Biggest satellite antenna launched

Nov. 15, 2010 at 8:37 PM

RESTON, Va., Nov. 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. satellite carrying the biggest commercial reflector antenna ever put into space has been successfully launched, it backers say.

The mesh antenna on the Skyterra-1 satellite, launched successfully from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on Sunday, is 72 feet across, the BBC reported Monday.

The antenna will relay cellphone and data signals for a start-up company called LightSquared.

Cellphone users whose carriers use the system will have their calls automatically switched to the satellite, built by Boeing, if they are out of range of a terrestrial cell tower, the company says.

LightSquared is the latest effort to try to establish a hybrid satellite-terrestrial system in the United States after two previous ventures ran into financial problems. LightSquared says it will be selling capacity to carriers who wish to offer go-anywhere connectivity to their consumers, phone and data users alike.

The 5.4-ton satellite is expected to have a service life of 15 years, the BBC said.

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