from the buh-bye-night-sky dept.
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.
BlueWalker 3 is expected to be among the brightest objects in the night sky after the antenna unfolds. Amateur astronomers can help record this satellite's brightness, bringing awareness to bright satellites' effects on our night sky and on astronomy.
[...] Astrophotographers can also play an important role in the study of artificial satellites, by uploading celestial images impacted by satellite streaks to the TrailBlazer website. Meredith Rawls and Dino Bektešević (both at University of Washington) are developing this data archive as part of the IAU's response to the problems posed by spacecraft. Trailblazer stores the impacted images and records selected metadata, so users can search for satellite-streaked images by date, location, and other parameters such as sky position and telescope.
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.
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.
Elon Musk Says SpaceX Has Had 'Promising Conversations' With Apple About iPhone Satellite Service
The comments came a day after Apple announced Emergency SOS via Satellite, which will allow iPhone 14 users to ping emergency services using satellite networks in areas without standard cellular reception. For the service, Apple partnered with Globalstar Inc. to power the satellite infrastructure, the network provider said in a regulatory filing Wednesday.
Last month, Musk's SpaceX and U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile preempted Apple's long-anticipated announcement by revealing that phone users on T-Mobile's network would be able to tap into SpaceX satellites to send text messages in areas without cellular connectivity. The collaboration is dependent on SpaceX launching an upgraded version of its Starlink satellites, known as Version 2.
That partnership, which won't launch until the end of next year at the earliest, will differ from Apple's feature in that it will allow for communication between consumers. Apple's short length satellite texting service is only designed to message emergency responders, the company said Wednesday.
[...] Apple's feature is set to launch in November and will be free for two years. The company didn't say how much it would cost after that initial period. Apple is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Globalstar's satellite infrastructure, the company said. The T-Mobile and Starlink feature will be free.