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.
Specifically, the company is able to use more ordinary electronics with its lower-elevation satellites. Medium orbit satellites--about 5,000 miles above Earth--such as rival O3b need components with higher reliability in order to withstand the temperature and radiation rigors of space. MSCI's satellites are also relatively small, meaning that 14 can be packed into a single launch rocket compared with O3b's 4 satellites. And much less power is required to transmit data to and from the MSCI's satellites since they're closer to Earth.
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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