Space Products & Innovation
Satellite communications have allowed governments in developing nations to establish e-governance portals and services without investing in terrestrial infrastructure. In Mexico, a distance learning course was beamed via satellite and the Internet to more than 1,800 teachers. Several governments, like the Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN) in India, have established VSAT networks to communicate between offices and bring governmental services to remote provinces.
Satellite capabilities are enabling dependable voting mechanisms in governments around the world. An e-voting satellite network, such as Gilat’s VSAT network, consists of a satellite dish and modem at each polling site connected to a central hub. Each poll operates electronic voting machines, which are connected to the central hub database via these very small aperture terminal (VSAT) connections.
Remote outposts and naval vessels also can benefit from the high bandwidth mobile communication network offered by satellites. In 2006, the Canadian Coast Guard selected Telesat to provide ship-to-shore communications via satellites.
Natural disasters often disable vital terrestrial communication networks. In these instances, telecommunications satellites can preserve communication within a devastated area. Satellite phones provide instant communication infrastructure for first responders and their command centers. Satellite data and phone networks can be set up quickly to aid in disaster management activities, helping the government and other institutions with activities such as organization of relief efforts. Both Globalstar and Iridium deployed more than 10,000 satellite phones each after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in August 2005.
As the space infrastructure continues to grow, it is possible to expand the sphere of economically useful resources into space and neighboring planetary bodies. NASA, ESA, and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are among the space agencies that have conducted studies or workshops to address the feasibility of using extra-terrestrial resources, or In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU).
Of growing concern to the international community is orbital debris— ranging from paint flecks to entire upper stages— resulting from half a century of space access. It is estimated that 100,000 to 150,000 objects larger than one centimeter remain in orbit.
65 countries, the European Commission (EC) and more than 40 international organizations are supporting the development of a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) during the next decade. GEOSS is proposed as an overarching system of existing and future earth observations systems.
A novel application of satellite capabilities that supports retail operations came online in 2005 with the launch of Google Earth—an interactive, 3D map of the Earth’s surface constructed entirely of satellite images, taken by using various instruments and at various times in a mosaic fashion.
Remote sensing satellites will continue to be used for resource identification and management. The demand for energy is expected to rise, resulting in a greater reliance on hyper-spectral sensors for oil and gas exploration.
The agriculture industry leverages weather forecasting technologies and satellite systems that increase the accuracy of local forecasts. More accurate short-term forecasts can prevent crop loss and save an additional $40 million per year.