Satellite communications are enabling new comforts for long-distance commuters and airline customers. JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, and Virgin Blue of Australia are among the airlines that offer satellite TV.
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In June 2011, the eruption of the Puyehue-Cordón volcano in Chile led to the evacuation of 3,500 people. Satellites were able to capture images of the eruption and provide details on the associated ash plume, monitoring its path for many days.
Earth observation satellites can facilitate wildlife surveys over large remote areas. A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Polar Geospatial Center, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Australian Antarctic Division applied advanced image processing techniques to high-resolution satellite images taken of emperor penguin colonies to estimate their total population.
The primary advantages of sounding rockets are their low cost, comparative ease of transport, ability to be launched from locations on land or sea, and relatively short turnaround times between mission concept and launch. These characteristics make sounding rockets a frequent choice of university science programs and research institutes that require less expensive access to space, enabling space-based experiments that might not otherwise receive funding.
To improve the resolution from ground-based observatories and to capture light from distant, dim objects, telescopes are growing larger. Due to the correspondingly large cost of construction and operation, these massive telescopes are often supported financially by multinational consortia.
Since 2000, China has also been building its own national PNT system, known as Beidou (the Mandarin name for the constellation otherwise known as the Big Dipper). China launched ## satellites in 2011 to join the ## currently in orbit. These satellites will later become part of a global constellation, Compass, which is planned to consist of ## MEO satellites for global coverage and ## GEO satellites that will focus on regional coverage over China. Beidou began operating in December 2011, providing initial PNT services to a swath of the Asia-Pacific region from Australia in the south to Russia in the north with an accuracy of 25 meters (82 feet).
Space activities in South Africa are funded through the Department of Science and Technology (DST). In FY 2011, which ran from April 2011 to March 2012, the DST planned to spend ## million rand (US$## million) on space activities executed through two programs: the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the Space Science Research, Development and Innovation subprogram. SANSA, established in 2008, planned an FY 2011 budget of ## million rand (US$## million).
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A series of SSN upgrades are underway. In 2011, a DARPA-funded space surveillance telescope underwent testing. After nine years of development, the new telescope, located at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, is capable of capturing wide-field views of objects in GEO orbit. While the SSN uses radar signals to track objects in LEO, distant objects in GEO orbits are tracked by optical systems such as the DARPA telescope at White Sands and other telescopes in Hawaii; Socorro, New Mexico; and the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.