Huge Internet Satellites Near Launch

The KA-SAT satellite, developed by Eutelsat, is expected to launch this November and may help close the digital divide in the UK with broadband access in rural areas. Soon afterward, the U.S. will get its own version, ViaSat-1.

“This will be the most powerful satellite in space,” said Guillaume Benoit, project manager at KA-SAT, at an event in Toulouse Thursday. “It offers 35 times more throughput than traditional KU-band satellites, and can fulfil a crucial role in meeting the broadband needs of some 30 million underserved EU citizens.”

Eutelsat’s KASAT (pdf), launching in the third quarter of 2010, will use the Ka band and offer 10 Mbps, using over 80 spotbeams. Eutelsat will locate KA-SAT at 13 degrees East where it will join three large HOT BIRD Kuband broadcasting satellites that form the world’s leading video neighbourhood.

Eutelsat’s “Tooway” broadband, recently launched in the UK, offers up to 2Mbit/s, via an existing satellite. It’s currently available using Ka-band capacity on Eutelsat’s HOT BIRD™ 6 satellite. KASAT is similar to ViaSat, and will offer the entire UK up to 10Mbit/s broadband.

Tooway, the firm that will offer the service to resellers, expects a basic packages for emailing, browsing and some uploading, will retail at around €30 (£25), with higher level packages for business users and firms. Tooway is also hoping to enter into partnerships with train and boat companies that could use the ubiquitous nature of a certain spot beam to provide broadband on the move.

Meanwhile, in the United States, WildBlue currently delivers satellite internet access to nearly 400,000 customers. It is accessible to virtually every home and small business in the contiguous U.S., including the estimated 20-25 million homes and small offices that are not wired for terrestrial (DSL or cable modem) service. Wildblue was acquired by ViaSat last year.

ViaSat-1 is expected to have more capacity than the combination of all other satellites in operation over the United States, providing 2-10 Mbps download speeds at retail prices competitive with terrestrial services, says the company. ViaSat-1 is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2011.

Some $6.39 billion in the stimulus bill will be targeted for broadband and administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.

Northern Sky Research, a research firm, believes new satellite technology will revolutionize the market. High Throughput Satellites (HTS) and the upcoming O3b program, which brings backhaul to remote cellular towers, will dramatically cut bandwidth costs in targeted service areas. In total, NSR projects that satellite backhaul equipment and services will grow from an estimated $316.6 million in revenues in 2009 to $583.4 million by 2019, yielding total revenues of close to $4.8 billion over an 11-year period.

In other satellite news, Intelsat’s Galaxy 15 satellite experienced an anomaly on 5 April 2010 and became an out of control “Zombie satellite”, running wild on the geosynchrounous track. The G-15 satellite, originally located at 133° West Longitude, primarily provided transmission capacity for cable programmers in North America.

The out-of-control Galaxy 15 will pass near three more orbiting platforms before it loses power in late August or early September, putting an end to the zombie satellite’s menacing tour of the geostationary arc, says Spaceflight Now. Since navigating around AMC 11 without incident, it approached a cluster of four Intelsat-owned satellites. The wayward craft passed by Galaxy 13 with no problems earlier this month and will approach Galaxy 14 today.

The story from Intelsat is that a solar flare in April left Galaxy 15’s C-band antennas still turned on, but the satellite without ground control. The satellite continues blaring powerful communications signals that could interfere with operational satellites. Intelsat’s Galaxy 18 and Galaxy 23 satellites will be in the crosshairs of Galaxy 15 in August as the stray craft continues its march east.

Traffic on the satellite was transitioned to Intelsat’s Galaxy 12 satellite, which is the designated in-orbit spare for the North American region.

Orbital’s bottom line was hit with $2.5 million in unexpected costs from the Galaxy 15 mishap, and the company expects to spend another $1 million on the issue in the next three months, according to Garrett Pierce, vice chairman and chief financial officer.

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Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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