Communications Satellites: Countdown for INTELSAT VI

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Science  10 Feb 1984:
Vol. 223, Issue 4636, pp. 553-559
DOI: 10.1126/science.223.4636.553


Since the formation of COMSAT 20 years ago, the number of international telephone circuits made through satellites has grown 400 times and the cost of a telephone call has decreased by 12,000 percent. Worldwide communications linking 109 nations are achieved with 14 satellites in earth-synchronous orbit. Advances in microwave technology have expanded the transmission bandwidth per satellite from 50 to more than 3000 megahertz. Improvements in solar cell, battery, stationkeeping, and microwave amplification technology have increased satellite lifetime from 1.5 years to 10. The sixth generation of INTELSAT satellites, now being manufactured, will be introduced into the system in 1986, and each satellite will carry more than 40,000 telephone channels plus two television programs. The next generation of satellites, now under design for expanded capacity, will be needed by the middle 1990's to meet the traffic demand. These satellites are likely to add new frequencies (20 and 30 gigahertz), onboard signal processing and switching, and more bandwidth-efficient modulation, to achieve larger communication capacity at each orbital location.