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A planned Hacker Satellite System would fight Web censorship, reports the BBC. The group wants to send their own satellites into orbit, which will be open and free from Internet censorship. The project’s organizers said the Hackerspace Global Grid will also involve developing a grid of ground stations to track and communicate with the satellites.

Longer term they hope to help put an amateur astronaut on the moon.

The trio behind HGG—Germany-based Armin Bauer, Andreas Horning, and a hacker known as hadez—started work on the project after an August gathering of the Chaos Computer Club. He and his teammates are working on their part of the project together with Constellation, an existing German aerospace research initiative that mostly interlinks student projects using BOINC (Berkeley Open Interface for Network Computing), which is open-source software for volunteer computing and grid computing.

We want to understand, build and make available satellite-based communication for the hackerspace community and all of mankind,” HGG said on its Web site.

Of course, Amsat, the Amateur Radio Satellite organization, Surrey Satellite, a spin-off company of the University of Surrey, now fully owned by EADS Astrium, and CubeSat, a miniaturized satellite with a volume of exactly one liter (100 mm cube), have been working on similar projects. The UK’s STRaND-1 team will launch a Google Nexus phone in space this year — and sponsored a contest for Android apps in space.

AMSAT (news bulletins) has been a pioneer in low-cost satellites. Their Phase 3 satellites will use a highly elliptical (Molniya) orbit for longer dwell times.

The AAUSAT3 Cubesat mission, which is exploring vessel-tracking AIS, uses the Cubesat Space Protocol based on a 32-bit header containing both network and transport layer information.

AMSAT’s ARISSat-1 satellite, a nanosat, was hand launched on 12 April 2011 from the International Space Station. It contains a software defined radio and experiments built by students, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the world’s first manned space flight, by Yuri Gagarin on 12 April 1961.

But ARISSat-1, with a vessel-tracking AIS transponder on board, is rapidly loosing altitude which will result in the satellite burning up in the atmosphere in the next few days or weeks.

Orbcomm says their replacement VesselSat2 AIS satellite is ready to go. LuxSpace shipped the satellite to the China’s Tiayuan Satellite Launch Center for launch date on January 10, 2012. Orbcomm is a global satellite data communications company focused on two-way data communications (no voice).

Each Orbcomm satellite is equipped with VHF and UHF radios capable of operation in the 137.0-150.05 MHz and the 400.075-400.125 MHz bands. It relays data from remote sites and can remotely track assets.

Surrey Satellite in the UK plans to use Google’s Android operating system to control a 30cm-long satellite and take pictures of the Earth in a mission later this year. The mission is known as STRaND-1 will use a more or less off the shelf Android phone to precisely point and maneuver the satellite.

SSTL’s Shaun Kenyon, Project Manager for STRaND-1 said the 4 kilogram nano-satellite includes a smartphone avionics suite, advanced guidance, navigation and control systems.

The STRaND-1 team launched a SpaceApp Facebook competition that offered entrants the chance to run their App on the satellite’s Google Nexus One smartphone in orbit.

All Apps for STRaND-1 are now in development as the satellite is nearing the launch, planned for the beginning of 2012.

The satellite also has miniature reaction wheels, a GPS receiver, as well as innovative pulse plasma thrusters to propel it through space. The whole satellite costs less than a family car.

So many Cubsat projects are underway, it is hard to keep track of them all. Here’s a partial list, and a link to cubesat operational status.

You don’t need to be an aerospace engineer to see that a 20 KHz channel, commonly used on VHF amateur radio spectrum, is not going to cut it for broadband communications. WiFi uses 20 MHz channels (1000 times as wide), in the 2.4 or 5 GHz band. The Ka-band (in the 20/30 GHz band), often used for communications satellites, uses channels that are more than 60 MHz wide.

HYLAS-1 is a small geostationary communications satellite from ESA, intended to lower the cost per MHz cost of satellite bandwidth and end user equipment. ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) is providing the satellite platform. Alphasat, developed with Inmarsat and contractor Astrium, and HAG-1, developed with Hispasat and contractor OHB are other public/private ventures.

A highly elliptical Molniya orbit, like TacSat4, lowers the orbit, cost and latency, but requires constant handoff to other satellites.

TacSat-4 avoids the deadly Van Allen belt which killed GlobalStar’s transponders. Russia’s Molniya orbit Meridian spacecraft can link directly between two spots in the Northern Hemisphere, at 3.6GHz, an unlicensed band in the United States.

The planned O3B satellite network combines Medium Earth Orbit with the Ka band.

By the first half of 2013 O3b plans to launch a constellation of 8 satellites along the equator, but in Medium Earth Orbit. That means they are not stationary. O3B uses ten constantly moving beams to provide backhaul lock to cell towers. They hope to serve billions of users in remote areas of the world with inexpensive backhaul.

O3b is backed by SES and Google, among others and has announced a contract with ViaSat for the production and installation of Ka-band infrastructure.

MERCURY ELINT spacecraft are said to use a dish antenna about 312 feet in diameter.

Perhaps large antennas in space will make $20 wrist-watch size communications devices a reality. The world’s cheapest tablet, the $59 Indian Aakash, an Android tablet with a 2GB storage card and two USB ports, has already sold 1.4 million since going up for sale two weeks ago. Google plans to market a tablet in the next 6 months that may feature a 7″ WSVGA (600×1024) AMOLED display.

But the 60 ft reflector on TerreStar and even larger Lightsquared reflector didn’t set the world on fire.

Who will Occupy Space? Hopefully, it won’t be Radio Zeta.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Space-Based Vessel Tracking, AIS Space Race , Small Satellite Conference Celebrates 25 Years, Orbcomm’s Space-based AIS Fails, Shipboard AIS Fused with Radar, Arctic Technology

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