An Eye in the Sky

An Atlanta company is testing a balloon-borne transmitter for broadband and cellular in its hometown, but to get the business off the ground, aviation regulators must be appeased

5 min read

8 July 2004--This month, a 3000-meter-high antenna will rise over Atlanta, but area residents might not notice. The antenna won't be a metal rod at the end of a hulking tower, but a solar-powered, helium-and-nitrogen�filled airship that will receive signals from nearby ground stations and rebroadcast them over the Atlanta metropolitan area.

The test transmission of voice, data, and video in many standard forms will be part of a demonstration planned by a local company, Sanswire Networks LLC, to show that high-altitude platforms-- or HAPs as they are known in the telecommunications world-- can work as mid-air base stations for wireless communications.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.


For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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