Gogo announces new Ground to Orbit network to bring 60 Mbps internet to US flights next year


Inlfight internet service Gogo announced today that it plans to bring new technology to partner airlines in the US that will provide more than 60 Mbps starting with Virgin America flights in the second half of next year. Dubbed “Gogo GTO” or “Ground to Orbit,” the new service offers a 20-fold increase in speeds up from the peak 9.8Mbps delivered through Gogo’s current network.

“Because we are a Silicon Valley-based airline, Virgin America guests expect a fully connected in–flight experience that enables them to remain productive even at 35,000 feet,” said President and CEO of Virgin America David Cush. “We were proud to be the first to offer Gogo’s ATG-4 product last year and we are pleased to be the launch partner for GTO, which will be another leap forward in terms of speed and performance of in–flight Wi-Fi for our guests.”

Gogo will first have to get FAA approval before rolling out next year. But when it does, this is how it will work:

Gogo will be utilizing a Ku antenna developed specifically for receive only functionality.  The advantages of using satellite for reception only and Gogo’s ATG Network for the return link are unprecedented.  Existing two-way satellite antennas in the commercial aviation market have limited power for transmissions so they don’t interfere with other satellites.  This dynamic makes the connection from the aircraft to the ground using two-way satellite an inefficient and expensive return link compared to Gogo’s ATG Network. Gogo’s receive only antenna will be two times more spectrally efficient and half the height of other antennas in the commercial aviation market.  The low profile of the antenna will result in much less drag and therefore fuel burn on the aircraft and, ultimately, greater operational efficiencies for airlines.

Source: 9to5Mac


The Smallest Astronomical Satellite Ever Built Launched Today

One of the BRITE nano-satellites, as it was being assembled in Toronto

One of the BRITE nano-satellites, as it was being assembled in Toronto

At the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India this morning (Feb. 25), the smallest astronomical satellite ever built was launched into orbit aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C20 rocket. In fact, it wasn’t just one satellite, but two – each of the twin BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) spacecraft take the form of a cube that measures just 20 cm (7.8 inches) per side, and weighs in at under seven kilograms (15.4 lbs).

The BRITEs were designed at the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. One of the two nano-satellites launched today, known as UniBRITE, was assembled at SFL and funded by the University of Vienna. The other, called BRITE-Austria, was assembled in Austria and funded by that country’s Technical University of Graz – it is being promoted as “Austria’s First Satellite.”

The twin BRITE satellites aboard the PSLV-C20 rocket this Monday morning

The twin BRITE satellites aboard the PSLV-C20 rocket this Monday morning

Once in orbit, the satellites will work together to monitor changes in brightness of some of the largest, brightest stars in the sky. Their relatively small onboard telescopes limit their ability to monitor dimmer stars, or to take “pretty pictures.” Unlike ground-based telescopes that could be used to view those same stars, however, the satellites won’t be limited by scintillation – the visual distortion of celestial bodies, created by turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. They will also be able to image their target stars day and night, and won’t be thwarted by weather conditions such as cloud cover.

Because such large stars oscillate more slowly than smaller ones, the satellites won’t have to monitor them continuously. Instead, they can just check in on the stars at regular intervals, taking note of what changes in brightness have occurred. This, in turn, means that the satellites don’t need to be placed in one “right” orbit, where they can see their chosen star at all times. As a result, future BRITEs could hitch a ride into space on any available rocket, and placed into orbit wherever it was convenient – within reason.

Along with their telescopes, each of today’s two satellites contain three computers: one for instrument processing, one for housekeeping (keeping the satellite running), and one for attitude control. Approximately six watts of electrical power is provided by onboard solar cells.

Plans call for two other pairs of BRITE satellites to join the pair launched today, forming a “constellation” of six nano-satellites that will work together. Two of them will be Canadian, while two will be Austrian and two will be Polish.

“Big bright stars lead short and violent lives and deaths (supernovas) and in the process seed the universe with heavy elements without which life on Earth would be impossible,” the University of Toronto stated in a press release. “To better understand these stars is to better understand how life arose on our planet.”

More information on the construction of the nano-satellites is available in the video below.

Source: Gizmag

Latest Earth Satellite to Launch from California Coast

A rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite is scheduled to blast off from the California coast on a mission to keep a continuous eye on the planet’s resources.

The countdown for the Atlas V launch begins Monday morning from the Vandenberg Air Force Base along California’s central coast. The Landsat satellite is the eighth of its kind to be launched since 1972 to track glaciers, forest fires, crop production and coastlines.

Unlike its predecessors, the latest carries more powerful sensors and can return more images.

For the past four decades, the polar-orbiting Landsat satellites have documented changes to Earth’s surface including the effects of deforestation and urban sprawl.

The $855 million mission is managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Source: AP

DARPA Unveils Robotic Plan to Reuse, Recycle Satellites in 2015

On Tuesday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the next stage in an ambitious project called Phoenix, which it hopes will bring about the first demonstration of robotic, in-orbit satellite servicing in 2015.

The servicing, however, won’t involve the repair of an existing satellite—instead, one that has already been retired will be scavenged for spare parts. If all goes well, the antenna (or aperture) of the defunct satellite will be linked with one or more small “satlets” that will return it to active duty.

“[Phoenix is a] modest effort to increase the return-on-investment for DoD [Department of Defense] space missions,” Dave Barnhart, a DARPA program manager, said at a recent press conference.

It costs a lot of money to put something into geosynchronous orbit, and not everything that’s been put there remains active. In many cases, this is because of the failure or obsolescence of only some of their hardware, while other parts remain perfectly viable and functioning. (In fact, we already know they’ve functioned after launch and deployment.)

In short, the Phoenix project is essentially a very complicated recycling program.

“If you have the ability to utilize hardware that’s up there, you can do this at a lower cost,” Barhart added.

Reducing space junk

Although many of the parts of satellites are highly specialized or internal to the structure, a few standard pieces—the aperture, solar arrays—are easily accessible and can be used on hardware with different purposes.

Barnhart described a system where there would be a single dedicated launch to put the robotic servicing hardware in space. After that, the program would start looking for commercial launches with extra space and weight available. These would be used to send up small satlets to rendezvous with the mechanic.

The DARPA manager suggested the process would be akin to putting spare parts into the repair platform’s toolbelt. Once that was done, the orbital mechanic would move into the graveyard orbit and make its way to a retired satellite (with the full permission of the satellite’s owner).

Once there, the goal is to neatly slice off the aperture while avoiding creating additional space debris in the process. That would then be connected to one or more satlets that would handle various functions, like pointing the aperture in the right direction, transmitting data through it, and providing power for the other functions. The exact collection of satlets that get attached will depend on how much the program intends to get out of the aperture.

Obviously, something like this requires having a lot of different pieces in place, and Barnhart was talking to the press because DARPA feels they’ve made progress in many areas and are ready to work on the remaining ones. He mentioned that the robotic arm was working, and they have prototypes of the cameras that would help manage the approach to and grappling of the target satellite. The agency is now working on specific tools for the arm to use, and how to safely handle the charge difference that can build up between different objects in space.

The processes will involve a mix of automated and controller-based software, and Barnhart said DARPA is also starting to test the teloperations system, which has both physical manipulators and a touchscreen interface to allow ground-based controllers to have some direct input on events taking place in orbit. To demonstrate its progress, DARPA has put together a video showing a simulation of its future mission, with embedded images of the real-world test hardware and software that are being used to make it a reality.

Youtube Video, Phoenix Program Demonstration

140 defunct satellites to be targeted

What’s next for the Phoenix program? Some of it involves testing the hardware in more realistic environments. Barnhart talked about looking for “N-degree of freedom facilities,” in which the test hardware could operate. DARPA researchers also intend to start finding ground station providers that are capable of tracking the servicing satellite as it moves to reach different graveyard orbits while supporting a full virtual environment on the ground.

Out of the 500 satellites in the graveyard orbits, DARPA has identified about 140 that have apertures that should be good for harvesting. The program has been allocated $180 million over four years to get the demonstration mission off the ground, and the pieces are starting to fall into place.

Longer term, however, the program is likely to depend on launch costs going down and the ability to hitch rides for satlets on existing launch schedules. The aperture usually isn’t expensive hardware, and Barnhart said it was only about 2-3 percent of a satellite’s entire mass. By reusing it, however, Barhnart said you can get a larger return on investment for your initial cost and amortize it over a larger number of years. In the end, getting Phoenix to work should save some money.

Probably more significantly, though, developing the technology could save money in other ways. Apertures sometimes fail to unfold once a satellite reaches orbit, and learning to manipulate them in space raises the prospect of repairing those failures. Apertures aren’t the only thing that can be salvaged, either.

Barnhart said that solar panels are also an obvious target, but they may require more specialized hardware to do power conversion, attach wiring, etc.—he told Ars that these added another layer of complexity DARPA chose to avoid for the demonstration mission.

But if Phoenix ever becomes capable of handling these added complexities, then the program could potentially become self-sustaining.

Source: Ars Technica

Hughes Wins its First Satellite-Based Telemedicine Deal

Hughes Network Systems will provide broadband satellite services to the New England Telehealth Consortium under a four-year contract that the satellite ISP says is its first deal in the area of mobile telemedicine.

Hughes won a $500,000 contract to provide 8Mbps data transmission services to mobile healthcare units operated by the New England Telehealth Consortium. These units — three truck-based, one boat-based and one fixed-location — provide medical care to migrant farm workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Hughes will provide high-performance routers to the healthcare units, and these routers are integrated with AvL Technologies’ auto-deploy antenna to enable such applications as videoconferencing, transfer of electronic health records, viewing of X-rays and other digital images and voice calls. The Hughes routers automatically establish connectivity with the Hughes Spaceway 3 broadband satellite.

The Spaceway 3 satellite uses a mesh-based, hub-less architecture that costs less and offers better availability and faster speeds than traditional Ku-band satellites. Designed for high-speed data transmission, Spaceway 3 offers point-to-point, any-to-any communications capabilities. Spaceway also eliminates the need for network traffic to go through a teleport; instead, network traffic goes straight to mobile receivers, saving money and time.

Spaceway is “a router in the sky,” explained Tony Bardo, assistant vice president for government solutions at Hughes. “This is a routable, private network for the New England Telehealth Consortium, and we can offer them considerably higher speeds than with our traditional Ku satellites.”

Hughes provides satellite-based Internet service to more than 400,000 consumers. Until now, Hughes’ satellite-based private network services have been used primarily by government agencies involved in public safety applications. Hughes hopes the New England Telehealth Consortium deal will open up a new market for telemedicine.

“We’ve talked to the [Department of Veterans Affairs]; they want to reach out to veterans who may be immobile and can’t get to one of their clinics and hospitals,” Bardo said. “We’ve also talked to states like Virginia, which has mobile clinics throughout Appalachia. We think it’s important to get the word out that this satellite technology delivers the speed necessary for telemedicine. … Spaceway is new, fast and pretty affordable.”

Hughes said the mobile telehealth units as well as a fixed location in Bangor, Maine, will have operational satellite network services in March.

In addition to Hughes and AvL Technologies, the New England Telehealth Consortium deal includes a consulting firm called ProInfoNet.

Source: Network World

The LifeBot 5 Telemedicine Tool Allows Doctors to Read Data and Send Instructions to Remote Medics in Real-Time

While people such as emergency medical technicians and army medics are true lifesavers, there are times when they could benefit from the resources or expertise of a hospital-based physician. That’s where all-in-one portable telemedicine units like the LifeBot 5 come into play.

Although the device isn’t the only one of its kind, the LifeBot company claims that it is “the world’s smallest, lightest, most advanced portable mobile telemedicine system.”

Weighing in at 15 pounds (6.8 kg), it is able to monitor a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, plus it is capable of performing electrocardiography and ultrasound. It can also transmit video and audio. Future versions may additionally include a defibrillator.

Data is sent securely via 4G, 3G, LTE, WiMax, cellular, Wi-Fi, satellite, and/or data radio connections – the machine automatically selects whatever system(s) work best for the given situation. Remotely-located doctors are then able to view a patient’s vital signs and other data with a delay of only a few seconds, and offer real-time guidance to the on-site medical personnel. Multiple LifeBot units can also communicate with one another, allowing for collaborative efforts on difficult procedures.

The original version of the device was developed using Department of Defense grants of US$14 million from the Telemedicine and Technology Research Center and U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

Prices for the LifeBot 5 begin at under $20,000.

Source: LifeBot
Via: Gizmag

Dish Network Planning Nationwide Satellite Broadband

A report by Bloomberg, states that Dish Network Corp. is prepping a nationwide broadband-Internet service using a satellite from EchoStar Corp. EchoStar Corp. According to three people familiar with the situation.

Dish and EchoStar will be able to handle about 2 million new customers for their internet service, according to one person. The EchoStar 17 satellite will be used, it launched into orbit July 5, and can support download speeds of 15 megabits per second. Though introductory nationwide packages will probably offer rates of 5 megabits per second so the system can take on more capacity.

This all the result of technological advances for the U.S. satellite industry, which can now use higher-frequency bands to offer faster broadband to more people. Dish already offers satellite broadband through a partnership with Carlsbad, California-based ViaSat Inc., though that only covers certain parts of the U.S.

This satellite broadband- internet service will mainly be for those who live in rural areas and who may not have access to cable broadband. Dish expects to formally offer the service in late September or early October.