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High-Tech Microsatellite 39

aebrain writes "The recent launch of the FedSat microsatellite will have significant long-term consequences for Ka-band comms in remote areas (ie cheap 2GB broadband anywhere) and Re-Configurable Hardware in space -- which could lead to cheaper, more reliable deep space missions. The latest news (including pix of telemetry) is here, with some details on the hardware and software here. Also available, a Rogue's Gallery of the Australian team that put it together."
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High-Tech Microsatellite

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  • cheap? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    how do you define cheap?

    Less than cable modem of around $40?
  • by acehole ( 174372 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @09:38AM (#4960044) Homepage
    Why of course, we Australians are always finding new inventive ways of using one of our country's icons in power production.

    We eat them, we wear them, they fuel our cars and micro satellites. What more could we use them for? If there are more uses by gosh we'll find 'em.

  • Unfortunately, with the current economy and market demand, I doubt this will have any major impact until at least the new decade, in which case something better will likely have been invented.
  • Eh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by The J Kid ( 266953 )
    [..] (ie cheap 2GB broadband anywhere) [..]

    Eh? Who's that? the article just states that the sats are re-configurable, so they can be, uhm, upgraded. Ok.

    But how does that work out to having cheap 2GB broadband anywhere?

    'Anywhere' doesn't imply that it'll have world coverage, right?

    I'm confused, please un-confuse me!
    • It's an Australian thing. You may or may not have noticed the amount of slashdot coverage of the woeful state of broadband in Australia, mostly thanks to our ludite Communications minister, but also thank to Telstra. Basically there are lots of areas in Australia - and I mean lots - that simply do not have a chance in hell at accessing broadband. There are places in Australia where the connection isn't good enough to send a fax! When you've got a country approximately the size of the US and 2.5 people per square kilometer, it's very understandable. But anyway, I strongly suspect that this is a way of testing the viability of broadband by satelite in a different manner. Because there's bugger all chance that these places are going to get cable to them! So, not so much broadband anywhere in the world (though with lots of these satelites, I'm sure it's possible!), it really means "You can even get broadband in Upper Whoop Whoop, right next to that big rock thingy"
    • They say the satellite carries a Ka-band transponder. This basically means it sends and receives data at 2GB/s. If the sat is geostat, 4 to 6 will be enough to cover the whole planet. If it's lower orbit, you'll need a whole network of them. Now, you can purchase a satellite dish and router and be online at 2GB/s speeds anywhere. Lag is about 1/3 sec for geostats, much lower for low orbits.

      You have 2 types of routers: One-way (price tag around $500); you dl at 2GB/s and use plain ol' copper narrowband for upload. It's convenient for basic internet use (surfing, emailing...) but your upspeed is too slow for P2P or online gaming. Two-way routers are far more expensive (around $5,000 with dish) but it gives you superfast (can reach 8GB/s) connection, even if you're in the middle of nowhere.
      • Because it isn't the 8GB/s that's the issue. It's that 1/3 to 1 (more realistically) second lag. For most gaming 28k with *zero lag* would be considered lightning fast.

        On the other hand for P2P or uploading/downloading massive data the lag is virtually a nonissue and it's the total time of transfer that counts.

        One's percetion of what is "fast" is a relative issue, just like damned near everything else.

      • Has anyone tried the DirecWay service offered in N.A. from DirectTV? They advertise $600 for 2 way satellite comm's, and $60 per month subscription. As a representative of the 'last mile' (BellSouth and Charter cable both suck!) I have no other options for broadband.

        The $5000 quote in the parent makes me curious about DTV's $600 hardware. This is definitely 2-way satellite, not a cheesy dial up plus fast DL system.

        Anyone tried it?
  • I don't get it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by watzinaneihm ( 627119 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @10:10AM (#4960107) Journal
    How can a single satellite in Low earth orbit of period 100 minutes, that too a Polar orbit (So i gather from the pictures of its tracks) , provide internet?
    it would bew sweeping the earth north south every 100 minutes and earth is rotating every 24 hrs , how long is your connection going to be up? Why not put up one of these in Geo-stat orbits (or is it too high up) ?
    I would assume you would have to have a bunch of these sweeping hte earth and talking to each other all the time to get any sort of permanent link.
    Or maybe I don't know enough?
  • 2GB broadband? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What the heck is this? Download 2 GB, and if you want to download more, you have to subscribe from scratch and a technician has to come install stuff? And can anyone can give the speed of the connection in bytes/sec?
  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @10:20AM (#4960126) Journal
    "High-Tech Microsatellite"

    I sure am glad that all the microsatellites based on vacuum-tube technology will soon be retired.

    (PS: let's ignore the TWTs)

  • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @10:28AM (#4960159) Journal
    Building, launching and maintaining a telecoms satellite is not something that you can be done on a shoestring budget; these things cost money.

    According to the second link given, the satellite project has a budget of AUS $20million over seven years. And given that the majority of Australia's population lives in urban centres, there are going to be relatively few people using this satellite as their broadband service provider.

    High costs and low potential usage doesn't exactly suggest that this will be a cheap solution - quite the opposite in fact.

    Quoting from the linked page:

    Its purposes are: to establish Australian capability in microsatellite technologies; to develop expertise necessary for sustaining those industries and profiting from them; to test and develop Australian-developed intellectual property; and to provide a research platform for Australian space-science, communication and GPS studies.
    Note, it's described as a research platform, not a commercial development. (Perhaps this is where the cheap comes from, perhaps the broadband service is subsidised in some way.)

    Bottom line: I don't see this benefiting all but a few and even then it's a platform that's just getting off the ground (if you'll pardon the pun)and likely to be problematic rather than one that delivers rock-solid reliability.

    Of course, IANAA (I am not an Australian), so would any of our more leaned, koala-loving friends care to give their perspective?
    • It's cheap compared to the alternatives.

      Australia has many places that are so remote, $20 million is peanuts compared to what it would cost to get cable out to them.

      It's all a matter of perspective.
      • Duh. I am aware of Australia's geographical size and the cost of laying cable but I was hoping someone (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) would know just how much of a dent this would put into a potential subscriber's pocket and how much less of a dent it puts than the existing alternatives.

        The good thing about cable is that, once it's been laid, it's relatively inexpensive to maintain and quite reliable. I'm not sure that's the case here but, nevertheless, it'd be interesting to see the numbers.
        • Average amount of cable required per remote rural subscriber in Australia is about 30 km. That's the average. Many people in the Outback have their nearest neighbour over 100 miles away. 97% of the population lives in 13% of the area (source []). So we're talking about 600,000 people - at most 200,000 subscribers - in an area equivalent to the USA, less Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.
          Existing LEOSats, such as Iridium and Globalstar [] can't even do 56kbps. But the Ka-band - if it works - may be enough to do 2 Gbps. That's what the experimental communications payload is for, amongst other things, to see how well or how badly Ka-band works over rural Australia (and also in built-up areas for other applications)

    • Of course, IANAA (I am not an Australian), so would any of our more leaned, koala-loving friends care to give their perspective?

      Personally, I don't think I want to know the perspective of a Koala-lover. Let's leave that for an episode of Jerry Springer, mmm-kay :)
    • Building, launching and maintaining a telecoms satellite is not something that you can be done on a shoestring budget

      Unless you count these guys [], and microsatellites are old hat to them.


  • It runs on NT here is a link [] .Microsoft joke here...
    Remove the last abs52.html from the address and you get the directory listings, just in case any one is interested in reading up.
    • The link you provided seems to be about about FedSat ground station software. The FedSat satellite software was written in Ada 95 (compiled with GNAT) and runs on a 10MHz ERC-32 (a radiation hardened SPARC). From this article []: "A team of Australian programmers developed FedSat's onboard software, building on work done in Britain. It is written in Ada-95, a programming language designed for embedded systems and safety-critical software. All it has to work with is 16MB of RAM, 2MB of flash memory for storing the program, a 128K boot prompt and 320MB of DRAM in place of a hard disk that would never survive the launch process. All essential data is stored in three physically different locations."
  • It's nice to see this, but i wish some nation respecting privacy would have launched this. It's good that the US or Canada did not launch this as it would have less privacy still. But imagine just about anyone putting together a receiver to eavesdrop on you easily and cheaply. The government restricts encryption levels on wireless and can decrypt anyting in a matter of days due to computing power they have and a corrdibnated virus could easily get if engineered properly.
    • (feeding a rather confused troll)

      Privacy? WTF are you on? It's a satellite with a Ku-Band link. Unless you're transmitting pretty much directly at the satellite, chances of it intercepting any of your private comms is *very* slim. And you could transmit 1.21 Jiggawatts of wireless data at it for gods sake, and it still wouldn't receive it due to different frequencies.

      Anyway, which country with the available tech respects privacy? China? Britain? France? The Conglomerate of Former Soviet States? The (Ha!) US? Not too many nations respect privacy - ever heard of "spies"? 'Nuff said.

      (And Australia still has fairly good privacy laws. I can attest to that, having recently tried to extract info out of an ISP about another harassing internet user. Pretty big penalties if they get caught giving private info out to the public)
  • it would seem that good old land lines with fiber optics and such would be an easier solution then satilites, but maybe in austraila it's not so easy to lay connected cable around for some reason? anyone care to enlighten me?
  • I live in Mawson Lakes, and regularly walk past the ITR (The Institute for Telecommunications Research) which is the home the FedSat's ground station.

    A flyby has just happened (UTC 2002:12:26:13:46:15),
    but the next few are at
    2002:12:26:23:23:57, 2002:12:27:01:02:00,
    2002:12:27:11:43:06, 2002:12:27:13:19:23
    (all UTC).

    We went out on the night of Chistmas to see if we could see the tracking dish move as the Satellite
    fly overhead, but it looked like everyone had
    gone home for the day (all the lights were out!)

    Hmm, maybe tomorrow night.
  • We know that Ku band satellites suffer [] from 'rain fade' during heavy downpours, making them unsuitable for many tropical areas (i.e. anywhere with monsoon-like rains). Any signals geeks willing to comment on how Ka-band does? Are these going to perform worse than Ku-band in bad weather?

  • Now I'm gonna need a high-tech tinfoil hat, and one for my new wifi network as well.

  • most people .. especially those over 50 .. have heard this often enough for it to have become accepted fact in thier reasoning process ..

    ALL is FAIR in love and WAR ..

    implying .. saying that when it comes to matters of love (GOD is defined in the New Testament as "love and light") and WAR .. that the moral imperative is superceded ..

    all things are justifiable/acceptable in the name GOD and WAR " We Are Right ".. WAR is nothing but competition/business taken to the physical extreme ..

    Revelation 12
    7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
    8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
    9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
    10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
    11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
    12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

  • ... in three to eight years we will have a machine with the general
    intelligence of an average human being ... The machine will begin
    to educate itself with fantastic speed. In a few months it will be
    at genius level and a few months after that its powers will be
    incalculable ...
    -- Marvin Minsky, LIFE Magazine, November 20, 1970

    - this post brought to you by the Automated Last Post Generator...

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