Google looking to test secret airborne technology at the New Mexico “spaceport” facility

Space tourism and exploration companies Virgin Galactic and SpaceX that have set up shop, as well as an Indian reservation in Oregon at the New Mexico “spaceport” facility may have a new visitor. The search engine giant Google is planning to test secret airborne communications technology at this facility.

According to the recently filed documents with the Federal Communications Commission, Google wants to test a radio technology that includes aircraft floating over 25,000 feet in the air and various terrestrial stations situated at Spaceport America, a facility that is financed by the state of New Mexico and is hoping to be the center of the budding space tourism industry.

The documents also mention that Google has formally ask the authority to test the technology at an Indian reservation in Pescadero, California, and Warm Springs, Oregon.

The filings were presented in the summer, before Google converted into the Alphabet holding company that makes self-governing companies out of various Google groups.

The recent expanding efforts of Google and parent-company Alphabet to cover the globe with its web services at its peak are represented in the filings. The company is working on various air and space-based projects, including Loon, which uses air balloons to beam internet access down to earth, Project Wing, which has drones delivering packages, and Project Titan that makes use of drones to deliver internet access.

There is no information as to which project Google or Alphabet plans to test at Spaceport America and other locations, as much of the filings are obscured. Neither do they specify whether the aircraft will be manned or unmanned. However, an interesting explanation has been provided by Google regarding the tests.

Google will use 2.5 GHz band frequencies in the proposed testing mainly for communications payload (particularly to broadcast data communications from one fixed ground station to another via an aircraft), not communications to and from either mobile satellite or maritime use, or flight-related activities.

The Guardian earlier this year detailed the Project Wing tests, wherein Google was reported to be testing whether cell phones can provide air-traffic control for low-flying drones. Google’s statement that it is not testing “flight-related activities” may look to rule out the Project Wing tests.

The aircraft will fly at maximum altitude of 25,000 feet, which is below the 60,000 to 90,000 feet that Loon balloons fly at, states the application.

A Google project called Titan, which was initially based in Moriarty, New Mexico, is developing solar-powered drones intended that can fly at 65,000 feet. However, it recently announced that it is shifting its operations to California.

Google’s application to the FCC lists Paul Husted, a Google hardware engineer who in the past has developed wireless communications chips at Qualcomm, and Frank McLoughlin, an engineering director at Google whose LinkedIn profile says he was an aviation engineer at Garmin International before.

Google is expected to carry out the tests from August 31 of this year until February 27, 2016 says the filings. Google intends to “expeditiously test radios in a way that is likely to contribute to the development, extension, expansion, or utilization of the radio art”, says the application for an experimental license.

Spaceport America describes itself as “the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport designed with the needs of the commercial, space business in mind” on its website.

The facility includes “basic operational infrastructure such as an airfield, launch pads, terminal/hangar facility, emergency response capabilities, utilities and roadways” and has the ability to house both “vertical and horizontal takeoff space launch vehicles.” The facility’s anchor tenant is Virgin Galactic.

The facilities at which Google plan to carry out tests with the aircraft in Oregon include several cell phone towers in the area and a casino and resort situated in the Warm Springs Indian reservation, according to the coordinates on the FCC application.

Resource : Business Insider.

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