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TerreStar Launches World's Largest Telecom Satellite 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the bigger-they-are-the-harder-hey-wait-a-sec dept.
An anonymous reader sends news that TerreStar-1, the largest satellite ever made for the purpose of telecommunications, successfully launched earlier this week from a European spaceport. Its launch weight was 6,910 kg, and it is "distinguished by a giant, 60-foot (18-meter) wide S-band antenna that will be unfurled in the coming weeks. Once the satellite's two solar wings are deployed, TerreStar-1 is expected to have a wingspan of about 106 feet (32.4 meters). ... It is designed to provide mobile voice and data communications in North America to smartphone-size handsets using the 2-gigahertz, or S-band, portion of the radio spectrum. The system is designed to function with a network of ground-based signal amplifiers to permit service in areas the satellite cannot reach, such as urban canyons and areas outside the line-of-sight view of the spacecraft." Video and details of the launch are available from the ESA.
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TerreStar Launches World's Largest Telecom Satellite

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  • Once the satellite's two solar wings are deployed, TerreStar-1 is expected to have a wingspan of about 106 feet

    Satellites aren't like kotex - they don't have wings. Even drinking Red Bull won't change that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)

      If you're going to call something on an absorbent pad a wing because it bears a passing resemblance to a real wing then you shouldn't have a problem calling satellite solar panels wings - they look much more like real wings.

      • If you're going to call something on an absorbent pad a wing because it bears a passing resemblance to a real wing then you shouldn't have a problem calling satellite solar panels wings - they look much more like real wings.

        Next you're going to say that Red Bull does give you wings ... it doesn't ... same as sanitary napkins don't have wings either ... just like the satellite doesn't have a "wingspan".

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:47AM (#28580919) Homepage

    No. From a South American spaceport. As far as I know there are no spaceports in Europe. Though you *could* call it a French spaceport...

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mazevedo (117804)

      I think it was intended to sound like an European site (it's true, ESA is European, not just French), like when you refer to the American Base at Okinawa, and not the Japanese Base at Okinawa.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        > ...like when you refer to the American Base at Okinawa...

        Yes. "From a European Space Agency spaceport in South America" would have been ok.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by myrrdyn (562078)
      Uh, French Guiana is part of the French Republic and is part of European Union... so it's a South American territory of the European Union.
      Politics vs. Geography 1 - 0 :-)
      • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:44PM (#28581381) Homepage

        European Union != Europe.

        • by myrrdyn (562078)

          European Union != Europe.

          I was assuming that "European" can have the same meaning of "pertaining European Union",
          so "European spaceport" = "European Union's spaceport"

      • by igny (716218)
        Remember Louisiana was once European, and Alaska was Asian. It took quite a bit of cash to restore the continental integrity.
    • by sznupi (719324)

      There are at least two spaceports in continental Europe - one in the northern areas of Sweden, one in Russia (Plesetsk Cosmodrome).

      And IMHO, as somebody fed up slightly with "polish concentration camps" you hear now and then in the news, I think that calling it European spaceport is fine. So is "European spaceport in French Guiana / South America" (even better, but slightly too long)

  • "Run! Run! Run!"

    "Beware, coward!" "I hunger!"
  • Line of Sight? (Score:2, Insightful)

    LOS will be lost in most of any downtown urban region. Tall skyscrapers eat signals, film at 11. And under bridges. Or inside. Anything beamed from geosyncronous orbit's going to be very weak. How do you think it'll work reaching into a staircase in a 50 story skyscraper? Or in a grocery store? S-Band is the same band WiFi uses, and you need a pringles can to get more than a mile. What do you think the signal attenuation's going to be on something 26,200 miles away? O.o

    Yeah. Ground based relay stations. You

    • Given that the handsets will be small and powered by something less than an unlicensed proton accelerator pack, anytime you walk away from LOS of the sky - you'll be reliant on ground based relay stations.

      Then again, if this type of technology is deployed along with standard cellular based modes of communication - it could offer seamless transitions from local cellular, voip over wifi, and satellite based communication - ensuring no dead zones, except for a few brain cells.

      • Re:Line of Sight? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:33PM (#28581311) Homepage

        it could offer seamless transitions from local cellular, voip over wifi, and satellite based communication

        I've used portable satcom equipment before, and I guarantee the transition won't be seamless. When your conversation switches from terrestrial antenna (1 mile) to geostationary relay (44K mile round trip), you are able to discern a subtle change and conversational timing when the latency goes up to HALF A FUCKING SECOND.

    • Re:Line of Sight? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:04PM (#28581073)

      "Ground based relay stations" = Cell Towers.... The only time it would actually rely on the satellite is when GSM/EGRPS (850, 900, 1800, 1900) is not available. (It also appears that WCDMA is also supported) http://www.terrestar.com/inc/pdf/TerreStar-Spec-Sheet-2009.pdf

  • by product byproduct (628318) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:57AM (#28581015)

    it was cheaper to launch the Earth in the other direction.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, they just rolled your mom down Everest the other way...

  • Many people are wondering wtf would anyone use this for... and interestingly enough I was just watching a news report that was describing why ranchers out in the middle of nowhere were against the US government's upcoming law that may require them to tag and track every beef cattle during its travel from the birth canal to the slaughter house. Most ranchers said they have no way of uploading tagging and tracking data when out in the middle of their 1000 acre land, and would cause most small beef producers t

    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:08PM (#28581109) Journal

      Many people are wondering wtf would anyone use this for... and interestingly enough I was just watching a news report that was describing why ranchers out in the middle of nowhere were against the US government's upcoming law that may require them to tag and track every beef cattle during its travel from the birth canal to the slaughter house. Most ranchers said they have no way of uploading tagging and tracking data when out in the middle of their 1000 acre land, and would cause most small beef producers to go out of business because they couldn't be compliant with the law.

      Their arguments were all straw-man arguments. For the one you cite, they could have scanned, then uploaded the data when they returned to the homestead. Onoe of their other arguments was that they couldn't get the cattle into a truck with one hand and hold the scanner with the other - also a straw man - you can just hang the RFID tag reader on the truck's ramp and let it read the tags as the cattle enter the truck - but a 5-cent zip tie or a strip of duct-tape is unthinkable.

      • by Dun Malg (230075)

        you can just hang the RFID tag reader on the truck's ramp and let it read the tags as the cattle enter the truck

        I want to live in your magical world where handheld RFID scanners just need to be pointed in the general direction of the tags and can be depended on to catch 100% of the tags without human supervision.

        I suspect you are lumping all RFID reader products into the same category as the large, stationary units like Wal-Mart uses to scan pallet-loads of stuff at once. Portable units are generally not that far above a barcode scanner. The cattle ranchers' issues are legitimate.

        • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:51PM (#28581837) Journal

          I want to live in your magical world where handheld RFID scanners just need to be pointed in the general direction of the tags and can be depended on to catch 100% of the tags without human supervision.

          You're already in it. Hand-held readers for active tags have a range of 150 feet. [morerfid.com]

          From the product blurb:

          Savi's tags and readers include large data capacity, choke point location capabilities (door, gate, etc.), programmability as long as the reader-tag link is "solid", and 3-7 year battery life, depending on tag type, usage, and environment.

          Read range can exceed 300 feet though our guaranteed range is 300 feet for most applications. Readers are omni-directional so that this should be interpreted as 300 feet radius which provides a coverage circle of 600 feet diameter.

          We also provide handheld readers with range capability up to 150 feet.

          Our EchoPoint tags can be used at a door (including dock doors) or at a 15-20 foot wide access gate with passing speeds up to 40 MPH with multiple tags in the field and at higher speed when only a few tags are present on a vehicle and or trailer or shipping containe

          So unless the cattle is moving at more than 40MPH when they're being running up the ramp into the back of the truck, they can be read by a handheld unit.

          Or if you want passive hand-helds - this one is good for 3' [alibaba.com].

          Other portables: This one does 3' to 10' (adjustable) [alibaba.com], and another one that does 6' [alibaba.com], so what's your beef?

      • by causality (777677)

        Many people are wondering wtf would anyone use this for... and interestingly enough I was just watching a news report that was describing why ranchers out in the middle of nowhere were against the US government's upcoming law that may require them to tag and track every beef cattle during its travel from the birth canal to the slaughter house. Most ranchers said they have no way of uploading tagging and tracking data when out in the middle of their 1000 acre land, and would cause most small beef producers to go out of business because they couldn't be compliant with the law.

        Their arguments were all straw-man arguments. For the one you cite, they could have scanned, then uploaded the data when they returned to the homestead. Onoe of their other arguments was that they couldn't get the cattle into a truck with one hand and hold the scanner with the other - also a straw man - you can just hang the RFID tag reader on the truck's ramp and let it read the tags as the cattle enter the truck - but a 5-cent zip tie or a strip of duct-tape is unthinkable.

        Or maybe they realize that not forcing the cattle to cannibalize each other would accomplish a great deal more towards food safety (or whatever this law was supposed to accomplish) than yet another centralized database tracking system?

      • NAIS (Score:5, Informative)

        by zogger (617870) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:55PM (#28581859) Homepage Journal

        NAIS eventually will apply to all livestock, even chickens. A ten cent tag would add considerably to the cost (the labor, plus the cost of the tag, think 25,000 cluckers per house, times many houses, and that's just one farm, with a brand new flock every 8 weeks or so..it would start to add up quick. I have no idea how they would read them fast as they got caught to go to the packing houses either. If you have ever watched how this is done you'd see why). It would wipe out the profit margin there (which usually is a few cents per bird for the grower if everything goes good, and no guarantees anymore what with mass commodities speculation and so forth), which is very slim today, so slim that a lot of the packing houses have closed facilities, it simply cost more to produce than what they can be sold for, and there are only a half a dozen or so big buyers in the US and they dictate the price. It's a cartel that would make the RIAA or MPAA proud...

        As to the cattle, with those wild cattle, you have to physically catch each one out there and rope it down or something to install the tag, plus with every calf born, like in the olden days. Lotta work.. then try to get next to the calf later on, close enough to read the tag again? They split, they run like hell, they think they are like wild big deer or something, they are mostly wild, especially the frisky calves. I have a few beefers like that, almost impossible to get them into the barn. Most are OK with coming in to get a little corn, some are just wild, and a severe lack of trained horse here to go do some cowboy thing with a lasso... ;)...don't even know if I could do that, never tried really.. It can take me quite some time to get them all tamed up enough to be regular travelers into and out of the barn. Can't just snap some fingers and say "do it", and if they insist on that and push some huge fine per day or something..screw it, I just won't do it them, wouldn't be possible, couldn't take the chance on getting fined. You don't make very much anyway with this today, prices are abysmal compared to production costs, I know for me it is well below minimum rage if I look at hours worked, minus expenses of all sorts and what is left over. Not really sure how much less a lot of us are supposed to make in this economy and still stay in business, but it got rather dicey some time ago.

        There really is no reason to do this tagging-if at all really- until such a point as they are corralled up for transport and delivered to the auction or finishing lots, and they could be tagged there *much* easier once you have a string of them in the chute. And right there you get tied to the critter, so there's your tracking, this is already in place. They slap a number on them as soon as they are off your trailer. That the big processing plants get contaminated and run a million lbs production through without catching it...the tag in the critter will do *nothing* to stop that, not a dang thing, and once the cow is cut up, there's no individual tag per chunk 0 beaste, so they couldn't "track it back" anyway.

        The whole idea is either pure dumb (clueless government make work busywork), or pure sinister (create a few big food monopolies), or both, not sure, but it's cuckoo.

        Cows are herd animals, it is actually loads easier to move a lot of them at once rather than one at a time. *Loads easier* Doing it out on the range would be a severe PITA, I can see why those big western ranchers are opposed to this when they have to deal with hundreds or thousands of cattle. The whole thing seems like it was thought up by some city dudes who never worked on a farm or ranch and think cows are like big stationary cabbages or something, or are all as tame as old dogs or something, or like berssie the moo cow on some TV commercial. That just isn't the case. Now dairy cows can get pretty tame eventually, they are moved in and out of the milking barn two or three times a day and have close human contact all the time, but beef cattle..nope, the best

        • and there are only a half a dozen or so big buyers in the US and they dictate the price. It's a cartel that would make the RIAA or MPAA proud...

          what prevents a co-op from competing with the cartel?

          It's like it is designed to just push a few big corporate outfits and eliminate all the smaller independent operations..hmm

          All corporate regulation is designed by the incumbents, and accepted as a means to keep disruptive competition from emerging.

          • co-ops (Score:2, Interesting)

            by zogger (617870)

            You could to a limited degree, but the big buyers represent the fast food chains and the supermarkets, something like 95% or better of the market. You just have to have someplace to sell, else no reason to be a grower. Also you have to remember, the farmers/growers don't own the birds, ever, a few producers own that segment of the market (tyson,pilgrims pride, etc, a small handful), they are the ones who negotiate the contracts with the buyers cartels, because all of this is done at mass quantities levels.

            • Thanks for the detailed reply.

              The producers and packers run the packing plants, which are very expensive to license/build/operate, many millions ... and the combination of federal laws and state laws (which vary widely) on how hard this is to do make it quite the challenge.

              Ah, OK, now I'm understanding. It usually takes a government to enforce a cartel.

              They are almost totally opposed to organizing in a cooperative fashion with each other (believe me, I thought of this and have brought it up before, a coop,

    • If we are to believe "media" hype (AKA The X-Files) Every cow in the world has already been fitted with a tracking transponder. (And an awful lot of humans as well!). So why not buy the data from them?
  • Wow, are thy building cities into cliff faces now? That's so cool!

  • I thought the United Planets council outlawed Terror Stars. Hmph.
  • Specs (Score:2, Informative)

    by zogger (617870)

    Link to the handset specs (PDF) [terrestar.com]

    windows mobile and assorted normal windows smartphone apps, multiband (with the sat freqs, some GSM freqs, wifi, hifi, lowfi, french fri...), MicroSD, USB, 2.6 inch screen, qwerty keyboard, camera, plays some vids and tunes, etc. Basically a normal smartphone that also can do the satphone gig. No mention of cost or subscription plan cost that I could see on the site (might be there, just not seeing it easy). An interesting device and network idea, a little convergence there.

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      Well, they've got a miniaturized one that fits in a wristwatch and runs linux ... but the pizza-box antenna that comes with it is a bit of a downer ...

  • For a second there, I thought the world's biggest music pirating satellite was launched.

    • by Torodung (31985)

      Did someone say "pirating?" ;^)

      "That's the second biggest telcom satellite I've ever seen!"

      (Now all we need is to send up the shuttle for the Q-tip docking maneuver.)

      --
      Toro

  • how many HD channels can this sent out?

  • geostationary? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by green1 (322787) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:05PM (#28581537)

    I thought the geostationary model for satellite phones had finally come to an end... the latency is just too high to comfortably carry on a conversation. The LEO satellite constellations are a much better way to work for a phone, the delays aren't really much more than a cell phone (apparently to the user). I've actually been looking forward to someone doing a LEO constellation for satellite broadband, it could finally make it useful. I've been quite impressed when using the Iridium network. Globalstar though has some work to do yet, too many holes in their constellation.

    As others have pointed out though, Satellite alone has some major coverage problems (anywhere sheltered or indoors) but combined with the cell network this could be a powerful tool (though a pretty pricey one I bet!)

    • The problem with LEO is it is f*cking expensive. With GEO you can put up one satellite with a high gain antenna aimed at your target market.

      With LEO you need to put up a shitload of satellites and at any time most of them will be over areas with few users. You also need lots of very complex software to manage them and the handoffs between them.

      That means you have to find a huge number of users from arround the world and do it quickly to avoid going bankrupt. Both Irridium and Globalstar went bankrupt! Irrid

  • beowulf cluster of these and i won't drive off that bridge onto the river again!! enough w/ suicidal GPSes, plz!!
    • by CompMD (522020)

      Every dead technology has those that cling to it. You must be the last Atmos user.

  • What market do they think they have for this? Unless you are out in the countryside away from any wireless coverage, why would you want to use a geosynchronous satellite? The lag is incredibly annoying. For data connections it won't matter so much, but who has different providers for voice and data?

    Unless there is something I am missing, this is concept is DOA.

    • by maxume (22995)

      The may be able to undercut the DSS-style data services, which are 'pricey' at the moment (especially for what they deliver).

      Plus, if you squint and think of GWB, the satellite is called 'TerrorStar', it doesn't need any other purpose.

  • How could an antenna for frequencies with a wavelength of a few centimeters be 18 meters wide?
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The reflector is 18 meters in diameter, not the feed elements.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      How could an antenna for frequencies with a wavelength of a few centimeters be 18 meters wide?

      In space, nobody can hear your phone - unless he has a really big reflector.

  • This may be the biggest commercial satellite, but 40 years ago we sent space craft weighing a lot more than this to the Moon. The Apollo LM, alone, had a mass of fifteen tonnes. They lobbed the CSM (30 tonnes) to the Moon too.

    That was with 1960s technology, though with lots of money to spend.

    ...laura

  • Now that the Ion Cannon is up and running, Europe announces formation of the Global Defense Initiative ;)

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