Tip of the Iceberg
The half-dozen applications listed above are only the tip of the iceberg. Much more can be done with existing operational systems. Some of the ideas and concepts still on the drawing board may need additional funding and sponsorship from public or private entities.
One of the sad memories of the Sept. 11 tragedy shared by thousands of anxious families was that all telecommunication capabilities around lower Manhattan were either destroyed or jammed by excessive traffic.
Next-generation mobile satellite systems with integrated terrestrial components are being developed to work with dual-purpose mobile phones no bigger than traditional cell phones. In times of emergency, these phones could be used when the terrestrial network is disabled. Each satellite could handle in excess of 25,000 simultaneous conversations. Similar backup networks also could be configured around the forthcoming Ka-band capabilities with onboard processing through systems such as Hughes Network Systems’ SpaceWay. The next-generation Inmarsat 4 satellites will provide a mobile broadband capability of up to 432 Kbps — highly suitable for use by Coast Guard and in emergency situations.
The Department of Homeland Security has identified infrastructure protection as one of its major goals. In times of emergency, a necessity will be the efficient transmission of information through infrastructures across the nation. Continuous contact is needed with first responders such as firefighters and medical personnel about their location, health and needs. While traditional telecommunication links fulfill these needs under normal times, additional backup capability designed to handle extraordinary situations should be considered. As an example, a combination of modern sensor technology, wireless and satellite systems can provide real-time links from first responders to local, regional and national command centers.
Despite the recent adverse market conditions, satellite systems have continued to make advances in terms of power, onboard intelligence and agility at all levels of operations. Such attributes make them ideally suited for several critical functions needed for homeland security. The industry will be well-served by continuing to offer and demonstrate innovative system solutions in addition to responding to specific needs defined by the Department of Homeland Security.
D.K.Sachdev is president of Vienna, Va.-based SpaceTel Consultancy. He can be reached by phone, 703/757-5880, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org .