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Wireless data networking
Industry Telecommunications
Founded 1993 by Orbital Sciences and Teleglobe
Headquarters Rochelle Park, New Jersey, United States
Key people
Chairman: Jerome (Jerry) Eisenberg
CFO: Robert G. Costantini
CEO: Marc Eisenberg
EVP Technology and Operations: John J. Stolte
Products satellite communications and integration services
Revenue $74.21 million USD (2013)
Number of employees
Website Orbcomm USA
Orbcomm Europe
Orbcomm Japan
Orbcomm Korea
Orbcomm Morocco

ORBCOMM (NASDAQ: ORBC) is a company that offers M2M[1] global asset monitoring and messaging services from its constellation of 29 LEO communications satellites orbiting at 775 km. Like its voice-centric competitors Iridium and Globalstar, it filed for Chapter 11 protection, in September 2000. ORBCOMM issued a public offering of stock in November 2006.[2] The company sold 9.23 million shares of common stock.


  • Satellites 1
    • OG2 1.1
  • Services 2
  • Hardware 3
    • Digi International SatCom Gateways & Modules 3.1
    • Quake Global ORBCOMM Modem Products 3.2
    • Stellar DS100, DS101 and DS300 3.3
  • Remote Intelligence Systems 4
    • Magellan GSC 100 4.1
  • Lawsuits 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • Sources 8


The first-generation OG1 satellites each weigh 42 kg (93 lb). Two disc-shaped solar panels articulate in 1-axis to track the sun and provide 160 watts of power. Communication with subscriber units is done using SDPSK modulation at 4800 bit/s for the downlink and 2400 bit/s for the uplink.

Each satellite has a 56 kbit/s backhaul that utilises the popular TDMA multiplexing scheme and QPSK modulation.[3] Orbcomm is the only current satellite licensee operating in the 137-150 MHz VHF band, which was allocated globally for "Little LEO" systems. Several such systems were planned in the early to mid 1990s but Orbcomm was the only one to successfully launch. In the continental United States, ORBCOMM statistically relays 90% of the text messages within six minutes, but gaps between satellites can result in message delivery times of 15 minutes or more. Orbcomm reported during an earnings report call in early 2007 that 50% of subscriber-initiated reports (messages of six bytes in size) were received in less than 1 minute, 90% in less than 4 minutes and 98% in less than 15 minutes. With the current constellation of ORBCOMM satellites, there is likely to be a satellite within range of almost any spot on Earth at any time of the day or night. Every satellite has an on-board GPS receiver for positioning. Typical data payloads are 6 bytes to 30 bytes, adequate for sending GPS position data or simple sensor readings.

A total of 35 satellites were launched by ORBCOMM Global in the mid to late 1990s. Of the original 35, a total of 29 remain operational today, according to company filings. The plane F polar satellite, one of the original prototype first generation satellites launched in 1995, was retired in April 2007 due to intermittent service. Two additional satellites (one from each of Plane B and Plane D) were retired in 2008 also due to intermittent service. The other five satellites that are not operational experienced failures earlier. The absence of these eight satellites can increase system latency and decrease overall capacity. Orbcomm has invested in replacement satellites as the first generation is at or nearing end of life. On 19 June 2008 six additional ORBCOMM satellites were launched with the Cosmos-3M rocket:[4] one ORBCOMM CDS weighing 80 kg, and five ORBCOMM Quick Launches weighing 115 kg each.[5][6] These new satellites were built by German OHB System AG (platform) and by Orbital Sciences Corporation (payload) and included a secondary AIS.[7][8] Design and production of the satellite platform was subcontracted by OHB System to Russian KB Polyot. On November 9, 2009 ORBCOMM filed a report to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission stating that since launch, communications capability for three of the quick-launch satellites and the CDS has been lost.[9] The failed satellites experienced attitude control system anomalies as well as anomalies with its power systems, which resulted in the satellites not pointing towards the sun and the earth as expected and as a consequence have reduced power generation. The company has filed a $50 million claim with its insurers covering the loss of all six satellites[10] and received $44.5 million in compensation.


SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched the ORBCOMM OG2 Mission 1 on July 14, 2014.

On 3 September 2009 a deal was announced between ORBCOMM and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to launch 18 second-generation satellites with SpaceX launch vehicles between 2010 and 2014.[11] SpaceX originally planned to use Falcon 1e rocket, but on March 14, 2011 it was announced that SpaceX will use Falcon 9 to carry the first two ORBCOMM next-generation OG2 satellites to orbit in 2011.[12] On Oct. 7, 2012, the first SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of a prototype OG2 ORBCOMM communications satellite from Cape Canaveral failed to achieve proper orbit and the company filed a $10 million claim with its insurers.[13] The ORBCOMM satellite was declared a total loss and burned up in the atmosphere upon rentry on October 10, 2012.[14]

On July 14, 2014, SpaceX successfully launched 6 OG2 satellites. The launch of the remaining 11 satellites is expected at the end of year 2014.[15]


ORBCOMM provides satellite data services, As of August 18, 2009, ORBCOMM reported 500,000 billable subscriber communicators on the company's U.S.-based gateway control center. ORBCOMM has control centers in the Arizona, Washington and international ground stations in Curaçao, Italy, Australia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Argentina, Morocco, Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia. Plans for additional ground station locations are under way.

Orbcomm is best suited for users who send very small amounts of data. To avoid interference, terminals are not permitted to be active more than 1% of the time, and thus they may only execute a 450ms data burst twice every 15 minutes. The latency inherent in Orbcomm's network design prevents it from supporting certain safety-critical applications.

Orbcomm's direct competition includes Globalstar's simplex services and L-band leased capacity services such as those offered by SkyBitz. Orbcomm's most significant competitor, however, is Iridium, which offers the lower latency and more capable Iridium SBD service which can send larger data packets with lower latency and a much smaller antenna.

ORBCOMM services are much like email and messages can be easily integrated with business applications. Customer data can be retrieved or auto-forwarded via SMTP or HTTP/XML feed directly over the Internet or through a dedicated link.[16]

Orbcomm's other business is Automatic Identification System, or AIS, which is a widely deployed system used to track ocean vessels. Six satellites with AIS capability were launched in June 2008, referred to as the Quick Launch satellites. With the failure of all six satellites, however, Orbcomm will not be able to resume AIS service until the next-generation satellites launch.


Many different devices are available for connecting to the Orbcomm networks, most of them being simple RS-232 modules with an antenna and a power supply. However there are more advanced devices available that have a simple programmable computer and GPS built in. Such modules are generally used for asset tracking. Very basic transceivers cost around $150 while others can cost over $400.

Devices for connecting to the Orbcomm network are self-contained units that can be connect to sensors, remote terminal units, or other equipment, usually via a serial connection. Unlike cellular or some other satellite networks, there are no embedded (chipset) devices available for the Orbcomm network.

Antennas: Orbcomm's spectrum of 137 to 150 MHz is at a much lower frequency than other commercial mobile satellite operators, which operate in the L-band (at 1.5-1.6 GHz) and S-band (at 2.0-2.5 GHz), and thus Orbcomm can operate with lower power, but also requires a much larger antenna than other networks such as Iridium or Globalstar. Most antennas are basic "whip" antennas that can be several feet long. Smaller, more compact designs are available but with performance trade-offs.

Digi International SatCom Gateways & Modules

Digi International provides wireless M2M products and solutions designed to connect and securely manage local or remote electronic devices over the network or the Web. Digi's line of satellite products ranges from simple modules to sophisticated multi-mode gateways.

Satellite Products:

  • m10: Miniature satellite modem with global satellite connectivity designed for asset tracking and remote device communication applications.
  • ConnectPort X5: Telematics gateway for Vehicle Area Network (VAN) traffic to IP connectivity using cellular or Wi-Fi connections.
  • m100: Programmable smart satellite modem with integrated GPS receiver designed for global mobile/fixed asset tracking and remote device communication.
  • m200: Dual-mode telematics platform combines cellular and satellite connectivity for mobile/fixed asset tracking and management.
  • RTU: Telemetry platform for fixed site monitoring and control applications with global satellite connectivity.

Quake Global ORBCOMM Modem Products

Quake Global was formed in 1998 and has produced the majority of ORBCOMM Communicators with approximately 300,000 built by 2009. QUAKETM has recently introduced the Q-Pro with GSM/GPRS, ORBCOMM, Globalstar, Iridium and GPS, a proprietary unified communications protocol that Quake claims to allow access to every available network.Quake Global is the leading manufacturer of M2M communicators for multiple satellite and terrestrial networks that enable customers to track, monitor and control their assets across the globe. QUAKE™ is the only maker of network agnostic modems, providing customers with a unified communications protocol across multiple global satellite and terrestrial networks from a single device.

  • Q1000 - The most compact ORBCOMM modem.
  • Q4000 - A programmable dual mode (GSM/GPRS & ORBCOMM) modem with internal GPS, CAN Bus J1939, Digital and Analog I/O.
  • QPRO - A programmable multi-mode IP-67 sealed modem with global coverage spanning ORBCOMM, Iridium, Globalstar and GSM/GPRS, with internal GPS, CAN Bus J1939, Digital and Analog I/O and the world's only unified communications protocol for access to every available network.

Stellar DS100, DS101 and DS300

Between 2005 and 2010, Stellar Satellite Communications released three Orbcomm Communicators:

  • DS100 - a compact Orbcomm modem
  • DS101 - an updated version of the DS100
  • DS300 - a rugged Orbcomm modem that also has GPS and an Atmel AVR processor (Atmega128L equipped with 128K of flash memory, 4K of RAM and 4K of EEPROM) for third-party embedded software.

The DS100, DS101 and DS300 were designed by Stellar Satellite Communications and manufactured by Delphi Corporation.

Remote Intelligence Systems

Orbisat 100 - a compact unit consisting of an integrated Orbcomm modem as well as a GPRS modem with 2 GPRS cards. This unit is the first commercial GPRS / Satellite dual modem.

Magellan GSC 100

In 1998 Magellan released a GPS and email device called the GSC 100 that used the Orbcomm network for sending and receiving emails. A basic package for $50 a month would buy 30,000 characters of outgoing emails.[17] The Magellan GSC 100 communicator is no longer in production.


In September, 2007, ORBCOMM Inc was sued, for its IPO prospectus containing inaccurate statements of material fact. It failed to disclose that demand for the Company’s products was weakening. In 2009, a payment of $2,450,000 was agreed.[18]

See also


  1. ^ Orbcomm Global M2M Connecting the Worlds Assets
  2. ^ "ORBCOMM Inc.'s 2007 10K". SEC. 
  3. ^ [3], SEC Info
  4. ^ "Russia's Cosmos 3M rocket blasts off with six U.S. satellites". RIA Novosti. 
  5. ^ OHB-System milestones
  6. ^ OHB-System missions
  7. ^ [4]
  8. ^ Orbcomm failures
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "ORBCOMM AND SPACEX REACH DEAL TO LAUNCH SATELLITE CONSTELLATION". SpaceX. 2009-09-03. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  12. ^ "ORBCOMM and SpaceX Set Plans to Launch Satellites on Next Falcon 9 Launch". Reuters. 2011-03-14. Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  13. ^ "SpaceX rocket glitch puts satellite in wrong orbit". Reuters. 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  14. ^ "SpaceX Engine Failure Claims Experimental Satellite". Wired. 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  15. ^ "OG2 - The Next Generation Is Here". ORBCOMM. 
  16. ^ Our Technology Ground Segment
  17. ^ Tel/Com GPS Units - Magellan GSC 100
  18. ^ "Class Action Lawsuit Against ORBCOMM" (PDF). 


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