Antwerp Space plays a prominent role in the design and delivery of the deep-space communication subsystems for the Exomars 2020 and Juice missions. Nowadays Europe depends too much on a single provider for deep space transponder equipment. In order to overcome that, ESA has awarded a contract to Antwerp Space to develop a next-generation highly flexible transponder equipment that can serve as a second source and will be suitable for almost all science missions.
This state-of-the-art transponder will be developed using a modular approach, compatible with almost all future space research and earth observation missions for both TT&C and payload data transmission. The latest advances in software-defined radio will be combined with cutting-edge technologies, the newest modulation schemes and next-generation integrated circuits to support this breakthrough flight equipment.
The award of this contract recognizes Antwerp Space’s innovation initiatives and proves ESA’s trust in delivering flight equipment for ESA flagship missions and builds on the success of the LARA coherent transponder and the recently delivered ARGO modem.
Telemetry, Tracking & Command System
Every spacecraft requires communication, both from an operational point of view (TT&C) and mission specific data from the payload itself. The Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C) system is one of the mission-critical elements of a spacecraft. It allows the spacecraft to transmit its status information in terms of telemetry to the ground station; while allowing the ground station to transmit telecommands and perform ranging. On the other hand, the payload could generate a large amount of useful data that needs to be transferred to a ground station, sometimes referred to as payload data transmission (PDT).
To date, transponders are used for TT&C, and a separate communication subsystem is used for PDT. To minimize the customization and requalification effort that originates from the mission’s unique criticalities and specifications, an all-market, flexible and reconfigurable transponder would be an attractive alternative for current TT&C transponder solutions.
And this is where we come in...
In 2018, Antwerp Space was awarded a European Space Agency (ESA) contract to design a cutting-edge product family that exploits the flexibility and re-configurability to allow it to be used on almost all future ESA missions, with a particular focus on space research missions, earth observation satellites and navigation missions. Antwerp Space was given the extensive task to create a state-of-the-art product with unprecedented performance and flexibility.
Antwerp Space is well aware of the challenges to design such an all-mission profile product line, and took the approach of investing in the development of a hybrid (hardware-software) simulation platform that is intended to be used regularly even once production of the Flight Models are launched. This platform enables to support early estimations of mission specific changes in support of Equipment Qualification Status Reviews as well as early compatibility testing with ground assets.
As part of the innovations in the current baseline, forward error correction schemes can be implemented in the transponder, a deep sleep listening mode enables very low standby power consumption levels, and PDT functions in multiple bands are available as hardware extensions.
Antwerp Space is currently collecting feedback on their requirements and architectural design. We invite the interested readers to give feedback on our approach. In the next months, further elaboration and verification on the software simulator will be performed. Additionally, some of the building blocks will be evaluated in a hardware Elegant Bread Board. Moreover, Antwerp Space will proceed towards its next milestones to demonstrate their innovative TT&C transponder with PDT, paving the way towards a next-generation of innovative flight equipment.
- Space Research
- Earth Observations (Earth Exploration Services)
- Category A missions (LEO, MEO, GEO, Cubesat, Lagrange 2, …)
- Category B missions (Deep-Space, Mars, …)
- Navigation (Space Operation Services)