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Commercial Innovations Heighten Satellite Communications


By Kimberly Underwood for AFCEA Signal

Governments and the private sector stand to benefit from burgeoning advances.

The commercial satellite industry is harnessing a perfect storm of technological advancements, cost reductions and increased emphasis on mobile communications to provide greater global connectivity. Innovation is reaching all aspects of the industry, from satellite manufacturing, satellite launch services and satellite ground equipment to satellite services, industry officials report, driving cost savings and performance gains.

The $269 billion industry is booming, more than doubling revenue since 2007, when it was $122 billion, according to this year’s Satellite Industry Association “State of the Satellite Industry Report.” A total of 1,738 satellites are in operation. And in the last five years, the number of satellite launches grew by 147 percent, due in part to an increase in the number of small low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites launched, the report states. Fueled by less expensive launch vehicles, average launch costs dropped 40 percent last year, compared with 2016.

Commercial satellite operators such as Hughes Network Systems LLC, Intelsat SA and SES SA are at the nexus of this evolutionary process, leveraging advances to provide various forms of satellite communications (SATCOM). Satellite operators are pursuing high-throughput satellites (HTS), end-to-end architecture, efficient waveforms, cost reductions and higher performance.

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