Boeing Satellite Systems and IBM have built what they are calling "the world's most powerful satellite-based digital signal processor" for space-borne wireless communications. The DSP is currently embedded in the Thuraya satellite, a Boeing-built GEO-Mobile spacecraft that was launched in October 2000 for Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications. This chunk of silicon provides more computing power than 3,000 Pentium III-based computers, so that the spacecraft can handle tens of thousands of phone calls simultaneously. The ASIC chip technology in the processor was designed by BSS and built by IBM. The ASICs in the DSP contain up to (holy cow) 3.8 million gates each. The satellite's digital communications processor has variable-bandwidth channel capability, on-board circuit switching for more than 25,000 full duplex circuits, and transmit/receive digital-beam forming for more than 300 projected cell sites. The Thuraya satellite communication system serves the Middle East, North and Central Africa, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Central Asia with medium-bandwidth data exchange and voice cellular services. Want to send up your own satellite? Boeing says the regional digital voice and data communications systems are now available on short schedules as "off-the-shelf" catalog items. No word yet on pricing. A fourth-generation BSS DSP is currently in production for a Boeing 702 Spaceway broadband satellite scheduled for launch in late 2002 and will based on even more advanced IBM copper ASIC technology with more than 8 million gates per chip. Just another story in the "ain't it cool" category.
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