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Sanswire Demonstrates First Stratellite 192

Posted by timothy
from the as-promised dept.
Sterling D. Allan writes "Pure Energy Systems News (PESN) reports that GlobeTel Communications Corp. debuted their Sanswire Stratellite last week to over 300 people, including members of the media, personnel from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. and international commercial interests, as well as investors and shareholders. Stationed in the stratosphere, well above the jet stream, powered by film solar photovoltaic units, the device will make wireless communications available anywhere in the U.S., including on airline flights. One Stratellite will have a payload capacity of several thousand pounds and clear line-of-sight to approximately 300,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of Texas."
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Sanswire Demonstrates First Stratellite

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  • But.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by TGK (262438) <Killfile@nOsPAm.Nephandus.Com> on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:26PM (#12264532) Homepage Journal
    Municipal wifi is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of!

  • Sadly. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:28PM (#12264552)
    The press release fails to point out that the demonstration was an abysmal failure and not even the wasteful spendthrifts from the pentagon were interested in putting in an order. Film at eleven.
    • The press release fails to point out that the demonstration was an abysmal failure and not even the wasteful spendthrifts from the pentagon were interested in putting in an order. Film at eleven.

      Get out, TWO bogus /. articles in a row?! First OSS zealots are gunna sue my company for using Bob's GPL'd Fontpack in our quarterly reports, and now we have a bajillion dollar satellite system that doesn't work. Great readin' guys, keep it comin!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:50PM (#12264681)
      change the parent post to Funny rather than Informative or Insightful. The AC post was a joke, made up by the AC, me. Any resemblance to factual matters is purely coincidental.
    • Well, I tried to mod this funny, but I was told the comment was at its limit. So I tried to make it overrated, so someone could mod it back up as funny, but it said I'd already moderated the comment. Oh well. Damn slashcode bugs.
    • by billstewart (78916) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:41PM (#12264948) Journal
      It sounds like it's more advanced vaporware than in the past, but it's still vaporware. One of the news articles [xtramsn.co.nz] has a bit more information: "Wisconsin communications company Sanswire unveiled its almost-finished prototype of a hard-framed, unmanned airship designed to fly in the stratosphere 21 km above the earth and send broadband and mobile phone signals to an area the size of Texas." and quotes them discussing FAA certification as "We don't have a test date, but we're hoping for midsummer," "But we're still years ahead of any other program doing anything like this."

      They've been hyping this for years, and while the telecom crash of the early 2000s kicked the chair out from under their business plans, they'd still be really really cool if they ever deployed the bloody things.

      By the way, their PR mockup picture of the Stratellite [sanswire.com] looks amazingly like the whale in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

      • I wonder what their bandwidth is. Could they SUPPORT internet connections over an area the size of Texas?

        (Actually, I suppose they could if they lauched it in North Dakota, but I'm less certain if they launched it from Kansas City.)

        Still, at "several thousand pounds" it could carry a lot more than most satelites. And the lag time would be LOTS less. But I suspect a lower altitude would give better quality coverage. 5Km up would be nice for cities and counties, and would need to carry less equipment.

        O
  • Terrific! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:28PM (#12264555)
    Now I can download porn on my cell phone at 20,000 feet! And join the mile high jack off club of dateless Slashdotting losers! In soviet Russia, stratalite launches YOU!
    • Now I can download porn on my cell phone at 20,000 feet!

      Debbie Does Decompression.

      Man, you haven't lived until you see what happens to those implants.

  • wow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sfcat (872532) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:29PM (#12264558)
    This is impressive. Solar powered, but are there weather problems at this altitude? I guess not, but can we put cameras on this thing too. Better maps for google maps, yea. When does it fly by SF again?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:30PM (#12264565)
    Is that a Metric Texas or an Imperial one?
  • by zbeeble (808759) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:30PM (#12264569)
    Straight out of Del boys mouth. "I just got one of those new Stratellite dishes"
  • Too bad... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Karpe (1147) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:31PM (#12264573) Homepage
    It doesn't work at night. ;)
    • Clearly, you didn't read the article...it has a payload of several thousand pounds which will just about cover the weight of the batteries. That means it won't operate day or night. It'll just sit there doing nothing all the time. Just like the guy in the next cubicle.
    • by Alsee (515537)
      In related news the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in west Texas (the worlds third largest optical telescope) has announced the discovery of an unidentified craft crossing the face of Jupiter.

      -
  • by ocularDeathRay (760450) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:32PM (#12264577) Journal
    As usual I was reading the summary and skipping about every other line. I do this until I find something interesting to me.

    I was quite interested to learn that:
    over 300 people, including members of the media, personnel from the U.S. Department of Defense, Stationed in the stratosphere, well above the jet stream.

    and I think to myself "WOW those guys are WAY up there"
  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:36PM (#12264602)
    Who is going to be famous for shooting it out of the sky?
  • by FreeLinux (555387) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:37PM (#12264605)
    They are actually building [sanswire.com] this Hindengurg [sanswire.com]. If this thing so much as casts a shadow over my house, there will be hell to pay!
    • by yotto (590067) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:25PM (#12264868) Homepage
      It's 65,000 feet in the air, and is (From TFA) 245 feet on the long diameter.

      That's about .00006 (if I did the math right) degrees across. In case I did, it would be the same relative size as a 6 foot guy 1600 feet (About a quarter mile) away.

      IOW, if its shadow covers your house, you should be more concerned about your house than the shadow :D
      • You didn't do the math right. You incorrectly converted from radians into degrees. For high noon, with the thing directly overhead, the correct formula is (180/pi)*tan^-1(245/65000) which works out to about 0.22 degrees. That's about half the width of the sun, so this thing will never cause a complete shadow, just a 1/4 dimming over an area with length about 250 feet and tapering off to 0 at an area with length 500 feet.
        • by yotto (590067)
          You are, of course, right. The number didn't look right (hence the disclaimer and the different way of looking at it).

          More insterestingly (at least to me), at dawn and dust, these things would, for a while, be brigher than the sky (becasue they would be in the sunlight while most of the sky would not). So you'd have a "morning star" and an "evening star" that stays in the same spot, forever.

          Of course, they'll likely paint it to look like the Pepsi logo or something.
          • Don't feel too bad: I made the same mistake (pi/180) but then when I checked it for the 3rd time, and after recalling the occasional shadow of a passing jet liner, I figured the number had to be bigger. But about the advertising: it could be worse. imagine a big banner unfurled from the bottom, spanning thousands of feet. An episode of "The Simpsons" comes to mind...
  • by pyth (87680) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:37PM (#12264606)
    http://jpaerospace.com/ [jpaerospace.com]

    They're planning to use such airships to launch ships into space, by slowly achieving orbital speed!

    • I wonder, do you think they get high enough to warrant an extended journey on one?

      I would love to get up that high [jpaerospace.com] - its close enough to space for me :)

      An airship would be able to carry a larger suite of passengers for a thrilling few hours.
    • I really wish they wouldn't fill these things with helium, what with the upcoming helium shortage.
      http://www.energybulletin.net/3135.html [energybulletin.net] and http://wired-vig.wired.com/wired/archive/8.08/heli um.html [wired.com]
      detail the problem.

      Helium should be restricted to uses where there is no practical replacement. Cold temperature research should be the top of the list. Fusion should be next, but this probably won't significantly impact the He market since He-3 is a pretty rare isotope. Gas mixes for deep divers should
      • "I really wish they wouldn't fill these things with helium, what with the upcoming helium shortage... Helium should be restricted to uses where there is no practical replacement."

        Nonsense. I hear there's lots of helium in Iran. Conservation won't be necessary.
  • by Senor_Programmer (876714) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:43PM (#12264642)
    Can anyone parse,
    "...utilizing proprietary lifting gas technology",
    in a way that makes sense?
  • Heads up! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Kymermosst (33885)
    What happens when this thing malfunctions and falls out of the sky?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      What happens when this thing malfunctions and falls out of the sky?

      My bet is that it'll hit the ground.
      • What happens when this thing malfunctions and falls out of the sky?

        My bet is that it'll hit the ground.

        Now, why didn't I think of that?

        I'd also presume old Skylab jokes would resurface.

    • Re:Heads up! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mbaciarello (800433)

      Mmmh... Forgive the metricness, but assuming that: the supporting structure weighs as much as its payload (not sure about this estimate); it has the same drag coefficient as a Boeing 747 [aerospaceweb.org]; its cross-sectional area is a 44.20*26.52 meter rectangle (probably overestimated?); a constant air density of 1.2 kg/m^3 (sea-level, conservative); a gravitational acceleration of 9.72 m/s^2 (troposphere level, conservative)...

      The thing should come down at a terminal velocity [wikipedia.org] of 35.12 m/s, corresponding to a kinetic ener

    • by DigiShaman (671371)
      If it does, I hope it falls in my backyard. Cause man...I'm gonna e-bay that puppy!
    • What happens when this thing malfunctions and falls out of the sky?

      Dropped signal?

      =)
  • by Omega1045 (584264) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @06:51PM (#12264684)
    This really adds a new dimension to the term "Vaporware".
  • by bluedream (676879) * on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:03PM (#12264759) Homepage Journal
    Anybody catch what frequency this contraption is going to operate on?

    Somehow I don't think it is going to be on a unlicensed frequency.

  • I love airships (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsotha (720379) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:06PM (#12264773)
    I love airships, and I really, really want them to return to the skies, since it's a technology that has a lot of room to develop if someone can get it off the ground. But this outfit has the feel of a fly-by-night stock scam. Listen to what the CEO has to say:

    "In my opinion, the media is reporting on the progress of Sanswire One as they recognize the potential of our airship and the potential of causing what I always refer to as a paradigm shift in the telecommunications industry."

    and here:

    "This shows his belief in what we are trying to achieve at Sanswire. His innovative approach and out-of- the-box thinking is enabling us to successfully execute the program."

    This is buzzword bullshit completely devoid of meaning, the kind of stuff you tell potential investors when you realize your scheme is gonna cost a whole lot more than you'll ever make. I'm thinking if they actually had a viable business plan you would hear something with a little more content from the CEO.

    • I think he's just saying the following:

      "In my opinion, the media is interested because there is potential that this could cause big changes in telecommunications."

      and

      "This shows his belief in what we are trying to achieve - the ideas he came up with are allowing us to make this work." Seems pretty sensical to me.

    • Me too. But as an investment, the NASA helios is a proven platform that just needs a bit of refinement. Maybe a Helios inspired GPL project? I'd be willing to run if there is sufficient interest.
    • Re:I love airships (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 0olong (876791)
      This is buzzword bullshit completely devoid of meaning Which applies just as much to the parents post as to Sanswire's CEO. Let's base our criticism on facts, shall we?
    • fly-by-night

      It flies by day, also.
  • I'm leery about the system they're showing, if they aren't ready to discuss bandwidth per customer and total numbers of simultaneous connections, etc.

    Also, how heavy is it going to be, and how dangerous will it be for something like that, with its 3,000 pound payload capacity, to land for refueling? What if strong winds hit it, and it drifts off course? Have they built their refueling stations far away from population centers, so that if these start to get carried off by the wind, they can drop them more q
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The winds at the altitude these craft are designed to fly at are negligable. They are not hot air balloons, which don't have any propulsion of their own.

      These would have means of controlling themselves thru wind layers just like blimps and derigables do today. Once low enough to the ground you can have ground handlers grab the tethers and haul it in.
    • First of all, if one of these hit your house at 60 MPH it *MIGHT* break a window or scratch off some paint. Secondly, who says it has to land? If I put one of these in the air I would never land it. Put the most expensive batteries you can on it. When they run out you get a high altitude airplane to fly over the blimp and drop another set via parachute (to be grabbed by hook and line, most likely), and the blimp drops the old set via parasail which is guided back to ground remotely (or just dropped with
      • Are you just trolling?

        First of all, if one of these hit your house at 60 MPH it *MIGHT* break a window or scratch off some paint.

        What? 3000 pounds of payload, not to mention what the device itself weighs. If a 3000 pound car hit your house at 60 MPH, do you think that's all it will do? Now imagine 3000 pounds landing on your roof, which is much more likely than running into it from the side. Now imagine the device is approaching terminal velocity, instead.

        Secondly, who says it has to land?

        You m

      • I'm sure they'd like to avoid landing it too. The main problem is Helium defuses through the walls of airships and they have to be reinflated fairly regularly. You can slow down the defusion by building thicker walls with denser materials but there's always going to be a weight and cost tradeoff there.

        The other issue is equipment maintenance. It'll be interesting to see if cosmic radiation causes them any trouble at 60,000ft. It's pretty strong at that level.

  • bandwith? (Score:3, Informative)

    by 0olong (876791) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:26PM (#12264872)
    The Stratellites are unmanned airships and will be monitored from the Company's Operation Centers on the ground. I wonder what bandwith the connection with ground control would have. For large scale ISP services less than many many Gb/s would be insufficient. Anyone here able to estimate whether such would be a serious bottle neck or not? (I guess they might have just lowered a cable if it wouldn't be accompanied by giant lightning rod like properties)
    • I guess they might have just lowered a cable if it wouldn't be accompanied by giant lightning rod like properties
      Fiber optic, maybe? Or tight-beam microwave transmission?
  • by Aggrav8d (683620)
    ...are these giant jetstream straddling, solar-powered technological oasies available as luxury homes? I imagine with carefull planning you could drag the definition of "hermit" kicking and screaming in exciting new directions.
  • Um... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kagura (843695) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @07:55PM (#12265011)
    "...utilizing proprietary lifting gas technology"

    What, a BALLOON?!
    • Its full of lighter-than-air gas, has turbofans on it, but its not a blimp!

      I've never seen an aerospace venture with such a case of denial.
    • by K8Fan (37875)
      What, a BALLOON?!

      It's not a balloon! You stupid little thick-headed Saxon git! It's not a balloon! Balloons is for kiddy-winkies. If you want to play with balloons, get outside!

      - - Ferdinand von Zeppelin "The Golden Age of Balooning" [ibras.dk]

  • by verloren (523497) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @08:15PM (#12265112)
    I understand the area covered in Texases, but what's this "pounds" of payload? How many VW's is that?
  • Ecosystem? (Score:3, Funny)

    by NoseBag (243097) on Sunday April 17, 2005 @08:42PM (#12265212)
    Here's a thought:

    If these puppies are to be up there for 18 months (yes, I RTFA), will they comprise a new "environment" that species could adapt to?

    The floaty things would make a great rest area for migrating birds or bugs. Birds that migrate at 65K feet, that is. Maybe I should rethink this...
  • The article mentions that the maximum time in the air for one of their balloons is 18 months, then it's replaced and brought down for "refitting" and then sent back up. The refitting is probably to replenish the helium, or whatever they use -- the site says "proprietary lifting gas technology" (gimme a break). The folks from LiftPort [liftport.com] who are developing the Space Elevator talked about this problem with balloons in their presentation at NorWesCon a couple weeks ago. Apparently helium is very hard to contain.
    • I'm guessing this "proprietary lifting gas technology" is almost certainly a pressurised envelope.

      Traditionally, stratospheric balloon gas is at the same pressure as the surrounding air - the balloons are too lightweight to withstand any real pressure difference. When the helium expands during the day, some must be vented to stop the balloon from bursting. At night, ballast must be dropped to stop the balloon from falling. Thus the balloon can only stay up for a limited number of day/night cycles.

      If you

  • Putting two and two together here from the article:

    "Each craft will reach its final altitude by utilizing proprietary lifting gas technology."

    So it will be floated up there using gas from Balmer? Will be be shouting "Developers" as he fills those gasbags?
  • Right now it wouldn't matter if one got shot down by a terrorist rocket. But what happens if in the future these things are am important backbone component of all types of communications? Something that large could possibly be a sitting duck. I'm pretty sure that at the moment anti aircraft rockets can't get that high , but thats not to say in the future someone wouldn't develop one that could and if Osamas decendents get hold of some there could be serious problems.
  • Each craft will reach its final altitude by utilizing proprietary lifting gas technology

    Floating? That's VC bait if i've ever seen it.

    Next we'll be praising the virtues of pedestrian ambulatory technologies otherwise known as "walking".

    -ted

  • is if they offered the ability to do point-to-point communication with this (eg, not requring you to communicate only with their 'uplink', but allowing say two friends to each get the ground based equipment applicable, and have a high-speed point to point link between them at a reasonable price. Basically, wireless T1. If they are considering that, I think I can smell the phone companies shitting their pants.
  • by eutychus_awakes (607787) on Monday April 18, 2005 @11:04AM (#12269517)
    I am an aerospace engineer. A few thoughts. . .

    1. Regenerative power systems (the kind you can deplete and re-charge, whether that be solar cells and batteries, solar cells and closed-loop fuel cells, etc.) need to mature far beyond what is currently capable in order to make these craft work. Consider that the solar panels need to not only power all the essential equipment (radios, drive motors, wifi, etc.), but they also need to have enough excess to recharge batteries for night operations. For something very flat like the Stratellite(TM), this means they won't be able to operate too far north (or south) because the angle the airship makes with the sun will be too great - too few photons will be striking the cells. For the kinds of power densities they will need, this may mean not operating north of New York City, for example.

    2. Now consider what happens at night. You have zero solar power - 100% comes from your storage bank (batteries, fuel cells, hyper-flywheels, etc). In the northern hemisphere at winter, you will need to plan on about 16-hours of power storage capacity before the sun gets high enough in the sky to start powering the ship AND recharge the batteries.

    3. Assuming the nominal drag coefficient numbers others have talked about (~.05), an average airspeed of 40-knots, and assuming that the electric motors are 90% efficient at converting electricity to mechanical power, and that the propellers are 60% efficient at converting the mechanical power to useful work (thrust), this craft will need 45kW of power available 24-7 JUST FOR PROPULSION at 70,000 feet. 4. Assuming that their regenerative storage system has a power density of 100 Watt-hours per pound (which is optimistic), this equals 7,200 POUNDS OF POWER STORAGE REQUIRED! 5. Again, at 70,000 feet, assuming the structure weighs in at around 1,000 pounds (I'd like to see that. . .) then they have a lift deficit of 3,750 pounds. They'll never get to 70,000 feet. They might get to 60,000 feet, but then they'll only have around 100-pounds of payload capacity available. Plus, the air is denser at 60,000 feet, the propulsive power is greater, the battery weight is higher, etc etc etc.

In any formula, constants (especially those obtained from handbooks) are to be treated as variables.

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