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UPLINK: A Smaller View
The segment of the satellite industry garnering a great deal of attention is that of the small satellite. From previously taking the role of an engineering tool for higher education, the small satellite is becoming noted for its attractive cost factors, ability to launch within a shorter time frame, and on-orbit effectiveness. No longer are small satellites simply the bailiwick of universities — commercial and military projects are springing up around the globe to test the effectiveness of these smaller spacecraft to determine their viability for a variety of crucial projects.

Depending upon the wet mass of the satellite (the weight of the craft and its fuel), they are generally designated as:
  • Micro-, from 22 to 220 (100 to 500 kg)
  • Mini-, from 220 to 1100 lb (100 to 500 kg)
  • Nano-, from 2.2 to 22 lb (1 to 10 kg)
  • Pico-, from 0.22 to 2.2 lb (0.1 to 1 kg)
Considered by some to be a distinctive subgenre within the pico-satellite environs is the Cubesat, a craft that has the dimensions of 10x10x10 centimeters, which also happens to be the volume of exactly one litre of water, and a weight of no more than 1 kg. Although the majority of Cubesats have no propulsion systems, some are now incorporating ion thrusters into their designs.

This photo is of CP4, one of California Polytechnic University’s educational Cubesats, was taken by AeroCube-2 on April 17, 2007, after its launch via a Russian Dnepr rocket. AeroCube-2 is a pico-satellite built by The Aerospace Corporation. It was released from the rocket in a P-POD (Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer) built by Cal Poly, along with CP4 and CSTB-1, a satellite built by The Boeing Company. The CP4’s camera offers 640x480 pixel resolution.

Some extremely well versed experts will present their views of the small satellite segment in this issue of SatMagazine, and we believe their presentations will add fuel to the eagerness with which these craft are viewed as adjuncts and value-adds to current satellite endeavors. We also present a variety of other SatCom articles to assist all with growing their businesses, despite less than vigorous financial predictions.

There’s content within ranging from Cubesats to codecs to net optimizations for managing satellite resources; the maritime Ku- challenges; the extremely popular and widely read columns from NSR, Chris Forrester, and Near Earth LLC; a most interesting examination of solar sails; ground systems to shark tagging; VSAT management to important UPLINK inclusions, such as the ESOA commentary on the 50th anniversary of satellite communications.

Project SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment — photo above), the world’s first communications satellite, was launched from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas rocket on December 18, 1958. This experiment was designed to test the feasibility of transmitting messages though outer space from one ground station to one or more other receiving centers. The satellite, which was in obit for only 12 days, was loaded with a tape recorder containing a Christmas message from the U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. His voice transmission wished for “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men everywhere” and was successfully broadcast to the entire planet on a short-wave frequency.

On a more personal note, the publisher, editorial, production, sales, and development folk at SatNews Publishers wish our best to all of our readers, advertisers and subscribers. We offer a special thanks to those companies, organizations, associations, military commands, and hard working professionals with whom we forged new relationships during 2008. Plus, a huge “thank you” to the companies who have continued to support our publication efforts over the years. We look forward to supplying your critical information needs during 2009 and in assisting your SatCom endeavors with more interesting and relevant content to help ensure you enjoy profitable ventures.— Hartley Lesser, Editorial Director

ESOA Chimes In
ESOA is the Brussels-based trade association of all European satellite operators and their supporting members, which includes service providers, manufacturers, and launch service providers. Established in 2002, the association goals include raising awareness of the contribution of commercial satellite technologies to society and governments alike. ESOA also works to ensure satellites benefit from the appropriate political, industrial, and regulatory environment to fulfill their vital role in the delivery of global communications.

When the first communications satellite was being launched on December 18th 1958, it was very hard to imagine how significant that new technical invention would be to shape society as we know it. Now 50 years have passed and, although the idea behind this critical infrastructure remains unaltered, to connect distant points though a radio transmitter orbiting in space, the services and the reach of satellites has revolutionized global communications, thanks to HDTV, wireless Internet, emergency communications, and mobile phones, to name a few examples.

Today, satellites provide an invisible safety net, a global backbone, upon which most of our current communications services rely. And they may become even more relevant in the near future if the European Union (EU) wishes to accomplish the objectives set in the Recovery Plan that will be launched next year to stimulate our economies and mitigate the effects of the global financial crisis.

The plan calls for a timely, targeted, and temporary fiscal stimulus of around 200 billion euros, approximately 1.5 percent of the EU GDP, including many “smart investments.” These are required to generate long-term growth through entrepreneurship, research, innovation, and access to technology. One of those concrete measures is the mobilization of 5 billion euros to improve energy connections and broadband infrastructure all across Europe.

Broadband Internet has gradually turned into an essential commodity to strengthen competitiveness and economic growth in the EU. The aim is to cover 100 percent of Europe by 2010. To do so, Commission and Member States will work with stakeholders to accelerate the upgrade and extension of networks. They are also planning to support that strategy with public funds in under-served and high cost areas where the market cannot and will not deliver.

The roll-out of DSL and cable has steadily grown in cities, but in the remotest parts of the EU, the deployment of those technologies is, at best, not commercially attractive. At worst, it’s substantially more expensive than other alternatives.

According to the last i2010 mid-term review published in April, DSL, for example, is now available in 89 percent of all the telephone lines in EU25. However, this percentage has started to plateau while other alternative technologies still remain marginal. In the case of rural areas in countries such as Greece, Czech Republic, Malta, or Cyprus, there is no DSL coverage at all.

That is why Giuliano Berretta, chairman of ESOA, in a letter recently submitted to President Barroso, reminded him that existing satellites in orbit can help achieve this goal. This can be accomplished either as a stand-alone technology or by contributing to the deployment and performance of other land-based communication systems “to reach those citizens otherwise forgotten and unconnected due to their remote or rural location”.

Mr. Berretta encouraged Mr. Barroso to acknowledge the pivotal role that satellite communication can play in the Recovery Plan. “It is in the public interest to draw on a technological solution that achieves this objective in the most cost and time efficient way, satellites are already up in sky and able to offer those services, and in an ecologically friendly manner, satellites use solar energy for their entire lifetime of over 15 years,” Mr. Berretta wrote.