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Merchandise that's out of this world

The Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat) considers the present US weather and earth resources (Landsat) satellite systems outmoded. It says it would develop more efficient systems.

Images from earth resources satellites are used to monitor the environment, prospect for minerals, and monitor crops, among other things. The US now has only one experimental satellite, Landsat 4, in orbit. One of its transmitters, which sends back the most detailed data, has stopped working.

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The weather satellite system has two parts. A pair of TIROS (Television and Infrared Observation Satellite) swings around Earth in near polar orbits. They are at relatively low altitudes of 519 to 541 miles. Two other satellites are in the so-called geosynchronous orbit, 22,300 miles high, where they remain over a given spot on the surface. The TV camera in one of these satellites failed last fall. A replacement satellite is to be launched this spring.

If Comsat buys these systems, it plans eventually to replace the satellites with more efficient, longer-lived equipment and to centralize ground control in one facility.

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