Huge antenna launched into space

A US satellite carrying the biggest commercial antenna reflector ever put in space has been launched successfully from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The mesh structure on the Skyterra-1 spacecraft is 22 metres across.

It will relay signals for a new 4G-LTE mobile phone and data system for North America run by Lightsquared.

Callers whose networks are tied into the system will be automatically switched to a satellite if they are out of range of a terrestrial mast.

Lightsquared is the latest effort to try to establish a hybrid satellite-terrestrial system in the US…Lightsquared has promised a different approach. It says its business will be wholesale only. It will be selling capacity to carriers who wish to offer go-anywhere connectivity to their consumers, be they phone or data users.

The system will be capable of supporting smartphone-sized devices, it says.

Under a schedule approved by the Federal Communications Commission, the company has to have a ground network of terrestrial stations in place to serve 90% of the US population by the end of 2015.

The Skyterra-1 satellite was launched from Baikonur on a Proton rocket at 2329 local time on Sunday (1729 GMT)…

The 22m-antenna on Skyterra-1 should be deployed by the end of the month. A second satellite, Skyterra-2, will follow in 2011.

Fascinating stuff. Especially for Satellite TV geeks like me who have become accustomed to following the day-by-day that leads to these launches.

There’s an amazing amount of traffic up in the sky. Including a lot of dross.

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