First leap for beam-hopping constellation


24/05/2021 102 views 3 likes

Broadband satellites that can be completely repurposed while in orbit have just taken a leap forwards.

Beam-hopping satellites can switch which region of the world they cover – and vary the data volume and rates for each region – according to demand.

This enables them to respond quickly to changes – for example, enabling them to respond to surges in demand caused by emergencies such as natural disasters or other humanitarian crises, as well as changing demands from commercial customers, and hotspots created by busy regions. 

ESA is supporting a demonstration satellite with advanced beam-hopping capabilities – nicknamed Joey-Sat, after a baby kangaroo – that is due for launch in mid-2022, as well as contributing to its ground-based support systems.

Joey-Sat will be used to demonstrate how next-generation 5G connectivity can benefit life on Earth.

ESA has signed a contract to help telecommunications company OneWeb demonstrate key technologies for its second-generation constellation, as part of the Sunrise project.

OneWeb will be teaming with two British companies: hi-tech start-up SatixFy, a British manufacturer of the innovative digital payload and the user terminal based on state-of-the-art application-specific integrated circuit components; and Celestia UK, which is building the ground station with multibeam and electronically scanning antenna.

The project will also support the development of debris removal technologies that are being developed by Astroscale in the UK to safely and effectively remove multiple failed satellites from orbit. Astroscale’s involvement in the Sunrise programme will further mature its debris removal technology and capabilities, ready for a commercial service launch by 2024.

Sunrise is an ESA Partnership Project, which aims to federate industry around large-scale programmes achieving competitive leaps forward and associated economic impacts. It is backed by the UK Space Agency.

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “From helping during a disaster to providing broadband on planes, this amazing technology will show how next-generation 5G connectivity can benefit all of us on Earth.

“It is fantastic to see some of our finest space tech companies joining forces on this exciting project, which will put the UK at the forefront of satellite communications technology.”

Massimiliano Ladovaz, Chief Technical Officer at OneWeb, said: “Innovation and collaboration is at the core of OneWeb. Working together with our partners, OneWeb will accelerate the development and expansion of our cutting-edge technologies and manufacturing capabilities for the benefit of communities, enterprise and governments around the world.

“This is an exciting opportunity to work with talented potential supply chain partners and we are delighted with the support from ESA and the UK Space Agency to bring continued innovation across the whole of OneWeb’s connectivity ecosystem.”

Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “Joey-Sat will be used to demonstrate how next-generation 5G connectivity can benefit life on Earth. ESA is proud to support the space industry in Europe to bring such innovation to the competitive global telecommunications market. We congratulate all the partners involved.”

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