[FoRK] Canadian firm plans 78-satellite Net service
eugen at leitl.org
Thu Jan 20 01:32:09 PST 2011
(at long last, somebody has gotten it mostly right -- here's hoping the birds
Canadian firm plans 78-satellite Net service
by Stephen Shankland
MSCI's CommStellation Microsat (Credit: MSCI)
A Canadian satellite maker plans to launch a network of 78 small, relatively
low-flying satellites designed to help relieve network congestion that's
significantly dampening smartphone enthusiasm.
MSCI, which stands for Microsat Systems Canada Inc., is trying to be a bit of
a maverick with its project, called CommStellation. The company said today
that its approach of using small, inexpensive satellites in low orbit--about
620 miles above the Earth--means better coverage of the world's population,
quicker launch, and better network capacity.
The company likes to spotlight its competition with the O3b, the
Google-backed satellite project to improve Net access for the 3 billion
people who live outside of wealthy, well-wired areas. But realistically,
MSCI's greater competition probably is more down to Earth--fiber optic lines
and perhaps femtocells built to ease network congestion.
Still, MSCI argues that its use of rugged but relatively ordinary terrestrial
electronics means it can move fast enough to make entry into new satellite
communications markets a "no-brainer."
"Until now, no one in the industry has been able to find the manufacturing
cost and scheduling efficiencies and cost-effective microsatellite technology
to enable an economically viable constellation of satellites to provide 100
percent global coverage," Justin Phillips, MSCI's vice president of
marketing, said in a statement.
Specifically, the company is able to use more ordinary electronics with its
lower-elevation satellites. Medium orbit satellites--about 5,000 miles above
Earth--such as rival O3b need components with higher reliability in order to
withstand the temperature and radiation rigors of space. MSCI's satellites
are also relatively small, meaning that 14 can be packed into a single launch
rocket compared with O3b's 4 satellites. And much less power is required to
transmit data to and from the MSCI's satellites since they're closer to
MSCI plans to launch satellites starting in 2014 and reach full network
capability in 2015.
MSCI's illustration of its network of CommStellation satellites above the
Earth. (Credit: MSCI)
This isn't the sort of thing that a person's phone will tie into directly.
Rather, mobile phone base stations or other local network hubs will link to
the satellites. The satellites in turn link to a network of 20 ground
stations around Earth that link to the Internet, providing what's known as
"back-haul" network capacity.
Back-haul constraints are a big problem today for network operators trying to
balance consumers' demand for profitable but data-hogging smartphones with
their own needs to keep their networks from being crushed by the data
Each MSCI satellite has a data-transfer capacity of 12 gigabits per second.
The expected lifespan of each is 10 years, and they can be sent back into the
atmosphere at the end of their lives to avoid more orbital clutter. MSCI
plans to launch 84 satellites into six orbital planes, each 30 degrees apart.
Each orbital plane gets 13 primary satellites and one spare.
Each satellite will provide coverage to a circular area of about 7 million
square miles, MSCI said. Because the satellites travel in a polar orbit,
meaning that they orbit along a line of longitude crossing over the north and
south poles, coverage improves in the higher latitude where the orbits draw
The company hasn't yet selected a launch partner or announced investors or
Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20028859-264.html#ixzz1BZAj6zPr
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