Last week’s 2018 Satellite Show in Washington, DC, gave me the opportunity to view the state-of-the-art in satellite technology as well as learn more about key issues affecting the industry. As with every trade show I’ve attended since writing for WDD, it didn’t take long for me to start identifying particular trends among the myriad of exhibitors I visited. Here are some of the key takeaways from the show.
Simply put, beamforming is a type of radio frequency management, where multiple antennas are utilized by an access point to transmit the same signal. Companies like Isotropic, are utilizing this process to develop ranges of optical beamforming devices in partnerships formed with corporate entities like QinetiQ and SES Networks.
This particular type of beamforming occurs in two stages. The process first involves using an individual lens and feed they select themselves. The feed is activated and directs a beam from the lens into a particular area. What they’re able to do next is pick another feed and use that to generate a second beam from the same lens, simultaneously producing two signals. After the given feeds are positioned and guided in the general direction they need to go, they are then tied together using active circuitry and phased array approached (but time-delayed) beamforming to do the rest, hence what ties it in all together to a single feed at the end.
One of the biggest issues in telecommunications is how congested the RF spectrum is becoming, which causes issues like interference. BridgeSat is utilizing optical communications solutions using a global network of ground stations and space terminals. These systems can enable high bandwidth solutions for unique applications that further complement RF in unique networks. BridgeSat signed NASA to what they described as an “industry-first” agreement that will lead to a commercial laser communication system for supporting future satellite missions.
The agreement signifies a huge milestone in the efforts for deploying a global communication system based around free-space optical links to LEO satellites. This promises to be not only faster but significantly cheaper than conventional RF solutions. The ground station demonstration will be complete by the end of this year, while in-orbit testing is expected to be finished by spring 2019.
While cellular communication networks have traditionally been facilitated by cell towers, bad weather, power outages, and interference from natural and manmade structures like buildings and mountains ultimately limit availability. Satellite-based communication networks were one of the main reoccurring themes at last week’s show, with companies like Carnegie Satellite taking displaying products that enable users to develop their own wireless hotspots using overhead satellite networks.
Carnegie’s SatBridge is described as the most feature-rich, low-cost satellite hotspot in the world that enables any smartphone to access satellite networks with greater than 20X the performance of a traditional handheld satellite phone. Users can send and receive calls, messages, and data from anywhere in the world, and can even establish WiFi access points that create portable and local communication networks with free and unlimited call, text, and data usage. This portable system is ideal for remote workers, backpackers, and for emergency situations like power outages and natural disasters.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense