500 Spot Beams


Awesome: Arianespace is in final preparations for launching the world’s largest communications satellite ever.  The spacecraft was mated with the launcher yesterday. The launch is scheduled for 1 July 2009. Their stock price could use a little "launch," too.

The ensuing satcom smartphone, running Windows Mobile, will be offered by AT&T, according to Computerworld:

The carrier will resell satellite service and phones from TerreStar Networks, a startup that is set to have its first satellite launched on July 1. TerreStar is developing hybrid satellite/cellular handsets designed to be about the same size as a conventional smartphone.

TerreStar’s satellite will sit 22,000 miles above North America and provide service across the U.S. and Canada, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Using licensed 2GHz radio spectrum, it will provide voice service as well as data at approximately 64K bits per second, said TerreStar Chief Technology Officer Dennis Matheson.

AT&T will resell that service in a hybrid offering, aimed initially at local, state and federal governments, Matheson said. The carrier will also resell the handsets, though not initially in its retail stores. The handsets will switch between satellite and 3G (third-generation) coverage as users roam in and out of cellular coverage areas. TerreStar is still working on a resale deal with a Canadian carrier.

Satellite phones have the advantage of working essentially anywhere across a region of the world, but the market has been limited by large handsets and high prices for devices and service. TerreStar is taking advantage of SDR (software-defined radio) chips coming from Infineon and Qualcomm to integrate satellite capability into the same processors that handle cellular connectivity. This will help the company match the size of other smartphones and eventually bring the cost of its handsets down to that of a BlackBerry, Matheson said. Qualcomm’s work should lead to a satellite and CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) phone, which might allow for a future hybrid service from Verizon or Sprint Nextel.

The spacecraft itself is very cool — with 500 spot beams and a beam forming technology developed by HNS:

Dennis Matheson, TerreStar Networks CTO said, “The design, manufacture and delivery of TerreStar-1 has been a team effort. We have relied on our colleagues at Space Systems/Loral for their experience and support in delivering the integrated satellite and ground system that makes our new services possible. We now look forward to a flawless launch by our partner Arianespace.”

“It has been a pleasure working with TerreStar Networks on this challenging project,” said John Celli, president and chief operating officer at Space Systems/Loral.  “With its 18-meter unfurlable reflector and extraordinarily powerful S-Band feed array, TerreStar-1 was designed to provide next generation capability for mobile devices.”

Ideally suited to provide critical services to government, emergency responders, rural communities and commercial users, the satellite uses 2 GHz spectrum to provide voice, data and video communications to satellite/terrestrial mobile devices the size of a typical smart phone.  Space Systems/Loral, working with Hughes Network Systems, has developed a two-way ground based beam forming technology that enables the satellite to reallocate resources based on demand, thereby maximizing capacity.

TerreStar-1 is based on SS/L’s 1300 space-proven platform, which provides the flexibility to support a broad range of applications and technology advances. The satellite will be capable of generating over five hundred spot beams covering the Continental U.S., Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Arianespace will probably webcast the launch (expect a media advisory in a few days). Terrestar’s annoying us with registration on their "Countdown to Communicate" site. Yeah, I registered and I’m still waiting for my e-mail confirmation. If it doesn’t arrive in seconds, you lost me.

Overall, they seem to be doing things rights. With Dean Olmstead on their Board, would you expect anything less?