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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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  • 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.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:09AM (#28037799)
    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.
  • Re:Congestion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arielCo (995647) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @08:25AM (#28037915)
    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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Congestion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @09:41AM (#28038719)

    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-synchronous orbit of most large communications and television broadcast satellites.

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