Space

UK Space Agency funds beam-hopping communications satellite

UK Space Agency funds beam-hop...
Artist's concept of Joey-Sat, a "beam-hopping" commsat technology demonstrator designed to shift its beams in response to changes in demand
Artist's concept of Joey-Sat, a "beam-hopping" commsat technology demonstrator designed to shift its beams in response to changes in demand
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Artist's concept of Joey-Sat, a "beam-hopping" commsat technology demonstrator designed to shift its beams in response to changes in demand
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Artist's concept of Joey-Sat, a "beam-hopping" commsat technology demonstrator designed to shift its beams in response to changes in demand

The UK Space Agency has awarded a group of companies contracts worth £32 million (US$45 million) to develop a new "beam-hopping" communication satellite. Called Joey-Sat, the satellite would be able to quickly respond to sudden changes in demand or sudden emergencies.

Communication satellites have changed our world. At any one time, there are more than 2,000 active comsats orbiting the Earth, shrinking the world to the point where the difference between a local and a long-distance conversation has blurred to the point of meaninglessness.

But this vast network of satellites isn't as flexible as it could be. Communication satellites are usually large, very expensive platforms designed for a finite number of tasks to cover a particular area of the Earth. If there is a sudden change in traffic or an emergency arises, the choices are, usually, to launch more satellites or shift some compatible spacecraft into the area.

Funded through the European Space Agency’s Sunrise Programme, the Joey-Sat technology demonstrator is scheduled to launch in 2022. The clever thing about it is that it's designed to be remotely ordered to shift its beams to boost coverage in a desired location in response to changes in demand.

The effort to build Joey-Sat is being led by global satellite communications network OneWeb, which has so far launched 182 of its planned 648 Low Earth Orbit satellite fleet. As part of the contract, the beam-hopping payload is being developed by SatixFy at a cost of £25 million (US$35 million), with Celestia in Edinburgh developing and testing £4.4 million (US$6.2 million) to build and test ground stations equipped with a multi-beam electronically steered antenna, which allows for a smaller installation footprint.

"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," says UK Science Minister, Amanda Solloway.

Source: UK Space Agency

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