ORBCOMM FM-17 was part of a commercial venture to provide global messaging services using a constellation of 26 low-Earth orbiting satellites. The planned system is designed to handle up to 5 million messages from users utilizing small, portable terminals to transmit and receive messages directly to the satellites. The first 2 satellites of the constellation (95-017A + B) experienced communication problems after launch, but were recovered and placed into operational status. The nominal 26 satellite constellation will be deployed by 1997, with the potential for an additional 8 satellite plane and 2 more polar orbiters depending on demands for increased coverage. The vehicles will be controlled from a single control center located in Dulles, VA.
The spacecraft was a circular shaped disk. Circular panels hinged from each side after launch to expose solar cells. These panels articulated in 1-axis to track the sun and provide 160W. Deployed spacecraft measured 3.6 m from end to end with 2.3 m span across the circular disks. VHF telemetry was at 57.6 kbps. The spacecraft contained an on-board GPS navigation and timing system, and 14 volt power system. Gravity gradient stabilization provided 4 degs control with magnetic torques for damping cold gas (nitrogen) propulsion system.
The spacecraft carried 17 data processors and 7 antennas and was designed to handle 50,000 messages per hour. The long boom was a 2.6 meter VHF/UHF gateway antenna. Receive: 2400 bps at 148 - 149.9 MHz. Transmit: 4800 bps at 137 - 138 MHz and 400.05 to 400.15 MHz. The system used X.400 (CCITT 1988) addressing. Message size was 6 to 250 bytes typical (no maximum).
1 25420U 98046H 12338.88173691 .00000319 00000-0 17591-3 0 563 2 25420 044.9982 112.5067 0005557 154.5840 205.5275 14.30052955747729