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Space Technology

The 10-Year Satellite Forecast 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the bigger-is-better dept.
coondoggie writes "When it comes to satellites sometimes less is more. In the next ten years the government expects to see fewer but ever larger satellites flung into space. Specifically, the folks who monitor such things, the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), said in a draft report today that an average 20.8 satellites could be launched from 2009 through 2018, a decrease of one satellite when compared to the 2008 forecast of 21.8 and the 2007 forecast of 21.0 satellites per year. Actual launches per year were above 20 for the first time since 2002 and the highest total since 2000, with 23 satellites launched in 2008. As for the weight, the group said there has been steady growth in satellite mass since 1993 and the trend will continues as satellite mass is expected to remain near or slightly above 100,000 kilograms (220,400 lbs) forecast for the coming years with an all-time high of nearly 116,500 kg (257,000lbs) in 2009, the COMSTAC report stated."
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The 10-Year Satellite Forecast

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  • More tacos! (Score:3, Funny)

    by plover (150551) * on Thursday May 21, 2009 @07:58AM (#28037753) Homepage Journal
    So the prediction is for bigger satellites, and more tacos! [spaceref.com] Who can argue with a forecast that?
  • Congestion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:04AM (#28037777) Homepage Journal

    OK, I know there's a lot of room up there but surely some of the most desirable real estate (geosychronous orbits etc) must be getting a bit crowded by now. How long till someone realises we need to start removing some of the 'clutter' (old, defunct satellites) to make way for the new. Or do they assume that they will just fall to Earth, or drift off into space?

    • Re:Congestion (Score:5, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:16AM (#28037845) Homepage Journal
      Congestion in geosynchronous orbit is definitely a problem for bandwidth. Satellites rely on tight beams to save on frequencies. But as has been pointed out previously, space is big. Really, really big.

      GSO has a radius of 42,164 km. And a circumference of 132479 km. So if you had a bird every 10km there would be space for 13247 of them, which sounds pretty good to me.
      • Re:Congestion (Score:5, Informative)

        by arielCo (995647) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:41AM (#28038039)
        Well, it's not so much about linear spacing as angular elbow-room. Considering the 1-dB beam width at 14 GHz [satsig.net] is around 0.7 degs, you could have ~500 orbital slots assuming they're all on the same frequency (no reusage). Still, you'd have some 500 km [google.com] for each, enabling you to can cram some more with the reusage thing-y.
      • IIRC, the current separation requirement is 2 degrees, allowing for 180 potential slots in GEO.

        The 2 degrees is an allowance for the ground antennas, so they don't jam or pick up interference from, adjacent satellites.

        Also, btw, "clutter" is removed from GEO. When a satellite nears the end-of-life, the last bit of hydrazine fuel is used to push it up into a higher orbit to avoid potential problems in the Clarke belt.

        Maybe in the far off future archeologists will be able to examine these defunct sate

      • by Repton (60818)

        Radius 42,164 --> circumference 264,924..

    • This is a possible application of all the anti-satellite and anti-anti-satellite technology coming out of the U.S. and China as of late. Blow them up. Hell, why not?

      • Re:Congestion (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bakkster (1529253) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nam.retskkaB'> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:36AM (#28038009)

        This is a possible application of all the anti-satellite and anti-anti-satellite technology coming out of the U.S. and China as of late. Blow them up. Hell, why not?

        Because then, instead of being a little congested with big debris that you can track and moves in a known path, you get a bunch of small debris, in erratic orbits, that you might not be able to track. Steering them into a higher orbit, or back into the atmosphere is much better.

    • Re:Congestion (Score:4, Informative)

      by 2Y9D57 (988210) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:23AM (#28037893)
      At end-of-life, geostationary satellites are moved into a higher orbit to make way for new ones.
      • At end-of-life, geostationary satellites are moved into a higher orbit to make way for new ones.

        This has only recently started to happen and doesn't cope with older satellites that are not designed to do this or satellites that malfunction.

      • Except when they don't do that. It takes additional fuel to place a satellite into a higher parking orbit, fuel which could be used instead for a few more months of station keeping in the geostationary orbit. If a corporation is faced with a choice between a few more months of profitable operation OR being a good citizen then which do you think that they will choose?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arielCo (995647)
      AI was about to say that at roughly 264,000 km in length the geosynchronous orbit is not likely crowed, but I did my homework, and unbelievably in densely populated longitudes (yes Europe, I'm looking at you), there are disputes on orbit allocation [wikipedia.org]. Since a lot of satellites are operated by private companies and leased internationnaly, I guess the issue lies mostly with government agencies.
    • Re:Congestion (Score:5, Informative)

      by camperdave (969942) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:31AM (#28037949) Journal
      Or do they assume that they will just fall to Earth, or drift off into space?

      Actually, they do get rid of old satellites. These days many satellites are built with small rockets that are used to de-orbit them at the end of their useful life. Alternatively, they are boosted into a higher "graveyard" orbit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mbone (558574)

        Now-a-days, operators are supposed to "deorbit" satellites. For geosynchronous satellites, that means boosting them up out of that orbit by a few 100 km, while for LEOs that generally means putting them into the atmosphere.

        I thought that there was a formal requirement to do this, but this article [satnews.com] indicates that it is just an informal agreement :

        There is a "gentlemens agreement" to either de-orbit the satellite when in low earth orbit, or raise it to a "graveyard" orbit some 300kms above the geo-synchronou

    • Re:Congestion (Score:5, Interesting)

      by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:54AM (#28038147)

      Generally they move them out of their parking slot once the propellent hits vapour and someone else moves right on in. The interesting thing is that there is no barrier to entry. For less than a thousand USD you can buy enough kit on ebay to run your own *ahem* pirate E1(2/3/4) and chances are you'll never get caught. The owners might not like it, but at worst they'll just run a CW spike up and down your energy lobe. It's not as though they can actually pinpoint where you are with any great accuracy.
      In my previous life working for 'the man' (both military and as a civilian) I used to do technical signals analysis of pretty much anything in space that could radiate energy. Some interesting and crazy stuff out there. Imagine your bog standard E1 filled full of V.26 modems sending teletype - People aren't just keeping DOS around for stuff, they are also keeping their 1960's tech going strong as well, they modernize it a bit, but it's all still out there.

      FDM's, the odd bit of morse code, but then there are TDMA systems all over the shop, those buggers are a bit harder to work with, I never met anything much more challenging than that though.

    • We know space debris is a big issue and adding more satellites is going to be a problem. The main issue here is grossly overlooked based on the existing "Cold War" of different Countries secretive space programs. That means one Country does not know what the others blueprints are and hence the United States gets pissed when China launches a satellite! It is only a matter of time before something seriously goes wrong... who knows Halley's Comet might knock a few out next time!
    • Actually that is a standard part of U.S. spacecraft mission design. I would imagine that it is also a standard part of the design cycle for *most* space-capable countries. When we design orbital missions (GEO, LEO, MEO, whatever) the final stages of the mission design are to discuss and develop a legal and effective means at EOL (end of life) disposal. Depending on fuel remaining, cost of development, change in launch mass, etc etc etc, this involves either deorbit into a degrading, destructive Earth orbit,
    • This is a good way to look at the big picture:
      ,url:http://science.nasa.gov/Realtime/jtrack/3d/JTrack3d.html>
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:04AM (#28037781)

    It's interesting to see the trend of sizes of commercial and governmental satellites. The commercial sats are getting larger and outfitted with better hardware that can support more simultaneous users. The governmental sats are getting smaller and work in tandem to do their work.

    Given that satellites can't last forever, I wonder which model pays off better in the long run. Does having many smaller satellites work better than having fewer larger sats? If so, could we find an optimal size or configuration of these small fries?

    Or is having this many small things whizzing about going to cause trouble later on as we decide we need to add more birds to our skies? A few big birds are easier to spot and avoid than many little ones.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chrisq (894406)
      I suppose that there are two issues that governments look at. One large satellite could be knocked out accidentally by a collision with space debris. Probably at least as important one large satellite is going to be easier to knock out deliberately by a foreign power.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:36AM (#28037997) Homepage

      Commercial sat's are getting larger, but they are TINY compared to some of them up there from the 60,s and 70's are the size of city busses!

      when they say "birds are getting larger" I laugh. Call me when they are as large as what they threw up there in the beginning days.

      P.S. some of those monsters are still operational. I get B&W slow scan satellite imagery from some of the really old polar orbiting ones when I want to test my SSTV receivers.

    • As often, I think it depends it depends on what you are using them for. For standard geostationary communication satellites one big bird can replace several small. Government satellites often do something special and have a unique orbit.

    • by AlecC (512609)

      The US and Russian governments will sometimes chuck a relatively short-lifed satellite in an orbit optimised to cove a particular trouble spot (e.g. Georgia during last year's invasion). I think they keep them in stock, and can launch at a couple of days notice. The multi-ton civil comsats are very different and take years of preparation.

    • by joeljkp (254783)

      They're doing different things, is the reason.

      Most commercial sats these days are for broadcast, which need to be in GEO. It's no use putting something small into GEO, since it costs so much to get there anyway. They put something big that can last a while and serve a lot of customers (lots of transponders).

      Government users (NASA and academic) are doing science, like remote sensing and atmospheric sampling and things. They don't care about having 100% coverage over the US, so they can put up tiny sats that

  • by ckaminski (82854) <ckaminski@@@pobox...com> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:11AM (#28037813) Homepage
    We don't put many 100,000kg mass payloads into orbit anymore... if we ever have. Unless the entire shuttle counts.
  • The satellites in our orbit resemble our software. We reinvent the wheel and create a new program for each small task every time we want something done, instead of spending time on some research and find out how to reuse what we have. Most capitalists call this competition, which is fine to an extent, I guess. It is the lack of balance in applying this strategy that is the problem. Competition or not, most existing sattelites/software can be scrapped as such and its task done by combination of other satteli

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KeatonMill (566621)

      Think about logistics here. How expensive is it to launch a new comm or earth imaging satellite? Then, how expensive is it to launch HUMANS to the same altitude with repair tools and all of the consumables they require to get up and down safely.

      When you add the fact that the tech up there is still advancing very rapidly, I don't think there's very much benefit in trying to create these super multi-purpose birds.

      And when there is (like Hubble, whose time IS portioned out as you mentioned and a replacement co

    • I don't think a cloud will help with DBS as they can only get about 50 main HD channels per sat.

  • Given that the Shuttle can launch 24 tons to LEO, and Arianne V 21 tons to LEO, one has to wonder how, if

    the expected satellite mass is expected to remain near or slightly above 100,000 kilograms ,

    these satellites will be launched ? Of course, no one is launching 100 metric ton satellites. That is presumably satellite mass launched per year.

    Both the slashdot post and the original article seemed to have munged this totally.

  • Which one brings SkyNet online?
  • One big satellite = One big target with no redundancy. What am I missing here?
  • I never really though of it like that, interesting. Over the past many years that functional commercial, government, and other types of satellites have been put into orbit, there has been a huge network of underutilized satellites. That is, in the sense that many operational satellites are backups or can handle additional traffic within their bandwidth. The multi-GHz bands (such as the high L-band and Ku-Band up through Ka-Band) are inundated with lots and lots of satellites. As companies change service
  • Most satellites are still simple "bent-pipe" kind, send data up in one frequency, translate, send it down in another frequency.

    Boeing SDC (formerly Hughes Space and Comm) was (and probably still is) the leading company in DSP payloads and only one with the expertise to space qualify an IBM ASIC, but they have a broken business model and a hard time selling it to their customers. That and they have a very out-dated bus led to market deterioration over the years.

    That aside, bigger satellites are just like big

  • How do you launch four-fifths of a satellite? Or do you launch a whole one and the four-fifths is the fraction of the debris that stay in orbit after a collision?

  • by TheSync (5291)

    The advanced FEC in DVB-S2 [wikipedia.org] has now allowed satellite transponder users to get about 10-20% more data through the satellite at the same downlink signal-to-noise ratio.

    Thus many folks who have previously used DVB-S QPSK modulation are now moving to DVB-S2 8PSK modulation while retaining the same size dishes.

    Of course, the other way to go is stay DVB-S2 QPSK but use smaller dishes...

    Either way, DVB-S2 is making satellite transponder use more efficient, so perhaps this is marginally reducing the need for more s

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