ARGO Modem

Spacecraft embark more computational power thanks to advances in electronics. And then mainly the rise of software-defined radio (SDR). As part of this new industry trend, Antwerp Space is developing a high-performance on-board processing platform.

We customize each product within the family by the development of mission-specific signal processing firmware and RF front-ends. The whole system is built around a highly integrated commercial SRAM FPGA.

Moreover, the data converters are based on the latest sub-sampling technology. Overall, this allows for roadmap flexibility and in-flight re-programmability (i.e. remote upgrade). The whole design is ITAR-unrestricted.

ARGO: communication between ISS and Earth

Its first application is ARGO, an advanced bi-directional modem. It will be used at the core of ColKa. This is a transponder ensuring the communication between the Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS) and the Earth. Furthermore, all the communication runs through the European Data Relay System (EDRS).

ARGO provides a high-end interface to the data source. Because of its high computational power, it’s able to support the most demanding algorithms. For example: the CCSDS standard LDPS coding and encapsulation schemes. Or other features such as a complex antenna tracking function. It will be installed in 2018.

Key specifications

In this first implementation, the SDR unit is fully redundant. Despite this stringent requirement, it has relatively modest requirements. And it could easily be accommodated even on small satellite platforms. The key specifications are as follows:

  • Overall performance:
    • Downlink: 300 Mbps
    • Uplink: 2 Mbps
  • Mass: 3.6 kg
  • Volume: 3.8 L
  • Power consumption: 35 W
  • Life-time of 7.5 years

Endless applications

While the first model was planned as a modem, this versatility make it the ideal equipment for any operation with heavy computational requirements. Examples of such applications could include:

  • spectrum monitoring,
  • interference geo-localization,
  • image processing and compression for EO platforms,
  • space-based authentication payloads (AIS, VDE(S)),

or encryption of sensitive data.