This is an introductory blurb from July 2018 TechRepublic, below is an update from Satellite Markets, March 2019.
Facebook creates high-speed satellite broadband to compete for popularity with others like SpaceX and OneWeb. [Amazon has since joined the game]
Facebook plans on launching its own internet satellite in 2019, according to a Wired report on Friday. Currently, many people connecting to the internet in remote places receive very slow and little connectivity, which results in a frustrating user experience, the report noted, but satellites like those Facebook is planning could help remedy that.
The new satellites from Facebook were confirmed via emails obtained from the Federal Communications Commission, said the report. Named Athena, the internet device will look like “constellations” in the earth’s orbit, continue the report.
PointView Tech LLC. A filing with the FCC of a multi-million-dollar experimental satellite from Facebook was confirmed last July 2018. The satellite, named Athena, will deliver data 10 times faster than SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites.
In early 2019, PointView’s Athena will also head out to LEO, on an Arianespace Vega rocket. Athena is about the same size and weight (150 kg) as SpaceX and OneWeb’s satellites, but Athena will use high-frequency millimeter-wave radio signals that promise much faster data rates. The company estimates its E-band system will deliver up to 10 gigabits per second. “PointView is aiming to understand whether a system using E-band spectrum can be used for the provision of fixed and mobile broadband access in unserved and underserved areas,” it wrote in the FCC application.
PointView specifies three ground stations in its application that will send data to Athena in orbit and receive it in turn. One is a so-called satellite ‘teleport’ near Ventura, Calif., that is shared by a number of satellite companies. The second is Mount Wilson Observatory in the hills above Los Angeles, another popular location for communications hardware.
There are technical barriers to using E-band radio from orbit, however. High-frequency millimeter waves fade quickly and are easily absorbed by rain or other particles in the air. Part of Athena’s two-year mission will be to test just how big of a problem that is. “PointView plans to publish many of its experimental findings, including atmospheric attenuation model validation data,” says its application.
PointView expects to get download speeds of around 10 Gbps at its ground stations, with uplink speeds topping 30 Gbps. But because Athena is in LEO, it will only fly above the three ground stations a couple of times each day, and for less than eight minutes at a time.
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OneWeb with six sats in space and SpaceX’s TinTin A and B have been in orbit for a year making them the leaders, as the Athena Project will spend two years testing the E-Band and Laser Communications. Amazon is just started hiring satellite engineers in Bellvue, Washington. SpaceX will start launching operational satellites in May 2019.