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Canadian Firm Plans 78-Satellite Net Service

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the who-doesn't-love-satellite-service? dept.

Canada 143

matty619 writes "A CNET article is reporting on another try at low earth orbit satellites for internet access, reminiscent of Teledesic, an ill fated $9 billion Bill Gates/Paul Allen et al venture originally consisting of 840 low earth orbit satellites (LEO-SAT). From the article: '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.' 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."

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This will be great! (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933734)

High ping, high jitter, low bandwidth once you factor in number of users and high cost, what could be better?

Re:This will be great! (5, Funny)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933754)

But then, the alternative is Rogers or Bell, so...

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34936138)

But then, the alternative is Rogers or Bell, so...

You left out French Goatcomm [goatse.fr] as well as a few others :\

Re:This will be great! (3, Insightful)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933768)

High ping, high jitter, low bandwidth once you factor in number of users and high cost, what could be better?

Dialup

Re:This will be great! (2)

ThurstonMoore (605470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934374)

Dial-up has lower latency than satellite, I speak from experience, when I play online poker I use dial-up. Factor in the Fair Access Policy and you can download more through dial-up in 24 hours than you can through satellite. Dial-up: 5MB/hr x 24hrs=288MB Satellite: 200MB FAP limit per 24hrs for the $40 plan.

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34934792)

200MB FAP limit

That's it? Really? I would need at least twice that or I would go nuts.

Re:This will be great! (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935050)

You are just spoiled by modern technology. You could reach your FAP limit with pixelated pinup jpegs at 36kbps, it just took a little longer than with hardcore hd live video streaming on a multi-megabit connection.

Re:This will be great! (3, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934886)

LEO satellites will have lower latency than dial-up. Using experience with a GEO service to represent all possible satellite services is silly.

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34935768)

Part of the reason for the high latency experienced with satellite internet services is that Hughesnet et. al. only have satellites in geosynchronous orbit, really far away from earth. Low-earth orbit satellites would be much closer, which would reduce latency significantly. It's hard to believe, I know. Someone more clever might be interested in doing the math.

Re:This will be great! (4, Funny)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933770)

I personally still vote for IP-over-avian-carriers [wikipedia.org] . Think of how many pigeons you can buy for $9 Billion.

Re:This will be great! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34933886)

Think of how many pigeons you can buy for $9 Billion.

Think of the "packet drops" from $9 billion worth of pigeons.

Re:This will be great! (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933932)

Avian Carrier Wave+ The Birds (Hitchcock)= A really bad idea.

how many pigeons you can buy for $9 Billion? (1)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934298)

All of them!

Re:This will be great! (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934346)

I'd keep some spare money to pay the people that keep the pigeons flying, aka Managers.

Re:This will be great! (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934764)

I think they're called "routers".

Re:This will be great! (1)

arhnold (892968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934370)

So those weren't mass bird die offs, just a burst of dropped packets?

Re:This will be great! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934612)

NO CARRIER

Re:This will be great! (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934692)

Hilariously enough, carrier pigeons are not actually extinct either:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_pigeon [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racing_Homer [wikipedia.org]

Re:This will be great! (1)

themba (11220) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935454)

Hilariously enough

You were probably thinking of passenger pigeons [wikipedia.org] , which most certainly are extinct.

Re:This will be great! (1)

ohiovr (1859814) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934740)

Now we just need wifi that uses pidgin poop for power. (PPfP)

Re:This will be great! (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934924)

It's a really interesting question. $9B will almost certainly buy all the pigeons. But then, so would $1B. So then you have to ask, how much of a pigeon breeding industry can $9B create? What will happen to that infrastructure when the buying spree runs out? You have to feed your pigeons too, how much economy of scale can be achieved in pigeon food production? The pigeons have to keep going for ten years, what does the turnover rate look like, and is that sustainable when there's a risk of noncontinuation after the first decade?

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34933778)

ASCII-porn in the Northwest Territories?

Re:This will be great! (4, Informative)

DirtyCanuck (1529753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933852)

This is Canada bud, we have the most land per person with gaps in population not seen in most places in the world.

Even in Northern Ontario where cell service and broadband exists, there are still consistent areas that have access only to dial up.

I have seen customers first hand, who had no service while their neighbor across the road had High Speed Bell or Cogeco.

When we start to take into consideration people that can't even access dial up it becomes apparent that there is a glaring gap in equal access to internet up here in the proper North.

With Bell and Rogers running the show it becomes very evident that an ideal way to harness these customers is to offer some sort of over the air service not already in place.

Re:This will be great! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934040)

Those folks are not going to have the money for this kind of service. If they really want good internet service they could move closer to civilization.

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34934576)

Actually, it's the other way round -- 'civilization' wants dominion over the resource-rich north. Hence civilization has to provide connection so the people already up there feel part of the same country, and so civilization can get skilled workers to move there to develop those resources.

[oddly enough, the captcha for this post was "campsite".]

Re:This will be great! (2)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935216)

It's not because they are leaving very North they do not have money. Some are quite rich in some areas. Others are communities which could afford a link to share.

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34935232)

No, that's just wrong. Just because people are in remote areas doesn't mean they are poor. Actually, it's often the opposite: people are in remote areas because there are important and expensive resources there (diamonds, oil, or even vast uninterrupted tracts of highly fertile land). And between the actual centres are vast regions that are not covered, even though that's *exactly* where telecommunications are most useful. It's not a matter of 6+ figure populations vs. the 3rd world.

And for that matter, one of the ways to break out of poverty is to specifically give access to things like this which can bootstrap your region into something profitable.

Yo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34936242)

sometimes you are insightful, sometimes you just ain't. A WHOLE lotta folks who live way out in the boonies make some killer dough. These are folks who have 25 to over a hundred grand tractors, crawlers, excavators, fleets of various sized trucks, 10 grand snowmachines, might own hundreds to thousands of acres, could be into logging-ever price skidders, high end chainsaws, knucklebooms, off road logging tractors?- might maintain a few thou head cattle..and so on, a big list.

I doubt paying for a cheap satellite connection will break the bank for them..in fact I'd bet, human per human, they proly make a lot more than you do. They just don't live in rat warren urban cesspools and high rise termiteville places.

A lot of us prefer to live outside of the three mile limit to some rank telco box. We'll get internet one way or the other, the cash is there, someone-like these satellite guys-will take the money. Cable cos refused to run new cable to tons of places, surprise, sat TV took the money that was sitting there on the table and is pretty successful. The internet is behind that, it is there somewhat now, but more competition and better tech will make it cheaper/faster. Ya, lag will always be there...and who gives a fuk... a lot of us could give shit one over your idiotic fat nerd on ritalin and high fructose corn syrup mc food fueled video games, too. Lag is the big issue there so you can be a bigman and kill some cartoon monsters....oooo..just gives me a chubby..not.

You urban elitists are just so...fucking clueless sometimes. Yes, there's poor people out in the boonies too..guess what..they are fully aware they could "move closer to civilization".. and don't. I'll leave it to you to figger out why they don't, and in most cases, won't.

Re:This will be great! (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934070)

>>>take into consideration people that can't even access dial up

This sentence confuses me. If you have a phoneline, you should be able to access dialup. Right?

BTW I have dialup - $7/month. Although I still prefer my $15 DSL. Anyway people make a conscious choice - they can live near a city with all the various services but the view sucks, or the country where services are few but the scenery is beautiful. If someone desires dialup then let them move closer.

Maybe the Canadian government should be requiring all phone companies to upgrade their switching stations to DSLAMs. 50k to 500k is a big jump, and is the difference between being able to watch hulu.com or not.

Re:This will be great! (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934108)

Hulu from canada:
Sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed from within the United States

Re:This will be great! (1)

bdrees (1015815) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934160)

If you have a phoneline, you should be able to access dialup. Right?

Not true, While living in the Lower Ugashik area of Alaska, my dial tone was partially carried by microwave. Microwave and Dial up do NOT mix.

Re:This will be great! (1)

ThurstonMoore (605470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934424)

If you have unlimited long distance or live in the area you should use http://www.freedialup.org/ [freedialup.org] .

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34934862)

Or maybe the Canadian government isn't going to shoot itself in the foot like you people by not investing in infrastructure. There is no point in depriving the rural areas of the essentials of modern life just because some clueless American tries to make an ultimatum.

Re:This will be great! (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935114)

No. In parts of stone county, MS phone service is available but varies between light static to drowned in static will not allow dialup to carry data. I frequently called it a 3rd world county when I lived there.

Re:This will be great! (2)

DirtyCanuck (1529753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34936188)

"Maybe the Canadian government should be requiring all phone companies to upgrade their switching stations to DSLAMs. 50k to 500k is a big jump, and is the difference between being able to watch hulu.com or not."

Actually Bell has a monopoly on the lines. Such a mandate was issued then rolled back in terms of definition of both coverage and required bandwidth.

I worked as an employee of Bell up until a week ago as I am switching jobs and where I live. We use a program Called Iris to determine availability of High Speed based on address. We would often figure situations where a next door neighbor had high speed available where next door they did not.
Same goes for cellular Coverage: http://www.bell.ca/shopping/PrsShpWls_Coverage.page [www.bell.ca]

Look how things get patchy into the North. Even around North Bay a city of 60 000 plus people with a University extremely modern Hospital and other thriving industries.

Laptops (Which I sold) were often sold based on whether they had a 56kb modem in them, typically Toshiba facilitated this. Our USB Modems were sold out, always.

People in the North are far from poor. Some people I know own 1000's of acres worth millions but choose to live a modest life.

They can't justify paying bell THOUSANDS to have a line run to their property.

But they certainly can afford to pay a premium for an alternative to the tyranny of the monopoly.

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34935964)

Hmm, note that the 'neighbour across the road' is 50 kilometers away, eh...

Re:This will be great! (4, Informative)

emt377 (610337) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933910)

High ping, high jitter, low bandwidth once you factor in number of users and high cost, what could be better?

622 miles is really quite low and would only add about 10-12ms to the roundtrip. It's only a little more than the distance from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Jitter and bandwidth is a matter of pricing, and presumably there will be service tiers. Oversell it enough and it will be crap. Price it to manage demand and it could be excellent. If they can make this work anywhere in the world (why else 78 nodes) with an access device resembling a small book or hockey puck, then I predict monumental success.

Re:This will be great! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933964)

Jitter is a matter of the constantly moving sats, you will be losing them over the horizon and pick up new ones. If you price it so that a reasonable amount of bandwidth is affordable you will not be able to afford launch costs.

Re:This will be great! (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934120)

This is why high altitude balloons with solar motors to maintain position make much more sense to me, higher payload, lower cost, easier to maintain (put up a second bird, repair the problem then use that to replace the next failing bird).

Re:This will be great! (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934092)

622 miles is one way. RT is 1244mi, presuming it's right above you. Add in the route to get to the uplink, if it's not your own dish. And as geography says that people mostly live in towns and cities, congestion of a specific sat is likely, and is unlikely to be able to effectively load balanced in any meaningful way. Depending on the freq, you may or may not have to have a clear sky path, and you may or may not need to align things to maximize speed.

Then there's launching a lot of sats because you have a lot of revenue stream, all ready to go. Seems a sat phone business could arise out of that.

Oh, wait....

Re:This will be great! (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934448)

I would think that the 10-12 msec estimate already took all of that into account. If the bird is right above you, a 1244 mile round trip is a little over 6 msec. at the speed of light. Also, bear in mind that LEO satellites don't use a dish---they use a normal antenna---so no alignment is involved. You can't realistically track a bird whose twenty minute ground path is the size of North America using a directional aerial. The whole point of LEO constellations is that there are always multiple birds overhead, so you talk to the one that provides the strongest signal or whatever.

But you're right about load balancing and cities. The flip side of that coin is that these can cover areas that can't feasibly be covered by cellular coverage due to low population density. You know, like most of Canada, where this company is based. It's a tradeoff.

Re:This will be great! (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934494)

The only time I ever worked with a satellite connection was at a power plant in the middle of California's Central Valley. The latency was constantly above 2000ms and establishing a VPN connection back to the main office in Los Angeles was a real challenge.

Re:This will be great! (2)

green1 (322787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934906)

But that was a geostationary satellite, this is talking LEO, there's a huge difference.
Geostationary is the reason satellite internet has a bad reputation, you're sending a signal 36,000km each way, that adds a lot of time to your pings. The plan here is for the altitude to be only 1000km, or 1/36th the distance, so if your ping before was 2000ms then your new ping time would only be about 55ms which is quite acceptable.

The downside is instead of launching 1 satellite, they are launching 78, so the big question remains as to whether they can make it cost effective, or if this will be another Irridium (which in and of itself isn't actually a bad thing, because the Irridium network, although not being run by the original company, does work, and does work very well.)

Re:This will be great! (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934938)

That's the equivalent of stating that DSL is capable of 300 bps because it runs over the same copper you used to get 300 bps on last you tried it. Your ignorance of the technology isn't an effective argument. These satellites are about 1/10th as far away as the satellite you were likely using. Not to mention that to get 2000 ms response, you'd have to be on a crap service. Comparing the capabilities of "satellite" from someone so incompetent as to try running business services over a very oversubscribed residential service on a GEO satellite and doesn't know what LEO means doesn't seem like a good idea.

And yes, I do run a large satellite-based ISP. What do you do?

Re:This will be great! (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934968)

Hostile much? It was business class satellite. Definitely not Dish. I will figure out who it was and get back to you. I'm going to laugh if it's your company.

Re:This will be great! (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935350)

And I'll laugh if someone sold you Starband or WildBlue or such as a "business class satellite."

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34936140)

There is a vast difference in performance of GEO and LEO satellites. Using a GEO network, the ping to the satellite alone is about 600ms. Most satellite internet services are stationed in GEO, which is 36 000km up. These satellites would be in LEO, only about 1 000km up, with a ping of about 6ms. The GEO ping I've quoted is for Sweden. At the equator it would be closer to 500ms, in Canada it would be even higher. The ping to a ground station would be the double.

Re:This will be great! (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933968)

Low earth orbit satellites are only a few hundred miles up, so ping isn't so much of a problem.

Re:This will be great! (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934050)

Only 6ms round trip. At that distance, you're looking at as little as 3ms each way (6ms round trip from ground to satellite and then back). Of course it will be higher then that, but its not going to be a major hindrance.

Re:This will be great! (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934244)

Probably closer to 7ms + equipment would be roughly 10ms. Still better than Comcast or Time Warner though.

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34934274)

Oh but it'll use rockets and satellites! Space Nutters will EAT THIS UP. Until the bill comes.

Re:This will be great! (1)

ewieling (90662) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934586)

It is about 800 miles from New York City to Chicago. These will be orbiting at 670 miles above. If there are latency issues, it is not because of the distance.

Re:This will be great! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934618)

Well, if you have no copper or fiber coming to your area, let alone house, I think that this sounds like a GREAT idea.
The simple fact is, that northern Canada is fairly desolate and loads of space from local to local. The same is true of much of this planet.
These guys are going to make loads of money.

Re:This will be great! (1)

green1 (322787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934936)

Or more likely, these guys will go broke, but whoever buys their satellite constellation will make loads of money...

I really like the idea, but I see it going the way of Iridium, the up front costs are just too high to make any money in the near term. That said, Iridium is still around, and I've been quite happy with it every time I've used it (works much better than Globalstar) So if this does the same thing, I look forward to whoever buys the constellation. It will solve a really big problem of internet in rural Canada (and the rest of the world). Especially nice would be the ability to use it mobile (current satellite internet systems require a precisely aimed dish, a LEO system would not, and as such could keep you connected easily on a moving bus/plane/boat/car

Re:This will be great! (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935956)

Seriously?

Learn the market before you talk.

You should check out a company called Northwestel. They're not even in a monopoly position and they've made over 25 million a year in PROFIT on average for the last 10 fucking years in ONE town of 6-9 thousand(population has been growing obviously). At peak pop thats around 3k per person per year. Given that they're charging and making similar profits, all across the north, and that population is somewhere in the quarter to half a million range for just the Canadian territories, not counting Alaska... yeah... you're right, no money to be made here.

So yeah, you know everything. The huge company that is about to sink billions into the scheme hasn't done their market research at ALL.

The big tell however, will be service and reliability. Those are kings. The problem with a lot of these other start-ups is they failed badly on one or both counts with a price point higher than the crap that is already in place. Plus zero local advertising. If people don't know you exist and that you work up here, you're screwed.

The existing competition leaves a LOT to be desired however. Any company deploying new technology should have zero problems ousting them almost completely. At least if they don't, the existing will be forced to dump some of their profits back into upgrading their own infrastructure.

Re:This will be great! (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934950)

It's not just northern Canada - even better settled parts of Canada still can't get mobile internet. If this thing is reasonably priced, I'd gladly buy it just so I can have net access on the road. Not only could I use it all over Canada, but I'd be able to take it anywhere in the world, so I wouldn't have to worry about roaming charges or availability of service when I go visit Europe, or deploy to some third-world shithole. You can bet that it would be equally valuable to any businesses which do resource-exploration in remote areas, or paleontologists and geologists working in the field, or any number of people in similar occupations/hobbies. Why pay for a satellite phone if you can carry one of these devices and have internet access, plus make calls using VOIP?

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34934726)

The important part of this system that the article leaves out is that it is intended to have complete global coverage. It could therefore compete with things like Iridium; after all, data is really more useful for most people that telephone service these days.

Most globally-available satellite services are completely, absurdly expensive; they're also often antiquated, and usually have completely bewildering policies (I can buy a SIM card with 70 minutes for Iridium for $140, but it expires after 30 days, and then adding 70 minutes to it would cost $140 plus a $250 reactivation fee!?). If this system, with cheap satellites in low orbit, apparently intended to offer low-cost, if perhaps slow service, actually works out, then there'd be little reason to instead use systems with high-cost, slow service.

Besides, it would be nice to be able to use the Internet cheaply while in the middle of the ocean.

Re:This will be great! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935558)

High ping, high jitter, low bandwidth once you factor in number of users and high cost, what could be better?

A lot of stuff could be better. But you know what's worse? No service at all.

Re:This will be great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34936248)

High latency is what you get with Geostationary satellites due to the really long round trip. This is a much shorter trip. Less distance up and down than you'd get going from LA to Chicago. And, it's at the speed of light. 620 miles vs. 22,236 miles, or a factor of 36. About 8ms vs. 280ms. Can you live with that? (ok, that latency is ignoring all sorts of things, but it just points out that the satellite trip to LEO isn't that bad.)

avoid more orbital clutter (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933756)

Yeah, let's dump them in the ocean instead, along with the rest of our trash...

Re:avoid more orbital clutter (2)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933808)

More like vaporized in the atmosphere. Not really a big deal.

Re:avoid more orbital clutter (1)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933950)

Unless you consider the massive waste of these multimillion dollar devices being turned into dust. Go for it though, I'm sure the base cost will be so low for the few consumers on the outer edges of CA will be able to afford this wonderful service while the carrier absorbs the cost of launch, lunch, and reentry. Makes good sense, and should be up and running SkyNet in no time! Damn the jitters, just drink more to cope!!1!

Might benefit astronauts on the space station (2)

caseih (160668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933798)

With the satellites at 600 miles, and if they truly could cover the entire earth, they could provide internet access of some kind to the ISS. Would beat the current system of vnc over radio link.

Re:Might benefit astronauts on the space station (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934482)

Why would they use vnc over radio?
It seems like there would be many better ways, using a caching proxy would be one. I don't see what vnc adds.

Platinum! (or "but this one goes to 11!") (2)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933810)

1 better than iridium!

Re:Platinum! (or "but this one goes to 11!") (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933908)

Exactly

“COMMStellation is a completely unique solution born from non-traditional thinking,” *cough* GPS *cough*

But wait! There's more!

“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% global coverage.”

So there you go, They've reduced the price.. How non-traditional! Most unique!

They've reinvented the kerosene lamp..

I'm not a rocket scientist (1)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933816)

Could any of the higher ranking nerds on this site tell me if they design satellites to burn up during de-orbit without reaching the ground or ocean? Seems like it would be a pretty compromising design feature since they're trying to pack in as much communications equipment as they can into the smallest possible space.

Re:I'm not a rocket scientist (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933894)

Satellites naturally end up with modest densities, not super tightly packed (usually). Weight tends to be at more of a premium than space, especially when you have bulky things like solar panels and antennas involved. A few small, dense pieces might reach the ground, but that's not normally an issue. They'll be deorbited over the ocean, for starters, and the total mass reaching the ground is small.

Re:I'm not a rocket scientist (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34933940)

Yes, there are limits on the quantity of certain materials (metals) that can be used in the design of a satellite for exactly this reason. I believe the spec is AIAA S-110-2005e. For big projects there are exceptions to this (Skylab) but re-entry procedures for these are thoroughly reviewed by governing bodies.

Orbcomm? (1)

mveloso (325617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933920)

Been there done that?

www.orbcomm.com

Re:Orbcomm? (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934026)

orbcomm is a really low speed network used mostly for gathering data from remote sensors and tracking devices. not really comparable

What happens with China? (5, Interesting)

DeltaQH (717204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933926)

Such a service, flying over the GFW, would theoretically give access to uncensored internet.

Will the company filter traffic from China in exchange to get into that market.

Will China shoot the satellites down?

Re:What happens with China? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934044)

Unless these satellites are crazy cheap compared to historical implementations of satellite communication, they'll probably do nothing about it.

With occasional high-profile exceptions(often driven by diplomatic spats), China doesn't have much to gain by hassling well-heeled foreigners or the services that they use. They are too valuable as potential investors and sources of new technology, and tend to be ill equipped for local political disturbance.

If local troublemakers somehow get their hands on the necessary transmitters, it would entirely unsurprise me if they get roughed up and find that their equipment doesn't make it out of the evidence locker in working order(or unbugged); but shooting at a bunch of foreign satellites is Serious Business.

Iridium phones have allowed you to make phone calls from China for years; but they are politically irrelevant because of how expensive they are. Unless this is a fair few orders of magnitude cheaper, the odds that a bunch of disaffected students are going to be able to afford it, rather than a local landline or cell link, are basically nil, so why worry?

Re:What happens with China? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34934670)

No, chinese ruling class would just figure out that in this case it is easier to control access at different point(s): make it illegal to use receivers/transmitters, or find out and arrest end users. While there might be more of these (compared to satellites), there is nice causal relationship between arresting, maiming and/or killing a few users, and rest being too scared to use it.

Of course, if company in question wants to do business in china, they need to play within rules. So; trying to have paying customers without filtering might not be possible -- potential chinese users would be screwed either way.

Shooting down satellites just would not seem like a cost-effective alternative, given number of other as efficient (and massively cheaper) methods.

Re:What happens with China? (1)

Nikker (749551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935824)

They would need LOS for an up link so as the satellite passes over China unless someone else provides an up link I doubt it would be able to be of any use to anyone.

Self-destruct satellites (1)

js3 (319268) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933938)

I've always wondered why satellites don't have a self destruct mechanism? Blow it up, burns up in orbit, problem solved?

Re:Self-destruct satellites (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34934002)

First, because then it might blow up on accident and there goes your very expensive satellite. Second, it might blow up at a bad time (launch) which would be very bad for the rest of the satellites on your launch. Third, if you blow it up you're going to create a lot of debris you can't track. Most satellites are in GEO and have their orbits raised at the end of life to open up there orbital slots. There's no point to blow those up since the debris wouldn't enter the atmosphere. If you're in LEO then you'd still have to make sure there aren't any satellites below you before you blow up since you'll lose control of all of the pieces, and if you can control the descent of one spacecraft into the atmosphere to burn up you may as well not blow it up. Space junk is actually a huge problem for satellites and it's likely only to get worse.

Re:Self-destruct satellites (1)

edjs (1043612) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934028)

The satellite wouldn't 'burn-up' in orbit. An explosion would just scatter the pieces of the satellite into various new orbits. Much of the shrapnel would hit the atmosphere and burn-up, but a significant amount would stay up there and just add to the debris problem, worse than if the satellite was left whole and in place.

Re:Self-destruct satellites (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934046)

Becasue pices would go every where, including into a higher orbit.

Also, launching with additional explosive material increased the risk in all phases of the launch.

And it's not necessary, just de-orbit.

Now, if you question is why don't satellites de-orbit when EOL approaches, that's just do to people wanting to save money. IMO they should be designed to de-orbit into the atmosphere at EOL.
It doesn't have to be fast. A gentile 'nudge' that begins spiraling down over months would be fine.

Re:Self-destruct satellites (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934078)

A gentile 'nudge' that begins spiraling down over months would be fine.

Of course, this is only an option for satellites that are already in a low earth orbit. A geostationary satellite is going to need more than a nudge.

Re:Self-destruct satellites (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934802)

Not really. I practice there is no perfect geostationary orbit. They need station keeping thrusters. So just turning those off means it will do a figure 8 twice a day, and eventually lose orbit. I just want to be sure it's a controlled failure.

Re:Self-destruct satellites (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935296)

Not really.

Yes, really. The energy needed to get them to deorbit is substantial. They just move them higher, it's cheaper, easier, and takes a reasonable amount of energy.

I practice there is no perfect geostationary orbit. They need station keeping thrusters. So just turning those off means it will do a figure 8 twice a day, and eventually lose orbit.

No. If you turn off the thrusters, it will drift. It won't crash in our lifetimes. Thrusters are needed because the earth isn't round. Thrusters aren't needed because the orbit decays that fast. They are so far out that they experience no appreciable resistance, so they'll go almost forever. That's what they plan of for decommissioning them as well, where they send them up higher and there they will also last "forever" and not be in anyone else's way.

Re:Self-destruct satellites (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934096)

Neither "blowing up" nor "burning up" have much effect on mass. In an atmosphere, "burning up" is pretty close to losing mass because various gaseous oxides just go floating off in the breeze. "Blowing up", similarly, tends to reduce something recognisable into little bits that blend in with the dirt/rocks/whatever.

In space, neither usefully applies. To burn, you would have to bring your own oxygen, and you would leave a big, slowly expanding cloud of assorted oxides(I sure hope those don't like condensing on the solar panels or optics of other satellites...). An explosion just turns one piece of space junk, in a predictable orbit, into hundreds or thousands of shards, most travelling fast enough to ruin your whole day, in a wide variety of less predictable orbits(to be fair, some probably will be kicked into trajectories that force them to re-enter the atmosphere).

Even if you vaporized the satellite completely, space is cold and doesn't have any sort of breeze to disperse the vapor. Once the vapor mass had cooled by radiation, it would likely start to recondense into delightful slowly-cooling balls of molten satellite.

This is why the most polite practice is to nudge the satellite into an orbit that will decay fairly swiftly and re-enter the atmosphere, breaking up and burning in an area where people are unlikely to get upset if some bits hit the ground.

Re:Self-destruct satellites (2)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934840)

In addition to the reasons listed by others, self destruct mechanisms have mass. Mass is very expensive to lift into orbit.

CommStellation? Really? (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34933944)

As if copying a failed business wasn't bad enough, using a pun-based product name isn't a good place to start.

Re:CommStellation? Really? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934102)

"Skynet" had poor projected customer retention...

Re:CommStellation? Really? (1)

Nikker (749551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935890)

Actually since Skynet will eventually retain us all I would beg to differ.

"sent back into the atmosphere"? (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934018)

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.

In other news, Canadian forces is expecting to introduce their new kinetic planetary bombardment weapon in 2021.

Re:"sent back into the atmosphere"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34934514)

I've often wondered why we don't employ tethered balloons for wireless access, especially for the north/remote sites. Not only could you power them from terrestrial sources, but when better technology come along, you can reel them in and upgrade them.

Re:"sent back into the atmosphere"? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934820)

Because it's hard to get licensed to put up a wire into the sky because of the risk of catching planes. Even in pretty remote areas.

Re:"sent back into the atmosphere"? (4, Funny)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934882)

In other news, Canadian forces is expecting to introduce their new kinetic planetary bombardment weapon in 2021.

We've been doing that for years - they're called paratroopers. Unfortunately they've recently acquired better parachutes, so their effectiveness has been greatly decreased.

Re:"sent back into the atmosphere"? (1)

Strider- (39683) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935484)

Eh, I thought that's what the Sea King helicopters were. Most countries drop torpedoes for anti-submarine warfare... we just cut to the chase and drop the whole damned helicopter.

Re:"sent back into the atmosphere"? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34936104)

Well, yeah, but the problem is they rarely stay in one piece long enough to hit the water, let alone damage the sub. 20,000 components falling on you is more of an annoyance than a bombardment.

Back-haul alternate route? (1)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934034)

Seriously, this thing provides 12 Gbps backhaul alternate route in four years? Capacity of 10% of a single strand of fibre?

Re:Back-haul alternate route? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934296)

12Gbps per satellite system. It would cost you roughly $8k/gigabit/month without any profit margins and given that they have enough backhaul here on earth.

Re:Back-haul alternate route? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934900)

Uh, no. Unless all 78 satelites are serving the same customers at the same time, there's going to be a lot more than 12Gbps for the whole system. Still expensive, but quite a bit less than what you quoted.

Not quite as insane as it sounds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34934088)

78 satellites x 12 Gbit/s = 936 Gbit/s, assume 50%* satellites actually available at any one time and we have ~450Gbit/sec bandwidth.

So that's around a quarter of a million active users all getting 2Mbit/sec*.

Add in a 25:1* contention ratio and this could feasibly provide basic service for around 50 million users. There's probably a market for that number, worldwide.

* numbers plucked out of arse.

Freq band (2)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 3 years ago | (#34934892)

I read the article quickly and may have missed it, but I saw no mention of frequency band. If they plan to use licensed spectrum then it will be interesting to see how they achieve licenses for all of their markets. and for unlicensed spectrum I don't see how they'll reach the throughput they are hoping for. Directionality/tracking capability of the ground equipment is an interesting question too. I would imagine that when all is said and done, the pitch of 12Gbits/satellite wherever it is in the world under any reasonable circumstances it is likely to encounter is probably wildly optimistic.
A more interesting idea to my mind would be to have a "spectrum-administration-hopping satellite that can work on multiple bands and pick the most apt band for the area it is currently orbiting above. ie. perhaps use whitespace, licensed cellular where it owns licenses and UNII capacity when over north america and use something different when over Japan or Europe and anything the hell it likes when over the ocean.
Any idiot can launch a satellite, launching a satellite that is expert in international spectrum licensing law would be something more special.

Re:Freq band (1)

matty619 (630957) | more than 3 years ago | (#34935516)

I dunno, how do they do it w/ GPS and Iridium?

Just another waste of investor money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34935694)

I work for 3 years on ICO which was a much bigger failure. There is no way sat rates can compete and pay for itself on any realistic ROI.

Ira @ http://www.partychef.ca

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