We’re currently developing ARGO, a highly innovative modem. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) will integrate this modem into a space-borne new-generation communication terminal.
International Space Station: an ideal testbed
ARGO will be deployed for the first time in 2018. In that year, the communication terminal is going to be flown to the International Space Station (ISS). An ESA astronaut will mount the terminal on the exterior of the European Columbus module of the ISS.
Thanks to ARGO, ESA astronauts staying on the ISS can rely on European technology. This technology transmits more science data and ensures higher quality live streaming from the station.
The ISS represents an ideal testbed for this new technology. Nevertheless, the target market goes far beyond the ISS alone. It includes any operator of satellites orbiting around the Earth at low altitude.
Argo: direct communication at all times
Indeed, ARGO enables direct communication between spacecraft and satellites:
- flying in the Low Earth Orbit (typically < 1.000 km)
- and communication satellites orbiting the Earth at a much higher altitude (about 36.000 km).
Nowadays satellites in low orbit typically need to pass almost vertically above a ground station for establishing a connection and exchanging data. In the future, satellites in low orbit no longer need to be visible from the ground to communicate. Thanks to the technology offered by ARGO, they can use telecommunication satellites as relays. They will access any ground station at almost any given time, thus providing near real-time data to the operators.
The main innovative aspect of the ARGO modem developed by us lies in the integrated circuit, called a field-programmable gate array or FPGA. This FPGA allows a remote upgrade and the transmission at higher speed of more information (‘bits’).
Also, a modem with this state-of-the-art FPGA consumes less power, has smaller dimensions and a lower mass. Of course, those are all important advantages in space.
We build our innovative modem thanks to the financial support of the ARTES programme of ESA and with support of BELSPO.
Q1 2017: Start of the ARGO modem MAIT activities in Antwerp Space's new clean room
Q4 2018: Delivery of the flight modem to the customer MDA
Q4 2019: Launch of the ARGO Modem to the ISS