Space: The Standard Up There


February 16, 2008: The American A2100 model communications satellites have achieved 200 years in orbit so far, the most by any single satellite design. There are 34 A2100s in orbit, carrying 1254 transponders (for sending or receiving signals from earth). Four years ago, the 24 A2100s then up there had achieved a hundred years in orbit. The first A2100 satellite was launched in 1996. The design, which is not only reliable, is also modular, has evolved into five variations, including one for military use. The A2100 is a geosynchronous bird, meaning it has a stationary orbit about 35,000 kilometers from earth.

Using a standard design means the satellite is cheaper, more reliable and easier to build. An A2100 can be delivered within 18 months of the order being placed. Depending on its features, A2100s have a service life of 10-20 years. Of the 34 sent up so far, only three have had problems, and even those were able to deliver limited service.

The A2100 design is being adapted for lower orbit, non-communications work as well. Weighing about four tons each, the solar panels on an A2100 can generate up to 15 kilowatts (for broadcasting data to receivers on earth.)


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