US company Motorola plans to launch a $12 billion satellite system to provide high-speed multi-media data and video services for business and private users from 2002. The new scheme brings the company's total proposed investment in satellite systems to $23 billion.

The new Celestri system will consist of a world-spanning constellation of 63 satellites in different low-Earth orbit (LEO) planes.

Motorola has flled its formal application to the US Federal Communications Commission to operate the system. Celestri services will be leased to business customers who will provide services to end users.

The Celestri project will be a rival to several other proposed multi-media systems, including Teledesic and Skybridge.

French company Alcatel has joined Loral to develop the $3.5 billion, 64-satellite LEO Skybridge system, with cross-investment in Loral's Cyberstar system, which is planned for geostationary orbit. Boeing and Microsoft boss Bill Gates are combining to launch the Teledesic programme.

Motorola's Iridium worldwide mobile-telephone system, meanwhile, was increased to 12 operational LEO satellites on 17 June with the launch of seven craft on a Russian Proton DM from Baikonur. The $5 billion Iridium system will eventually consist of 66 operational satellites.

Motorola is also planning a $6 billion M-Star project to provide specialist data-communications services to businesses.

Source: Flight International