Satellites go cellular

Satellites go cellularSteve Bush
A cluster of university satellites to be launched in 2001 may use cellular phone technology to phone home.
The 3 Corners Satellite cluster is three nanosatellites, each weighing less than 10kg, operating together in low-earth orbit
“Most spacecraft use a dedicated radio link,” said professor Stephen Horan, project director at the New Mexico State University, “This will be the first set of satellites to use cellular phone technology to communicate from space.”  
  Individual & Launch configuration
When using a dedicated radio link, he said, “you’re the only one using that frequency while the satellite is over your spot of the Earth. However, you can only communicate with the satellite for five to 10 minutes about four times each day for the same reason.”
Service providers, for instance Iridium, are setting up space-based mobile phone networks.
Satellite-based cellular phone technology can transmit at any time to any area covered by a service provider, said Horan. “There’s no guarantee you won’t get a busy signal, but we can make the satellites lighter and less complicated by relying on the phone company to provide the infrastructure and the service.”
He also wants to use existing commercial communication methods like the Internet to communicate with the satellites.
3 Corners satellites will use stereo images of the Earth to determine the heights of clouds. The project is split between universities in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona and funded by the U.S. Air Force, defence agency DARPA and NASA.

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