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Satellites also provide mobile telephony services. Satellite mobile telephony enables regional to near-global coverage depending on the satellite or constellation, using handsets that communicate directly with a satellite. Mobile satellite telephone service is provided by satellite constellations in LEO, such as Iridium and Globalstar, and by satellites in GEO, such as Inmarsat, Thuraya, and ACeS. These services are provided by satellites primarily using the L-band. Satellites providing mobile phone and data services often are referred to as mobile satellite service (MSS) satellites.
Satellites have provided trunking for long-distance telephone service for decades. Most long-distance traffic is now routed over cable, avoiding the lag and other reductions in quality (such as echo) associated with satellite telephone calls. Areas or countries lacking terrestrial backbone still rely on satellite connectivity to the publicly-switched telephone network. Telephone companies or nations lease C-band or Ku-band transponders on GEO satellites. Telephony, along with broadcast television, discussed above, and data services are common FSS applications.
Data communications services include very small aperture terminal (VSAT) services, Internet backhaul, direct-to-home broadband, and mobile data.
The DoD and national security agencies could also use a variety of Earth observation satellites, like Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) under development, Fast On-orbit Recording of Transient Events (FORTÉ), and the Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) that provide intelligence through a variety of sensors, including multi-spectral imagery, thermal images and event classification, radio burst detectors, and radar imaging.
Different wavelengths of light are ideal for different sensing activities. For example, radar technology, which uses microwave frequencies, can observe clouds, aerosols, volcanic plumes, sea-surface temperatures, ocean color, vegetation, land cover, snow, ice, fires, and many other phenomena. Visible light and near infrared portions of the spectrum can perceive fine detail and can be used for mineral and soil mapping, precision agriculture, and forestry.
Space Services Inc. of Houston, Texas, offers memorial spaceflights, launching a symbolic portion of a person’s cremated remains into space. These memorials are a small secondary payload on a commercial or scientific satellite launch. Space Services offers Earth return services, Earth orbit services, lunar services, and Voyager (deep space) services.
Transportation-based activities also can be considered to include U.S. efforts at ballistic missile defense. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) was established in 1999 “to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack.” The MDA uses an integrated system of sensors and weapons to detect and destroy incoming ballistic missiles in their boost, midcourse, or terminal phase.
We have characterized space products and services as directly enabled by space infrastructure and intended to be in the space environment or directly interacting with the space environment.
The year 2005 saw growth in subscribers and offerings for mobile satellite services, launches of probes to explore Mars and Venus, a probe landing on Saturn’s moon Titan, and growth in commercial space transportation services.