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.
The electro-photonic frequency converter, or EPFC for short, is essentially a mixer in the optical domain. The novelty of our design lies in an all integrated solution, where the laser, the modulator and photodiode are all integrated on the same chip. Silicon photonics is known for its small feature size and allows the production of compact phase modulators. It does however not allow for the integration of active elements such as the laser. The laser is typically made using III-V materials. Using a novel III-V on Si process flow, the strengths of both can be combined to yield a compact final device, which is what is obtained here. The optical signals can therefore be generated and processed on-chip, such that the interface with the chip is purely electrical. This in turn lowers the bar for adoption in future designs.
The SHADOW project studies the possibilities to be able to cover the entire frequency bandwidth used by telecommunications satellites with a generic system that processes the incoming electromagnetic signals. For this, the requirement of having dedicated components that convert the incoming RF signals to frequencies that the subsequent analog to digital converter can handle, is eliminated. For this to be achieved, use is made of circuitry that is effectively capable of performing the actual conversion process whilst offering the necessary bandwidth that the RF signals occupy.
Radio Frequency Interference
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 viable threat for the satellite operators, perceiving an increase of interference in their satellite fleet, threatening their income. Antwerp Space received two contracts as prime contractor for proof-of-concept demonstrators involving interference detection and reduction: On-board Spectrum Monitoring and the verification campaign of the DVB Carrier-ID detection (DVB-CIDD).
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 not to detect interference, but 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.