Advanced Television

Apple ramping up ‘super constellation’ plans?

April 24, 2017

By Chris Forrester

Apple has reportedly hired a pair of highly experienced satellite experts. Bloomberg Business News says the pair are John Fenwick, who led Google’s spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, who headed up satellite engineering at Google. The two now report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of the camera company Dropcam, another former Googler, according to the Bloomberg report.

Fenwick has been with Google for the past 2 years 8 months, and prior to this spent almost six years with SkyBox Imaging. Trela had also been busy on satellite-based photo-imaging for Google, but has a wide experience of enhanced satellite design “with an innovative green propulsion system and improved imaging performance and agility” according to his own LinkedIn profile.

Apple has reportedly held discussions with aerospace giant Boeing about building a joint-venture broadband-based satellite project, and with massive global scale of 1000 Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites. Boeing, once upon a time, backed the Teledesic scheme which went bankrupt in 2002.

Boeing’s idea is to use the largely uncluttered ‘V-band’ (57-71 GHz) and the gossip is that the high multi-gigabit spectrum would allow ground-based communications to small handsets, and easily be picked up by cars and vehicles with a small satellite radio-type antenna.

If the concept becomes a reality, then Apple/Boeing would join a cluster of other ‘super-constellations’ from Jersey-based OneWeb (in the process of merging with Intelsat), SpaceX (talking about 4425 satellites), and plans from SES, Telesat of Canada, Arabsat, and others to launch new satellite constellations.

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