Strattner.Space

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01

THE ISSUES

Performance

Satellite Communications technologies have achieved remarkable breakthrough efficiencies and increases in performance in nearly a half century. These developments, however, have occurred in parallel with large gains in performance by other IT and telecommunications systems. Thus, these dramatic gains are not as apparent to the general populace as might have been the case if this explosion in performance had happened in isolation.

In many ways today’s satellites are digital processors in the sky and specialized software defines how they perform and defines their communications capabilities. In fact, the innovations in satellite communications as well as the progression in all forms of telecommunications and computer processes have followed similar courses. In short, Moore’s law that predicted a doubling of performance every 18 months has generally held true for all fields involving digital processing whether it be computing, communications, video games, or even digital entertainment systems. What had been past is thus likely to be prologue. It is reasonable to anticipate continuing gains in terms of overall processing power, digital communications, and “intelligent” space communication systems.

In short, there are remarkable new technologies still to be developed in terms of space-based satellite communications systems, more powerful processors, new encoding capabilities, and new user terminal capabilities that can make user systems more mobile, more versatile, more personally responsive, more powerful in terms of performance, and yet lower in cost (Pelton 2005; Also see Iida et al. 2003).

As the world national economies become more global and as all parts of the globe, the oceans, and the atmosphere are exploited by human enterprise, the need for effective wireless interconnection via terrestrial wireless and satellite communications will expand. Further the increased utilization of space systems – manned, unmanned, and planetary bodies – will evolve the need for improved space communications systems. Clearly foreseeable technologies suggest that several decades of continuing innovations are now possible.

But technology will not be the only source of change for the satellite communications industry. Other drivers of change will include: (a) New service demands in both civilian and defense-related markets; (b) Restructuring of commercial satellite organizations through acquisition, merger, and regulatory change; (c) New allocations or reallocation of frequencies; (d) Convergence between the various satellite applications markets – both in terms of technology and structural integration; (e) Constraints in orbital configurations; (f) Orbital debris; and even (g) Growth of human activities in outer space may prove to be significant shapers of the growth of satellite systems in the next 20–30 years (Pelton 2005; Iida et al. 2003).