Wood’s Satellite Constellations, The SkyREPORT, LyngSat Satellite Chart, Global VSAT Forum, Boeing Satellite Systems, Loral Skynet, PanAmSat and SES Americom.
Major Commercial Launch Services
| Launch Service Provider
|| Launch Site
|| Ariane 4
|| Kourou, French Guiana
| Ariane 5
|| Kourou, FG
| Boeing Satellite Systems
|| Cape Canaveral AS, FL & Vandenberg AFB, CA
| China Great Wall
|| Long March
| International Launch Services
|| Cape Canaveral AS, FL & Vandenberg AFB, CA
|| Baikonur, Khazakhstan
| Japan, Rocket System Corp
|| Tanegashima, Japan
| Orbital Sciences
|| Wallops Island Flight Facility, VA & Cape Canaveral CA
|| Modified Zenit
|| Pacific Ocean platform
| Yuzhnoe (Ukraine)
|| Zenit 2
|| Baikonut, Khazakhstan
Whether Spaceway will be The Coming Air Age is anybody’s guess.