Space Products and Services
Travel, Lifestyle, and Entertainment
During 2008, Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic unveiled and conducted the maiden flight of a new airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, a “mother ship” designed to carry SpaceShipTwo into the upper atmosphere, launch the spacecraft into a suborbital trajectory, and return to base. SpaceShipTwo has room for six passengers and two pilots.
Smartphones are advanced mobile phones with features similar to personal computers. Devices released in 2008 such as the Apple iPhone 3G and the T-Mobile G1 put the power of space products and services into pockets everywhere.
In 2008, ICO Global Communications began testing a mobile TV service using a satellite over the United States designed to deliver up to 15 television channels for entertainment starting in 2010. ICO also plans to offer navigation and emergency services and is experimenting with delivering Internet service to cars.
Google uses the GeoEye-1 satellite for projects including Google Earth and Google Maps. In January 2009, Google had exclusive use of the images of the inauguration of President Obama that GeoEye produced from a satellite orbiting 423 miles above Capitol Hill.
Several new products and services in the entertainment sector emerged in 2009 utilizing satellite image and video relay capabilities. NASA posted a “Live Space Station Video” link on its web site in March 2009 that displays live video from outside the ISS.
The Apple iPhone and other competing products continued to evolve throughout 2009, offering new features and applications enhanced through satellite technology. SIRIUS XM Radio debuted SkyDock, the first radio dock for the iPhone, essentially transforming the smartphone into a satellite radio.
Satellite technology is used to both protect and assist competitors in the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska, using GPS services supported by the Iridium communications satellite system. The Iditarod Trail Committee is now requiring that the tracking device, provided by race-tracking company IonEarth, be attached to each dog sled.
The satellite-based GPS network provides the basis for a number of new products. Garmin, Magellan, and other manufacturers have created innovative units such as a waterproof handheld GPS device for golfers that calculates distances to the green and other points on a golf course, providing the user with precise information for club selection and strategy.
Wherever they may go, travelers can take advantage of new hairstyling tools derived from space-related nanomaterial research. Nanoceramic materials were developed by NASA researchers for the manufacture of microcapsules capable of delivering cancer-fighting drugs.
Another advancement within the travel and lifestyle sector that has taken off during 2010 is satellite-enabled in-flight entertainment. In the spring of 2009, Southwest Airlines, in collaboration with the satellite broadband company Row 44, tested an aircraft Wi-Fi internet system and pricing plans. In October 2010, Southwest Airlines announced that its entire fleet will be equipped with satellite-enabled Wi-Fi by 2013.