In close collaboration with universities, research institutes and space agencies, Antwerp Space performs innovative research towards cutting-edge technologies, making use of state-of-the art equipment, algorithms and techniques. Furthermore, it is participating to most of the largest international space conferences and publishing papers and filing patents. A small selection of the current ongoing innovation projects is presented below.
Microwave Photonics Technology for Telecom Payload
Photonics Integrated Circuit (PIC) is an emerging branch of photonics in which optical passive and active devices are fabricated as an integrated structure onto the surface of a flat substrate. As a result of integration, complex photonic circuits can now process and transmit light in similar ways as electronic integrated circuits process and transmit electronic signals. Space stringent requirements in one hand and huge demand for the high performance, low cost modules on the other hand push the Space technologies and research activities toward more compact and integrated solutions. This is the converging point between PIC technology capabilities and Space market needs. Microwave photonics is a promising technology to overcome the traditional RF technology limitation by providing much wider bandwidth (up to 100 GHz), lower mass, volume and power consumption. Our research and product portfolio includes frequency converter, frequency generator for the HTS application.
Laser communication for satellite constellation
Satellite connectivity over constellations requests very high data rates to be transmitted between the satellites and between the satellites and ground feeder stations. The limitation of the classical RF frequency transmitters and the limited availability of ITU regulated frequencies, as well as the conflict with the 5G community in the Ka/Q-Band, is pushing the use of Laser Communication for these constellations. The resilience against intentionally disturbance or wiretapping of the laser communication technology is an additional asset for the market players and their customers. Antwerp Space is collaborating with PIC foundries and packaging partners in one side and the Laser Terminal providers on the other side to bridge the gap between them for this laser communication application and accelerate its development speed.
Beamforming Technology for Radar front-end
High resolution, wide swath radars based on Scan-on-Receive (SCORE) technology are emerging as practical and flexible radars for Earth observation. The core of this technology is a Beam forming network (BFN) where each channel of the network could be simultaneously controlled in phase and amplitude. Current technologies behind this BFN are either RF based network or digital beamforming. Our Optical beamforming network technology provides more compact, low power and broadband solution for the SCORE radar application. SpaceBeam H2020 project is running project to develop this OBFN technology in collaboration with European PIC based consortium.
Radio Frequency Interference Mitigation Technology
Radio frequency interference detection and mitigation received an increasing importance during the last years. Since ground uplink terminals became cheaper, faster and smaller, their number increased significantly. However, the operators of these terminals do not always have the required training or expertise, increasing the chances of misconfigurations or misalignment. As a result, radio frequency interference became a serious threat for the satellite operators, perceiving an increase of interference in their satellite fleet, threatening their income. Antwerp Space received three contracts as prime contractor for proof-of-concept demonstrators involving interference detection and reduction: On-board Spectrum Monitoring, the verification campaign of the DVB Carrier-ID detection (DVB-CIDD) and RFI Scenarios, Application Requirements and Counteraction Techniques.
The On-board Spectrum Monitoring (OBSM) project provides a commercially viable in-orbit tool to characterize the incoming Radio Frequency spectrum and to detect anomalies. Our design delivers an improved detection performance over existing ground-based systems, having features that allow highly effective resolution of the interference problems experienced by satellite operators.
The verification campaign of the DVB Carrier-Identifier-detection (DVB-CIDD) and demodulation project provides an in-orbit tool to detect and demodulate all carrier identifiers (Carrier IDs) that are present in the incoming spectrum. Its purpose is to identify the culprit for possible interferences. Having this knowledge, the satellite operators can immediately intervene and urge the offender to correct his malfunction, minimizing the cost of the disturbance.
The RFI Scenarios, Application Requirements and Counteraction Techniques project identifies, selects and assesses the performance of algorithms for on-board detection, geo-location and mitigation of radio frequency interference affecting SATCOM, Navigation, Earth Observation and TT&C space applications. A generic RFI payload for an in-orbit demonstrator is then designed in order to validate in-flight RFI counteraction techniques.