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Commercial satellites provide a wide range of communications services. Television programs are relayed internationally, giving rise to the phenomenon known as the "global village." Satellites also relay programs to cable television systems as well as to homes equipped with dish antennas. In addition, very small aperture terminals (VSATs) relay digital data for a multitude of business services. Intelsat satellites now carry over 100,000 telephone circuits, with growing use of digital transmission. Digital source coding methods (see Telecommunications) have resulted in a ten-fold reduction in the transmission rate needed to carry a voice channel, thus enhancing the capacity of existing facilities and reducing the size of ground stations that provide telephone service.

The International Mobile Satellite Organization (INMARSAT), founded in 1979 as the International Maritime Satellite Organization, is a mobile telecommunications network, providing digital data links, telephone, and facsimile transmission, or fax, service between ships, offshore facilities, and shore-based stations throughout the world. It is also now extending satellite links for voice and fax transmission to aircraft on international routes.

6. Recent Technical Advances

Communications satellite systems have entered a period of transition from point-to-point high-capacity trunk communications between large, costly ground terminals to multipoint-to-multipoint communications between small, low-cost stations. The development of multiple access methods has both hastened and facilitated this transition. With TDMA, each ground station is assigned a time slot on the same channel for use in transmitting its communications; all other stations monitor these slots and select the communications directed to them. By amplifying a single carrier frequency in each satellite repeater, TDMA ensures the most efficient use of the satellite's onboard power supply.


A technique called frequency reuse allows satellites to communicate with a number of ground stations using the same frequency by transmitting in narrow beams pointed toward each of the stations. Beam widths can be adjusted to cover areas as large as the entire United States or as small as a state like Maryland. Two stations far enough apart can receive different messages transmitted on the same frequency. Satellite antennas have been designed to transmit several beams in different directions, using the same reflector.

A new method for interconnecting many ground stations spread over great distances is scheduled to be tested in 1993, with the launch of NASA's ACTS (Advanced Communications Technology Satellite). Known as the hopping spot beam technique, it combines the advantages of frequency reuse, spot beams, and TDMA. By concentrating the energy of the satellite's transmitted signal, ACTS can use ground stations that have smaller antennas and reduced power requirements.

The concept of multiple spot beam communications was successfully demonstrated in 1991 with the launch of Italsat, developed by the Italian Research Council. With six spot beams operating at 30 GHZ (uplink) and 20 GHZ (downlink), the satellite interconnects TDMA transmissions between ground stations in all the major economic centers of Italy. It does this by demodulating uplink signals routing them between up- and downlink beams, and combining and remodulating them for downlink transmission.

The application of laser technology to satellite communications has been studied for over a decade. Laser beams can be used to transmit signals between a satellite and earth, but the rate of transmission is limited because of absorption and scattering by the atmosphere. Lasers operating in the blue-green wavelength, which penetrates water, have been used for communication between satellites and submarines.


Date: 2015-01-12; view: 835

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