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COM DEV Europe Signs Contract With ESA

by Staff Writers
Aylesbury, UK (SPX) Oct 11, 2010
COM DEV Europe has announced that it has signed a (euro)5 million contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the development of new SB-SAT (SwiftBroadband for Satellite) technology.

Partnered with Inmarsat and Broad Reach Engineering (US), COM DEV Europe will develop an SB-SAT terminal that will enable 24/7 access to Low Earth Orbiting spacecraft, utilising Inmarsat's existing I-4 satellite network.

Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) spacecraft can currently only communicate with the ground during the ten minute period when they fly over a dedicated ground station.

Consequently, satellite operators have to invest in expensive ground segment infrastructure, or lease dedicated facilities, in order to communicate with the spacecraft for just a short period a few times a day. Satellites have to be designed to store data until the satellite passes over a ground station and such data is very often 'out of date' by the time it reaches the user.

The SB-SAT concept would enable LEO spacecraft to continuously communicate during the whole orbit. Space-qualified SB-SAT terminals, which will be specially adapted versions of Inmarsat's aeronautical SwiftBroadband service, will be incorporated on LEO spacecraft.

The terminals relay signals to the Inmarsat satellites located further out in space, in geostationary orbit, and then through the Inmarsat ground stations to the user or operator, making full use of Inmarsat's mobile broadband system and its proven infrastructure.

This will allow 24/7 access with very low latency at data rates up to 475kb/s, opening up new mission opportunities. The SB-SAT terminal will be designed with an integrated GPS receiver and antenna controller, though it can be supplied as a terminal only if desired.

"The contract with ESA is a major endorsement of the SB-SAT concept, and will provide a significant boost to its development," said Rob Spurrett, Managing Director of COM DEV Europe.

"This pioneering technology promises to revolutionise the way in which LEO spacecraft communicate with the ground, often to share essential and time-critical information."

The (euro)5 million contract is split into two phases, with the second phase contingent on successful completion of the first, and all work expected to be completed by 2012. Funded by the UK's Technology Strategy Board contribution to the ESA ARTES 3-4 programme, the contract covers the development to Engineering Qualification Model and the modification to the Inmarsat ground segment.

In a separate contract award, Inmarsat is to receive funding from the US's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to provide a flight terminal and service demonstration in space, with contracts awarded from Inmarsat to Broad Reach Engineering and COM DEV Europe as part of the overall award.

Inmarsat, COM DEV Europe and Broad Reach Engineering have signed a Teaming Agreement for the provision of the space-borne SB-SAT terminal and associated service provision, and will jointly market the terminal and service to LEO satellite manufacturers and operators.

A number of opportunities are being investigated with terminal production expected to be divided between COM DEV Europe facilities in the UK and at Broad Reach Engineering facilities in the US.

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