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posted by hubie on Sunday May 08 2022, @07:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the bluebird-bluebird-calling-me-far-away dept.

AST SpaceMobile gets US approval to test satellite-based cellular broadband:

AST SpaceMobile, a five-year-old company, based in Midland, Texas, has received a green light from the US Federal Communications Commission to test a satellite that could provide cellular broadband connectivity for smartphone users in the US and around the globe.

The company says it's building the first and only space-based cellular broadband network designed to be accessible directly by standard mobile phones. Its planned network, called SpaceMobile, aims to deliver 4G/5G connectivity everywhere on the planet – on land, at sea and in flight. Mobile subscribers would be able to automatically roam from land networks to the space-based network, no matter their location.

From SpaceNews:

The license from the Federal Communications Commission permits the company to connect unmodified cellular devices in Texas and Hawaii with BlueWalker 3 for up to several minutes daily.

SpaceX is slated to launch BlueWalker 3 to low Earth orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket with other passengers.

[...] "The BlueWalker 3 satellite would give us about five minutes of coverage in most areas around the world every day, which we plan to use to configure our software and other systems related to the network core," AST SpaceMobile chief strategy officer Scott Wisniewski told SpaceNews.

"Such coverage should also provide opportunities to explore numerous uses of cellular broadband, including texting, voice, and data applications."

Something tells me the cost of an iridium plan will be dropping soon.

At around 1,500-kilograms, BlueWalker 3 is a much smaller version of the company's planned operational BlueBird satellites AST SpaceMobile is building in-house. Each BlueBird will have a mass "well north" of BlueWalker 3, Wisniewski said, and have a larger field of view.

[...] The company expects to have deployed 110 satellites by the end of 2024 to achieve "substantial global" mobile coverage.

"We're designing BlueBirds for compatibility with numerous large launch vehicles that could deploy multiple operational satellites into orbit," Wisniewski said.

Original Submission

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Bright New Satellites Join a Crowded Sky — Here's How You Can Help 26 comments

The imminent launch of a BlueWalker satellite, with a giant phased array antenna, portends a brightening night sky:

The prototype of a new constellation of extremely bright Earth-orbiting satellites is due to launch in early- to mid-September. The AST SpaceMobile company plans to orbit more than 100 of these spacecraft by the end of 2024. Astronomers at the Vera Rubin Observatory and the International Astronomical Union's Centre for the Protection of Dark and Quiet Skies from Satellite Constellation Interference (IAU CPS) are concerned because these new spacecraft will interfere with celestial observations, adding to the problems already caused by other constellations.

The first member of this new group, called BlueWalker 3, will feature a giant antenna array covering an area of 64 square meters (689 square feet). Observers on the ground will see bright sunlight reflected from this structure. After on-orbit tests of BlueWalker 3 are completed, the operational satellites, called BlueBirds, will be launched. BlueBirds may produce even more glaring light pollution since they are significantly larger. The commercial appeal of these satellites is that they will link directly to cell phones without the need of a cell tower. AST SpaceMobile has already secured a license from the Federal Communications Commission to test the prototype.

[...] Other bright satellites are waiting in the wings: 30,000 second-generation Starlink satellites are currently awaiting FCC approval. Like the BlueBirds, the new Starlinks may carry antennas for direct connection to cell phones; the antennas are slightly smaller at "only" 25 square meters, but the satellites would be far more numerous than the BlueBird constellation. That development would be very bad news for astronomy.

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 08 2022, @12:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 08 2022, @12:23PM (#1243167)

    >> Mobile subscribers would be able to automatically roam from land networks to the space-based network, no matter their location.

    Imagine the look of surprise on Mitzi's face when she opens her monthly bill and finds that the three hours of Tiktok she watched during her flight was being billed at $6.99/minute.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 08 2022, @02:49PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 08 2022, @02:49PM (#1243195)

    heh? orbital IMEI-wardriving, COOL!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 08 2022, @03:14PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 08 2022, @03:14PM (#1243203)

      wats so cool?
      IMEI is hard-coded to a mobile doesn't change with the swap of a sim-card, w/ich has its own unique string of numbers. the dial-number can be assigned/changed to the sim-number.
      neigh any operator will now sell a SIM-card without you producing I.D., thus liking your I.D. (birth-2-death human-cattle number for clubbermint "services").
      if you think your mobile phone carrier is tracking you and you think swapping the SIM-card will solve the problem, think again. The IMEI remains with the handset.

      thus it's not hard to imagine a string of numbers from IMEI (observable from orbit) linking to I.D. number. both are "hard" and unchangeable.
      also IMEI numbers link to model/manufacturer of a mobile phone. this, maybe allows to observe (from orbit) make and model of manufacturer of smartphone distribution around the globe? thus being able for "virtual companies" (apple, google, etc etc) to squeeze mobilephone sweet-shop making handset companies (pegatron, hon hoi precision, etc..).

      also IMEI scanning from orbit allows to see concentrations (in location) of mobile phones. thru model/make capabilities are revealed. combine this with 3-years-to-obsolete and you can scan for a potential exploitable cloud for cyber warfar when invading or needing to blame a attack from some "country".

      having a location of oligarch could allow to minimize minion services in that location tho it prolly will be used to suppress "rogue" oligarchs that don't toe the line of the general mindset of the global capitalist wealth overlords (quote sith-anakin to his girlfriend on lava planet) ... the poo-poo factor.

  • (Score: 2) by fraxinus-tree on Monday May 09 2022, @09:12AM (2 children)

    by fraxinus-tree (5590) on Monday May 09 2022, @09:12AM (#1243365)

    Starlink has highly directional antennas at both ends of the connection. Should the client terminal be omnidirectional, the emitted power would be in kW or 10s of kW range in order to get the advertized 20-30Mbps uplink (and similar in downlink). Not practical. With 1-2 degrees of beam the power gets to the sensible few watts. The usual handheld is omni or almost omni with 1W or 2W radio power - good if your base station is at worst 10km away, but really challenging if it is a satellite.

    • (Score: 2) by fraxinus-tree on Monday May 09 2022, @09:14AM (1 child)

      by fraxinus-tree (5590) on Monday May 09 2022, @09:14AM (#1243366)

      ... and don't even get me started on the delays that the 4G/5G protocols are capable of handling.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2022, @12:24PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2022, @12:24PM (#1243386)

        Seemed unlikely to me as well, but apparently they already tried it.
        With a big enough antenna in space, they seem to be able to work with the little one on the ground.
        Not sure how many handsets they can focus on at once, but at least some bw to one. []

        The first proof of concept bird was in 2019.
        This is a bigger test bird at 1500kg and 64sqmeter phased array antenna size.
        The real bird will be bigger still.