Space: more resilient positioning and communication networks

This capability will enable highly secure and resilient, controllable and faster ground communications with greater reliability of accurate data for better decision-making ability.

Jessica regan

, Space Program Manager, Applied Intelligence

We are developing software-defined radios (SDR) that could provide both GNSS and command and control services, but from low earth orbit (LEO) satellites or even high altitude aircraft. This technology offers many advantages: it is relatively inexpensive; allows multiple functionalities; and most importantly the ability to upgrade or reprogram the system remotely, which makes a potential satellite application very cost effective.

We have a strong heritage in SDRs, we have already supplied them for European Space Agency (ESA) ground stations used for satellites and distant space probes. These have enabled ESA to use a single ground station for different and varied space missions, and have proven to be both efficient and cost effective.

More recently, we have used our expertise in secure systems to create highly robust and secure SDRs, while maintaining their small physical footprint and highly flexible architecture. These devices are ideally suited to provide precision navigation and timing (PNT) and communications beyond line-of-sight. Their use would also greatly increase the resilience of GNSS and communications systems.

The SDR payloads we are developing will not only be usable on LEO satellites, but they will also be small enough to be placed on high altitude platforms such as our HALE PHASA-35® solar plane. This would provide greater flexibility in coverage and dwell time when needed in a specific location. A series of these PHASA-35 SDR payloads over a defined area could also provide a reliable and secure data network wherever it is needed.

The size of each payload will depend on its intended use, but it could be as small as a mobile phone, for example, if its capacities are only needed to cover a small geographic area. The flexibility of SDRs means that they can incorporate new cutting edge technologies as they become available, taking into account future capabilities.

We are collaborating on this project with Prismatique Ltée, who have extensive experience in low Earth orbit and high altitude platforms, to fully understand the implications for testing, construction and launch.

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