Commercial Space Goes Higher Rez

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket make a soft splashdown in the ocean after delivering six ORBCOMM OG2 satellites to space.

A newly released video shows a view of the splashdown, which took place on July 14, in the Atlantic Ocean, on Spaceflight.com.

The July 14 launch with six Orbcomm communications satellites showed video of key milestones in the descent, such as two ignitions of the first stage to slow down the rocket.

In other news, an Atlas 5 rocket carrying DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite, the most powerful Earth-imaging satellite yet for the commercial market, blasted off from California last Wednesday, by rocket-builder United Launch Alliance, a forced marriage between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

WorldView-3 features a state-of-the-art multi-spectral imaging system, a high-speed data downlink operating at 1.2 gigabits per second and control moment gyroscopes that will allow ground controllers to quickly re-orient the spacecraft for on-demand observations. From an altitude of nearly 400 miles it will be able to image the entire planet as it rotates below. The satellite is capable of seeing objects just 25cm (10 inches) across and was launched by a Russian-built RD-180 first-stage engine.

The US Commerce Department, which licenses American commercial satellite imagery providers, says DigitalGlobe must wait six months before putting out any 31cm products. Previously, DigitalGlobe was only licensed to sell images with a resolution below 50 cm to the US military.

Its main competitor in Europe is Airbus Defence and Space, which have various satellites that can capture 70cm imagery (re-sampled to 50cm) with its Pleiades-HR Optical Imaging Constellation. Pléiades 1A and Pléiades 1B provide coverage of Earth’s surface with a repeat cycle of 26 days.

China will launch Gaofen-2 this year, the 2nd of five or six satellites to be launched for 1 meter Earth observation before 2016.

Then there is a raft of smaller operators with systems that generally work at 1m and above, with one or two now providing satellite video as well.

San Francisco-based Skybox Imaging, recently bought by Google, has video of Earth acquired by its small, free-flying SkySat-1 satellite.

Planet Labs, another San Francisco venture, has a “flock” of 28 nano-satellite imagers in orbit. The 28 satellites that make up Planet Lab’s Flock 1 were carried aboard Orbital Sciences’ robotic Cygnus vessel on a run to the space station. All 28 satellites orbit at an altitude of 400 kilometers, powered by solar panels. CubeSats allow scientists to measure multiple data points that would be unobtainable otherwise.

Satellite fleet operator SES has ordered its first high-throughput satellite. SES-12, recently ordered from Airbus, is scheduled for launch in late 2017 to SES’s 95 degrees east slot covering the Asia-Pacific region, with 14 gigahertz of spot-beam capacity — 70 Ku-band beams and 11 Ka-band beams. NSR’s newly released UltraHD via Satellite, 2nd Edition, forecasts over 820 channels of UltraHD content via Satellite by 2025, with Direct to Home (DTH) leading the charge.

A pair of covertly developed inspector satellites to monitor activities in geosynchronous orbit for U.S. Strategic Command blasted were launched on July 28th. The mission is scheduled to last one year.

Some 170 countries now have at least one satellite of their own and 11 nations have the capability to launch a spacecraft into orbit, said commander Gen. William Shelton, adding that with space launch also comes missile technology and the potential for anti-satellite shootdowns.

Presumably, the actual mission of the Angels Satellites is to blow up stuff. Not that any Lockheed, Boeing or retired military would personally benefit from any “space war”. After all, they appear to be on the same side as the Russians.

Engadget has a new Space page with current news, but Space Daily, SpaceFlightNow and Aviation Week are among the most comprehensive resources. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk often tweets after launches.

Related DailyWireless Space and Satellite News includes; Google Buys Skybox Imaging for $500 Million, Fleet of LEO Comsats for Google?, Satellite Swarms Revolutionize Earth Imaging, Google Buying Drone Company Titan, Facebook Announces Connectivity Lab, Amazon & Globalstar Test Wireless Service, GlobalStar Promotes “Licensed” WiFi in 2.4 GHz band, OuterNet: CubeSat Datacasting?, Planet Labs’ Photo CubeSats Released,SpaceX: Geosynchronous Launch, Antarctic Expeditions Go Live, ExactEarth Launches 5th AIS Satellite, ViaSat-1 Launched,

Facebook Launches Free Internet Access in Zambia

Facebook is moving along with its goal to bring Web access to everyone in the world with the launch of a new app that provides people in Zambia with free basic Internet services.

The new Internet.org app lets mobile users in the African country access a set of health, employment, and local information services without data charges. It includes AccuWeather, Google Search, Wikipedia, women’s rights app WRAPP, and, of course, Facebook, among others.

The app will first be available to Airtel subscribers in Zambia, and Facebook plans to roll it out to other parts of the world in the future.

“We believe that every person should have access to free basic Internet services — tools for health, education, jobs and basic communication,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Thursday post on his Facebook page announcing the new app.

The move comes a year after Facebook launched its Internet.org effort to increase access to the Web, and bring the Internet “to the next 5 billion people.”

Today there are a billion smartphones used worldwide. By 2017 there will be close to 2 billion smartphones and half a billion tablets in use.

IEEE Spectrum has Five Ways to Bring Broadband to the Backwoods, including solar-powered drones, MEO and LEO satellites, balloons, blimps, and White Spaces.

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AWS-3 Auction: Nov 2014

The FCC last week updated rules for use of the AWS-3 spectrum that will be auctioned to commercial cellular operators on November 13, 2014, notes RCR Wireless.

The FCC in late March released its initial AWS-3 rules. The FCC’s Report and Order sets flexible-use regulatory, licensing, and technical rules for 65 megahertz of spectrum in the AWS-3 band, which includes the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands.

The licensed spectrum will include three 5×5 megahertz options, leaving just a single 10×10 megahertz license covering the country. The unlicensed spectrum will use the 1755-1780 MHz bands.

the FCC detailed the AWS-3 rules in mid-May, noting that there would not be any limitations on bidding eligibility. Verizon showed strong interest in the band, while Sprint has hinted that it may skip the AWS-3 proceedings.

The aggregate reserve price for the 1695-1710 MHz band is $580 million with a separate aggregate reserve price for the paired 1755-1780 MHz/2155-2180 MHz bands of approximately $10.07 billion. Some spectrum is being reallocated from federal use in the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz bands. The FCC will assign new licenses for the AWS-3 spectrum by competitive bidding.

In its AWS-3 transition plan released earlier this month, NTIA estimates total relocation and sharing costs for the 1695-1710 MHz band at $527.1 million and for the 1755-1780 MHz band at $4.576 billion. The spectrum at 2155-2180 MHz is in FCC hands and ready for auction. The 1695-1710 MHz band will be unpaired spectrum used for low-power uplink operations. The 1755-1780 MHz band will be licensed for low-power uplink operations and will be paired with the 2155-2180 MHz band for downlink operations.

As previously included in AWS-3 rulemaking, the FCC also reiterated that companies that gain access to spectrum licenses will have to put up with potential interference from federal users in the 1755-1780 MHz bands that are set to be cleared of federal users as part of the auction process.

The protection zone addition did not go over well with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who fired off a formal letter stating his objection to the process. Pai’s objections centered on the lack of information regarding the location of the protection zones.

Related Dailywireless articles include; FCC Sets AWS-3 Auction Rules, AWS-3 Auction Rules: Who Benefits?, Dish Wins Everything in H-Block PCS Auction, Verizon Activates AWS Band , DOJ Sets Conditions for Verizon AWS, Verizon Getting AWS Spectrum Says WSJ, T-Mobile Okayed to Test Spectrum Sharing, Verizon’s Spectrum Deal: Tough Nut, AT&T Buys 2.3 GHz from NextWave, AT&T Wants 2.3 GHz for LTE, FCC to Okay Verizon/Cable Spectrum Buy,

Satellite Capacity Report: Supply & Demand

Northern’s Sky Research has released their 2014 Global Satellite Capacity Supply & Demand report, which projects that over 3,000 new transponders and 2+ Tbps of High Throughput Satellite capacity will far outstrip demand growth over the next decade.

Despite the reality of oversupply in a few regions and bands, NSR projects the market will grow by 76%, from about $11.8 Billion currently to $21.1 Billion by 2023.

On the supply side, NSR expects that nearly 3,000 transponders will be added based on satellites entering service between now and 2023. “Nearly every satellite being launched will carry traditional Ku-band, thus adding 1500 transponders of just Ku-band by 2017. This continues until the effect of HTS supply begins to eat into the broader demand, a phenomenon not expected until the end of this decade”, says the report.

Global demand paints a cautiously optimistic picture, with over 1,300 transponders of new demand for traditional C, Ku, and Ka-band capacity arising by 2023, supplemented by nearly 1 Tbps of new GEO-HTS demand. “Looking at global demand, the hype surrounding HTS is indeed justified, with a demand growth rate of over 30% annually, compared to less than 2% for traditional FSS C, Ku, and Widebeam Ka-band capacity,” reports Blaine Curcio, Analyst and report co-author.

Orbcomm Launches Space-based Vessel Tracking Satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched six LEO comsats to modernize Orbcomm’s orbital fleet of messaging satellites. ORBCOMM says the six satellites’ solar panels and antennas deployed properly, and are connecting to their Gateway Earth Stations around the world.

The flight was supposed to take off in early May, but persistent technical issues with the Falcon 9 rocket and the Orbcomm satellites kept the launcher grounded until July.

With the six satellites launched Monday and 11 more spacecraft on the way, Orbcomm expects its 889,000 subscribers will see better service in the coming months. Each second-generation satellite has six times the data capacity and twice the transmission rate of one of Orbcomm’s existing satellites.

The OG2 communications system offer transfer rates up to four megabits per second at VHF frequencies between 137 and 153 megahertz. Each vehicle also carries an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver to track ships in the open ocean. Orbcomm intends to sell this data to coastguard services.

Companies like Orbcomm, exactEarth, SpaceQuest, and government programs like ESA’s ship-tracking satellite program have deployed AIS receivers on satellites, but currently most all AIS is terrestrial-based and dependent on radio towers. Consequently, AIS vessel tracking is available only along rivers or along coast lines, and is not generally available in the open ocean.

The new platforms will join 25 operational first-generation Orbcomm satellites, plus a pair of small ship-tracking spacecraft used by Orbcomm. The new satellites were built by Sierra Nevada and Boeing, and should begin machine-to-machine communications and maritime tracking services within 60 days, according to an Orbcomm press release.

Orbcomm’s messaging satellites, unlike the Iridium Next constellation or GlobalStar’s 32 LEO satellites don’t allow global voice communications with continuous connectivity. They store and forward messaging.

Both the Iridium and GlobalStar satphone constellations plan new M2M services, in competition to Orbcomm, allowing independent contractors to “piggyback” independent hosted services on their satellite platforms.

Iridium NEXT, their second-generation platform, is expected to launch beginning in 2015 and is expected to be fully operational in 2017. The Iridium NEXT satellite network will consist of 66 in-orbit satellites, with six in-orbit and nine on-ground spares. The 48 spot beams from each satellite antenna will collectively cover an area roughly the size of the United States. The constellation will begin launching in 2015 will offer greater bandwidth and data speeds.

Iridium will host payloads designed by other entities. Space is now fully allocated to two companies, Aireon for its space-based aircraft surveillance application and Harris Corporation for additional auxiliary payloads.

Aireon will use the Iridium NEXT hosted payload space to develop the world’s first space-based global aviation monitoring system.

ADS-B will be replacing radar as the primary surveillance method for controlling aircraft worldwide. Enabled by Harris’ 81 space-qualified ADS-B receivers, the system relies on two avionics components—a GPS navigation source and a datalink (ADS-B unit). This allows controllers to guide aircraft into and out of crowded airspace with smaller separation standards than it was previously possible.

Here’s the real-time vessel traffic world-wide posted on MarineTraffic.com, a mashup which was developed and hosted by the University of the Aegean in Greece.

Related DailyWireless Space and Satellite News includes; Cluster of 37 Satellites Launched, Google Buys Skybox Imaging for $500 Million, exactEarth Gets Partner for Space-based AIS , Satellite Swarms Revolutionize Earth Imaging, Google Buying Drone Company Titan, Facebook Announces Connectivity Lab, Iridium Announces Hosted Payloads, ExactEarth Launches 5th AIS Satellite, ExactEarth Launches AIS Satellite, Arctic Technology, Orbcomm: World’s Largest Container Tracker, Space-Based Vessel Tracking, AIS Space Race, Orbcomm’s Space-based AIS Fails,

Google I/O 2014

Google I/O, June 25–26, 2014, is the year’s biggest nerd party, says The Verge, and lists 11 things to watch out for.

Google’s Nexus line could get at least one more Nexus device, an HTC 8.9-inch tablet powered by a Nvidia Tegra K1 64-bit processor, according to a report by Android Police.

The tablet features a 2048 x 1440 8.9-inch display, 2GB of RAM, and Nvidia’s desktop-class Tegra K1 processor. That processor, which to this point has only been included to the Xiaomi Mi Pad, is 64-bit and can produce some incredible graphics for a mobile device, beating even an I-5 Core with 4400 graphics.

The tablet is rumored to start at $399 for the 16GB version, with 32GB costing $499 and LTE connectivity possibly in the $600+ range.

June 25th’s two-hour keynote may introduce new products such as Android Wear, its new platform for wearable devices with announcements of new smartwatches along with new Android TV devices, home automation and more.

Other Google projects include Project Ara, a modular smartphone, Project Tango, a tablet that can map rooms in 3D, Google Fiber, Google Glass and Project Loon.