Testing high-frequency signals for satellites

14th June 2018
Alex Lynn

An ESA project, which involves investigating a new frequency band for next-generation telecommunications, is seeing participation from Reaktor Space Lab and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. As the number of satellites and the speed required for data communications increase, transition to higher frequencies is expected to become a necessity in the near future.

Funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of its ARTES programme, this activity will demonstrate the use of the 75GHz frequency band for future telecommunications satellites. The test flight will be carried out using a CubeSat satellite. The satellite weighs less than 5kg, and its launch into space is scheduled to take place during 2019.

The satellite's mission is to send a high-frequency signal from space to Earth. The transmission of the signal through the atmospheric layers must be substantiated before telecommunications satellites that utilise the new frequency band can be designed with the desired features.

The satellite to be built for the project is based on Reaktor Space Lab’s ‘Hello World’ satellite platform, which will be launched on its first mission this summer.

“Being selected by ESA to take part in this innovative project reflects the importance of the nanosatellite technology recently developed in Finland," commented Reaktor Space Lab's CEO, Tuomas Tikka.

The satellite, named W-Cube, will feature an integrated dual-frequency beacon transmitter developed by VTT. The signal it broadcasts will be observed at the prime contractor JOANNEUM RESEARCH’s measurement station in Graz, Austria.

Tauno Vähä-Heikkilä, Vice President at VTT, said: “VTT has led the way in the millimetre-wave satellite hardware development and in terrestrial 5G telecommunications radios. The W-Cube nanosatellite provides a unique opportunity to combine our world class expertise in these two application areas,"

In recent years, dozens of projects have been launched for new telecommunications satellites and a constellation of satellites. Satellites enable the provision of high-speed communications for sparsely populated areas, aircraft and ships.

As the number of satellites and telecommunications speeds increase, the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation becomes congested, and the transition to higher frequencies will likely become a necessity in the near future. The next generation of 5G communication networks will also use increasingly high frequencies, largely for the same reason.

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