Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Communicating Via Space Dust 72

klieber writes: "Never mind IP over Avian Carriers, here's a company that really sends data over space dust. Transfer rates are up to 20Kbps but because the data is transferred in short, sporadic bursts, the usable transfer rate is more like 9600bps. (And it uses a proprietary protocol, not IP) The technology, called "Meteor Burst," has been around since the 1930's and was apparently first developed for the U.S. Military. It's now being targeted at vehicle positioning systems and is being used by a private ambulance company in the Pacific Northwest." This is ... really strange.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Communicating Via Space Dust

Comments Filter:
  • by deglr6328 ( 150198 ) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @08:21PM (#480297)
    just tune any quality FM reciever to a dead area(no signal and quiet) at the lowest freq. you can; and listen close. you might hear something like this [].

    for an explanation of whats going on and a link to NASA's radio meteor detection system at Marshall Space Flight Center go here: r.html []

  • That's a little misleading. The GPS ephemeris and almanac data (the info that tells you how to predict where a satellite should be) is sent at 50bps, it's true. However, the real job of positioning is done using a pseudorandom sequence that's chipped at about a megahertz -- this will get you ~10 meter accuracy. That's just for crappy cheapo civilian stuff... there are higher bandwidth signals available for military use (and civilians can get down to cm levels using differential GPS, but that's a different story that involves counting 1.5GHZ carrier phase cycles and generally using extreme cleverness) WAAS is similarly not directly used for positioning in its 250bps bandwidth -- it provides a useful data message that helps to remove uncertainties from the GPS signals you receive, but it's not really letting you do positioning with a 250bps signal.

    In principle you could use a 50bps (or even slower) signal to do GPS work, but in practice it would be too hard and expensive to nail down bit transitions accurately enough and would make initialization *very* slow. Enough so that it would be a silly thing to do.

    But a couple megahertz of BW isn't bad for what GPS can do, when you think about it... but it really is a lot more than 50bps.

  • Did anyone else note the fact that the linked article was pretty much aimed at two-year olds?

    I hearby submit a replacement sales pitch :

    We're a company that sells widgets that can send data over the ionised trails that meteors leave as they enter the atmosphere! Please, read the following questions before contacting us:

    "What the heck does I-yon-ised mean?"

    "What's a meet-e-yor shower?"

    "What does a footprint have to do with comms?"

    "What does line-of-sight mean?"

    If you don't know the answer to the above questions, what the hell are you doing?

    If you're thinking of buying a comms system and you need to look up the meaning of words like those above, Stop Now.

    For the love of all the technical people out there, go find someone smarter than you (if you need to ask questions like those above, it won't be hard). Trust their advice. Give them money. Let them think about it. Let them do the job. Relax in the knowledge that someone smarter is in control of the situation.

    Just keep the hell away from it, and above all don't bug the smart people about it.

    Probably need a lot less technical support in the world if all companies used sales pitches like that.

  • ...anyone here tried an `Xploder` bar? Chocolate, but with `space dust` style carbon dioxide rich sugar inside. Mental!
  • this technology is nither new nor strange.

    I have been involved in a testing run with this technology a few years back.
    We set ut a 'server' that constantly transmits an idle signal. when a station recives this idle signal it establishes an 2 way comunication with the server on 2 frequencies. The link lasts for only a very short time.
    Messages between stations are always sent via the 'server' making it possible to reatch half the continent with one server.
    It's not so easy to eavsdrop on this system, you can easily find the idle signal, but unless you'r located very near one of the comunication stations you won't be able to eavsdrop on the databursts. This happens becouse the ionized atmosphere only creates a very limited footprint (area where you can hear the other station)

    we devised our own simple protocols for the testing. We did not use IP becouse you have very short time to transmit, and in that time you need to do handshaking and conduct as much datatransfer as possible.

    My experience is that the system is very stable, reliable and secure. Pity you can't get very high transferrates.

  • In the not-too-long-ago past the hams (I'm one myself but haven't actually tried MB) simply used tape recorders for this. No need for computers. You just record your (CW) message on the tape recorder, then play it back Real Fast on your odd (or even) minute (see another posting). Likewise, you record the received message with your tape recorder running at high speed, then you play it back at low speed. Instant compressed messaging system.
  • Rather strange - I can see the military value but I can't really see the point in a commercial system. About the only thing going for it is the spectral bandwidth efficiency - but if you are only transmitting small bursts of information every now and then you'd probably get similar bandwidth efficiency by assigning timeslots on a reliable channel. I doubt this is really any cheaper than satellite.
    I'm intreagued by the technology though. It seems to me that to take advantage of the space diversity (the small footprint) you would need a highly directional antenna. In that case, you would need to know where to point it in order to communicate. I can imagine just sending out a broadcast signal from the base station which a vehicle would hear whenever a useable meteor appeared, but how would it know in which direction to transmit the return signal? I guess you would need some way of measuring the direction the received signal is coming from. Can you do that?
  • If the earth were between the moon and sun so that no sunlight reached the moon (that's a lunar eclipse, right?), and you aimed the mother of all flashlights at the moon, then it probably would be brightest in the center if that's where you had the beam of light aimed. But the sun isn't aimed just at the center (from our perspective) of the moon, it floods all of it with light (and every other frequency of EM too, no doubt).
  • Yummy! Also, Rice Krispies came bundled with strawberry flavoured exploding 'space dust' last year. Scrum-diddily-umptious!
  • Should've called it the Internet Carrier Pigeon Protocol.

    Or maybe I'm the only person juvenile enough to think ICPP would be the best acronym ever.
  • In principle you could use a 50bps (or even slower) signal to do GPS work, but in practice it would be too hard and expensive to nail down bit transitions accurately enough

    In the early 1960's, scientists at The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in beautiful Laurel, Maryland, determined the orbit of Sputnik from listening to the doppler shift of the radio signal as it passed. APL's chairman came up with the neat concept that if you knew the orbit of the satellite, you could determine the position of the receiver from the doppler shift as well.

    This was the birth of TRANSIT [], the first satellite based navigation system. It transmitted orbit ephemeris every 2 minutes, and the receivers used the doppler shift curve to figure out location.

    TRANSIT also had satellites called "Oscar" long before OSCAR (i.e. Orbiting Satellites Carrying Amateur Radio), which lead to many confusing conversations when I first worked at Johns Hopkins APL.
  • Hmm... Think I've heard of a company that does shit like that for a living... They've got this product they call NT... New Technology my ass...


    Sorry, no .sig today
  • That's pretty scary, considering how fragile those planes' electrical systems are..

    Your Working Boy,
  • In Europe there is the company Meteor Data []
    Communications, in the Netherlands that uses the same technology in
    Europe for lowcost (relatively) vehicle tracking and other
    not-really-time-critical data transport. There is also a rather good
    explanation of how things work on their site.

    My 2 cents.
  • When stopped, my clock doesn't display anything
    is it that it's never wrong then ?
  • Not really, considering the Radar systems that 'paint' these aircraft every few seconds are MUCH more powerfull than the Puny amateur transmitters.
  • Obviously, there is way too much VC money out there.

  • This is mostly used in the arctic/antarctic regions. Why? Because the ionosphere is not usable there. In the rest of the world, you just bounce off the the pole regions, you must await the odd meteor.

    Errata: I once told a National Security Agency computer science intern about this. A few months later it was on an NSA test she took. Now, THAT'S strange!

  • Truckers using 11M CB radios do this all the time, but by using the ionized atmosphere during daylight hours. Similar effect--bouncing off of ionized layers. However, that's a significantly more reliable communication medium. Oh, and BTW, hams discovered ionosphere bounce, back when they were relegated to the "useless" frequencies "below 200m" (above 1.5 MHz).
  • Kinda. Meteorologists have put up remote weather stations all over the place, and they transmit data this way. That's how they know how much snow fell in BFE Utah last night. Find out how much snow fell in BFE Utah last night.
  • What I don't understand is how the signal is reliably recievable, due to the limitations of the elliptical footprint (see section 1.5.2 of this link []) and the sporadicness (Is that a word? Doubt it...) of the meteors.
    Looking at the chart they have on the site showing meteor frequency, it seems as if all of the ground stations would have to constantly broadcast to catch the next meteor.
    And with the elliptical footprint, wouldn't that exacerbate problems of the RF reflecting off of buildings if the mobile transmitters were on vehicles?

    Of course, we didn't cover this in my General ham radio classes.

    the fewer declarative statements a man makes, the less likely he is to look like a fool.
  • OK there's probably gonna be a million posts saying the same thing but here's my £0.02 worth.

    This "News" was reported by Tommorows World (UK science and tech TV magazine programme) about 10 years ago and I had a bit of a rant about it then.
    Radio Amateurs have been doing this since Methuselah was a youngster. Meteor scatter transmissions have been going on around the world since at least the early sixties. Probably earlier, I'm not a radio historian

    And while we're at it has anyone heard of packet radio? It's principles formed the basis of that little used and now largely irrelevant protocal know as IP.
    It's even more strongly linked with the much hyped "new generation" of mobile phone services known as General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) which promises (but will not likely deliver) so much.

    End of semi rant. Sorry folks.


    Golf 1 Charlie Foxtrot Tango - If it means anything.

  • Do you have time for "good crypto" if you're at about 9600 baud? That could slow things down even further.
  • In certain parts of the UK, the water authorities use MS to transmit sensor readings from remote sites. The transmitters are often solar or wind powered, and work with maybe a couple of watts on 49MHz.
    They make a distinctive "burp burp burp" noise. Each packet is coded so it can be identified as part of a set so multiple copies aren't logged.
    Moonbounce, on the other hand, does indeed use the moon as a passive reflector. You need *HUGE* antennae for this, and a very powerful transmitter. This is because the signal is largely scattered by the convex reflector. If you send a quick burst of morse (say your callsign), you can hear it come back about 3 seconds later...
    As a previous poster mentioned, it is indeed very, very strange...
  • I have been a Ham for quite awhile. One of the things we do out of necessity (to keep costs down, since it is a hobby) is bounce signals off of things, such as buildings, mountains, the moon, and even meteors. Another naturally occuring phenomenon we use is the Aurora (makes a good mirror!)
  • Someone mod this up, please.

    I just about snorted soda all over my keyboard.

  • The parent is not offtopic. Retarded, but on topic.

  • Looking at the chart they have on the site showing meteor frequency, it seems as if all of the ground stations would have to constantly broadcast to catch the next meteor.

    That, in fact, is exactly how we did it. We had beacon transmitters set up at each site what wanted to communicate, and as soon as a station heard a beacon from another station that it wanted to contact, it would quickly burst its data to it. The paths were generally symmetric (i.e. if A could hear B, generally B could hear A). Worked surprisingly well

  • Attention moderators: you're stupid! This comment is NOT interesting - it's also not true. IT IS A JOKE!

    Also, "Soft hit = binary" should have a zero after it. Don't know what happened there...

    My karma's bigger than yours!

  • Completely potshot, completely random, and yet reliable enough for some pretty high-level stuff, neat. I've heard that the US Military has for some time been using microwave transmitters to heat large sections of the upper atmosphere in order to achieve the same radio-reflective effect with less guesswork.
  • Or there was in 1998. []
  • that I understand wtf is going on here.

  • I read a ham radio book this morning on this subject. It was written in the late 50s.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Thursday January 25, 2001 @07:35PM (#480330) Homepage Journal
    Hams do meteor scatter all of the time. The principle is that when a particle hits the atmosphere, the trail of superheated air behind it is ionized, and reflects radio signals back to the ground.

    The reflecting surface lasts a few seconds. Because it's not suitable for voice, hams usually use very high speed Morse code, much faster than you could send by hand, sent by computer and read off a video display. Two way communications work this way: one party sends their message repeatedly over one minute on the odd minutes, the other party sends on the even minutes. The odds are that during that minute there's a meteor where you want one and the message gets through.



  • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @07:37PM (#480331)
    Yes, this is an old trick. Whenever there's a meteor shower (a few days of increased activity, when Earth passes near the residue of a comet; this happens a few times a year on schedule) a lot of ham operators point their VHF (2 meter or 70 cm CW, typically) antennas at it and bounce signals off of the tails. Not exactly the meat of long conversations, but a nice way to get some well-beyond-the-horizon contacts into the logbook (think "radiosport"; we do it for the challenge, often competitively).

    I suppose if you throw enough at it, you can find enough tiny meteors to make it a fairly regular means of communications. But it's rarely the medium of choice, what with dirt-cheap geostationary satellite bandwidth for the sites that can't get to the fiber networks.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    With a pro-defense-spending President in office, it occurs to me that this is a very strong mode of communication in time of war, ie not relying on sitting-duck satellites.

    If the antennas are pointed up at space, and if they are directional enough, they can use the same spectrum as other ground-to-ground systems and not interfere.

    This will make more money than Ginger in five years.

  • by Vassily Overveight ( 211619 ) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @07:39PM (#480333)
    This is ... really strange.

    Well, not really. Back in the olden days when I was a lad, long before commsats and optical fibers, we used to use High Frequency radio for long-distance communications. The signals bounce off of the ionosphere. Meteor Burst is essentially the same thing, except that you're waiting for that momentary ionization trail created by a descending meteor to bounce the signal. I worked on a military project that was using MB. The trail lasts a brief time and is random, but there are so many meteors hitting the atmosphere in a day, that it was seldom more than a few minutes before we got an open path to burst our data. The challenge was, we were doing this at the dawn of the microprocessor age and it was quite the software triumph to set up our little beacon/burster program in 2048 bytes.

  • Just think about the amout of Pr0n we could DL if they could get this up and running by the time they bring down Mir.

    "Comrad, lets hold off untill the kids go to sleep"

    eather way, theres always iridim

    Broadband Pr0n for all!


  • Magic dust man! Magic dust! (please don't mod this up---i'm kapped out. go play whack-a-troll instead.)

  • Been tried. In the 70s or 80s if I recall. Lots of testing, actually looked pretty good. Then the DoD folks noticed that the defense contractor doing the testing (and, of course, making the money if it sells), was doing all the testing at certain times of the year. Just _happened_ to coincide with peak meteor shower times. Without that, no nearly reliable enough for military use.
  • Finally! A quality use for those Iridium satellites...


    Rolling on the floor laughing so hard that shit's coming out my pant leg
  • Question - with all these metor showers that are happening during the day and all this debris that its enough to make more then a handful of people listen for pings of dust ... wouldnt things like satelites and space shuttles be effected more by this? I mean from what I have read in the thread, its quite common for right at dawn to get a lot of metors that you can bounce off their dust. I dunno if that makes sense - I just never knew that there was that much usable metor dust!
  • To make the dust layer reflection more reliable, there was in the 1960's a military program to put needles (well, dipoles) in low Earth orbit to form an artificial reflecting layer. I forget the name, but it was run by MIT Lincoln Labs. After a huge controversy (about polluting outer space!), it flew and... nothing happened. Not enough needles, I guess.

    Of course, this was at a time when they were (in Project Starfish) exploding nukes 600 km up to see what it would do to the ionosphere...
  • I wasn't aware that DGPS was capable of getting down into the cm positioning accuracy area. Is that cm range achieved by using DGPS in conjunction with carrier tracking? I led an engineering team that did some early work on DGPS for NASA and the Army back in the '80s for precision approaches and we didn't see accuracies like that using straight differential (but it was good enough to meet CAT II requirements when you used P-code). Carrier tracking was pretty much out of the question at the time (cost = outrageous). Having been out of the GPS field for a number of years now, I have to ask: Is carrier tracking common in today's receivers?


  • There are actually quite a few applications, with vehicle location being the one that this specific company is targeting.

    I've seen a lot of people say "why would you do this if you can get really cheap satellite bandwidth". Well, because this method uses FREE bandwidth.

    It's a niche application certainly, but there is a place for this technology. Rural areas, mountainous areas that can't get LOS to the geosynchronous ring, etc.

    In fact, here's [] an article that talks about an ambulance company that is using the technology right now. (The article mentions a further niche use for their technology as a sort of Lojack [] system.)

  • Ergh. Post ask for post to not be mod'd up. Result: gets mod'd up. Okay....

  • Why would you consider moonbounce strange? That's what moonlight is. Light's just electromagnetic radiation of a particular frequency range.
  • So do you mean trying moonbounce during an eclipse, to see if the signal-to-noise ratio is higher? Might not be a bad idea. I know that solar noise is very broad band.
    You can actually pick up solar EM radiation using an analogue satellite TV receiver. Set the dish up pointing south. When the sun passes the line-of-sight of the dish, you can see the signal strength increase. This is due to solar noise. I've got the circuit for connecting a plotter to the AGC line to draw a graph of this somewhere.
  • While Meteor Scatter is an interesting mode, I think that Airplane Scanner is even more interesting. Recently Hams have been bouncing Signals in the 10Ghz range off the metal skins of high flying Aircraft. Communication ranges of up to 500 miles have been recorded. A recent (last few months) article in QST had the details...
  • More old news.. I have a bookmark to this company from June 1998. And I remember finding that through a search engine after remembering an article from many years earlier (maybe Scientific American's Amateur Scientist column..) about it. I was looking into strategies for a Cambodian rural network between villages scattered hundreds of miles apart, which would require very large antennas for line of sight around the curvature of the earth.

    Don't know what on Earth happened to the company since then (I think it was the same company anyway) but at the time there was much info on the web site about how it was used to do periodic downloads of results from many very remote automated data collectors, like atmospheric stations and so on. There was something about shipping too. But the data rate was extremely short, and it seemed only useful to communications that could be accomplished with a handful of bytes each signal.

    I remember at the time worrying about security, since antennas and signals might draw fire from military on innocent villages etc. There still is hardly any phone infrastructure, and any really good solution (like the phone system in the sky one satellite company built for Thailand) seemed prey to a rapacious telecom ministry. Well that's a few years ago. I think I suggested more research into either a store and forward to satellites, or a line of site ham network using a specialized linux type distribution.

    Anyway, I said "Amateur Scientist meteor radio" to Google and Google showed me some very nice links!

    Meteorscatter Links--Make More Miles on VHF []
    A link on this page ( Meteor Burst Communication []) mentions the noise floor is limited to the noise emitted by the galaxy, which changes through the day as you scan different parts of it. Cool! It says you really ought to be away from cities and highways to keep the floor as low as possible.

    The American Meteor Society Radiometeor Project []
    (a reprint posted last summer of a 1997 article from the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers [])

  • I talked to these people two years ago, and they had a functinal system, mostly used to communicate with trucks in unknown odd territoria, such as Russia. The guy also told me they had lots and lots of interference from the NATO bombing on Serbia Paul
  • by TA ( 14109 )
    No ionosphere in the arctic regions? Nonsense. Where did you get that from? FYI, I'm a ham and I live in the arctic (70N), and the ionosphere works just fine, thank you. No different from the time I spent in more southern latitudes.
  • ``Radio Amateurs have been doing this since Methuselah was a youngster. Meteor scatter transmissions have been going on around the world since at least the early sixties.''

    You noticed that,too? I used to run across at least an article every couple of months in the IEEE Transaction on Communications back when I was in college (which was too long ago for me to want to mention just now). While doing research I would run across similar articles in the journals that predated the IEEE. This is old stuff indeed.

  • It's indeed a lot of radio noise coming from the Sun. If you have e.g. an L-band autotracking satellite dish available (you may need to go find a satellite ground station for this :-) then you'll find that you can easily get the antenna system to auto-track the Sun.
  • Yes, this is real-time DGPS using carrier tracking. Carrier tracking is common on high-end survey class receivers. On consumer grade / lower-end stuff where you're not doing DGPS, there's not much point in tracking carrier because atmospheric fluctuations overwhelm any gain you might make.
  • by Gorobei ( 127755 ) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @07:45PM (#480353)
    It is the fact that the system is not susceptible to disturbances or unauthorized listeners which makes MB communications attractive for military communication systems, where it has been in operation for years.

    Not susceptible to unauthorized listeners? Huh?! It's just standard broadcast.

    The rest of the page talks about a mixed-mode (line-of-sight + meteor burst) operation. I bet they never implement the meteor burst aspect: it's just a hook for customers and investors. Ordinary phone technology would do as well or better.

  • by shalunov ( 149369 ) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @07:48PM (#480354) Homepage
    GPS uses 50bps half-duplex broadcast transmission to achieve quite amazing results. GLONASS [] uses similarly low bit-rate with essentially the same results. WAAS uses 250bps.

    What interesting things, besides positioning, can be done with low bit-rate channels?

  • I would imagine that the significance of their technology is that they've found a way to make it sufficiently reliable. Of course, I wouldn't be completely surprised if they're just whoring for VC/stock by trying to make 70 year old tech look new. From the look of things, it's probably a mix of the two. They're probably avoiding using IP in part because it assumes a generally reliable connection. On the other hand, the word "proprietary" makes VCs drool because it implies a functional monopoly and/or patent royalties. Not to be confused with "standards-compliant" which apparently implies "making money off of someone else's R&D". Thanks to the spin doctors we'll never know, but if it means cheaper long-range communication, I'm all for it.
  • Truckers using 11M CB radios do this all the time, but by using the ionized atmosphere during daylight hours.
  • There was an article in the November QST [] about using Meteor scatter for Routine Communications. From the sounds of the article, that with proper operations that you can pretty much use meteor scatter year round.
  • Man, if ET had this technology, things sure would have been different...
  • I can definately see the military's reasons for this technology, but I see no value in it for civilian communications at all. Even if it is advanced to transfer at greater speeds, it's not any jiant leap of technology... We have typical radio for most modern applications, and satelite communication for any long-distance communications. If our satelities are bombarded by missles from China, the last thing you need to worry about is wether or not you can read the latest slashdot news. ;-)
  • by geirt ( 55254 ) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @11:26PM (#480360)

    This is ... really strange.

    Meteor scatter isn't that strange, since the space dust ionizes the atmosphere. Moonbounce on the other hand is ... really strange.

    In moonbounce [] you use the moon as a passive reflector. Google [] has more info.

  • Interestingly, the guy in the featured article supports my argument that CmdrTaco's regular mixing up of "then" and "than" comes from the fact that they sound alike: In the article, LOS of course means Line-of-Sight, not Line-of-Site.

    Altavista sides with me here, giving 306 hits for Line-Of-Site versus 4557 hits for Line-Of-Sight.

    On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if someone came up with facts that said Line-Of-Site had been common use since 1800 A.D. .

  • I agree that the article is somewhat optimistic about the security of the beam. The bounced signal widens into a 30km by 15km ellipse. While that's better than broadcasting with an omnidirectional antennae, it doesn't quite add up to the pinpoint precision you could get with lasers. If you were within that ellipse, then you could easily listen to one side of the message traffic, and you might be able to mess with the communications by responding to the "probe" signal. Good crypto, however, would get rid of these problems.

    The article also mentions that they handle the case where multiple remote sites reply to the base station's "probe" signal. Thus, while the system works best with a large, sparse network, they can have some level of density.

  • ...a Beowulf Cluster


    OK, OK, but it was pretty lame to begin with. The only advantage of this thing is its operability without satellites, and if anything happens that would wipe out all the satellites (hint, it would probably involve lots and lots of uncontrolled nuclear fission and fusion reactions) would probably also wipe out MB propagation too. I think.

    OTOH if it didn't wipe out MB comms it would almost certainly have the opposite effect of making them redundant by creating a huge ionospheric mirror so that all VHF comms would propagate. Hard to say, given the test history, which way it would go. It's a bit late and I'm a bit too drunk to look it up.

    Either way, this silly system is redundant.

  • "Hey Bob! Lets bounce radio waves off space dust burning up in the atmosphere!"
  • Imagine: a crippled alien spaceship is desintegrating into Earth's atmosphere...

    [alien #1] Hey, someone on this planet is trying to talk to us with VHF radio waves.

    [alien #2] Maybe they want to help us.

    [alien #1] In fact they are trying to communicate with our dust tail?!??!

  • by autocracy ( 192714 ) <> on Thursday January 25, 2001 @08:05PM (#480366) Homepage
    Hard hit = binary 1
    Soft hit = binary

    Of course, everything in nature is basically analog, so hard and soft hits have to be defined in analog terms just like bits in computers - but if it really hurts it's a 1.

    My karma's bigger than yours!

  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Thursday January 25, 2001 @08:10PM (#480368)
    significantly on the news that they will be offering an additional service at the the begining of March.

    This new service will be called "Mir Burst". A spokesman for the company said that while meteor burst gives only milliseconds to send data packets, it's expected that the burning trail of the russian space station Mir will give them as much as an half of an hour of reliable highspeed data capability.

    When asked about the temporary nature of Mir Burst, the spokesperson said that they were in negotiations with other satellite companies to move obsolete communications equipment into lower earth orbit so that they too could re-enter the atmosphere and provide fleet communications.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982