5 Satellite Technology Enablers That Offer Simplified Access To Space
In today’s world, satellite technology is one of the main pillars of the space industry. The use of satellites has brought about significant changes in the way humans live and work, whether we’re talking about communication, transportation, weather forecasts, or farming. Considering their massive importance, it should be no surprise that there are many ways to put satellite technology to use. Certain combinations of satellite technologies enable simplified access to space and therefore offer great value to human civilization. Here are some key satellite technology enablers that will help simplify access to space and improve efficiency in the process.
1. Ground Station Network
A satellite ground station is a communications facility with an antenna that uplinks commands to and downlinks telemetry data from satellites. Ground stations are vital in various space missions to control spacecraft and collect information satellites transmit. There are three main types of satellite ground stations, based on their coverage;
- Tracking stations
- Fixed-satellite service (FSS)
- Mobile satellite ground station
The tracking stations keep track of orbital changes, provide orbit data and time signals, and offer earth location determination services. The tracking type of satellite ground station transmits real-time attitude information. Hence, it must be near line-of-sight with satellites. The antennas that these satellite ground stations uses come in a wide range depending on what specific needs are at hand, but most consist of one or more dish antennas that can transmit both horizontally and vertically polarized radio waves. You can rely on the NanoAvionics ground station network with over 200 locations.
2. Inter-Satellite Link (ISL)
Inter-satellite link is essential in space missions. With ISL, you can create a network of communications satellites spread far apart and transmit information from one satellite to another. It allows coverage of larger areas without increasing the total number of satellites. Moreover, ISL will ensure seamless communication from one satellite to another, thereby overcoming issues like degradation of signals due to atmospheric attenuation.
When using ISL, your spacecraft need not travel thousands of miles to relay data. It can do so using nearby spacecraft. The LEO-LEO or LEO-GEO space link is an example of inter-satellite links. These satellites also use optical systems and high-power lasers to communicate with other satellites or ground stations located on earth or near-earth orbit. Ground stations receive relayed signals through an Optical Communication (OC) receiver to decode these satellites’ messages.
3. Launch Segment
A launch service provider’s ability to provide a fixed price, detailed launch schedule and an understandable process of accessing space are key elements that enable simplified access to the outer space. Service providers typically offer one or more standard launch vehicle configurations, size, and performance, but numerous satellite technology enablers further simplify access to outer space.
Space launch is critical to all aspects of space system operations; from mission planning to network design, reliable launch services are essential for successful operations in orbit. Since satellites cost hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars, losing a satellite due to an un-launchable payload can be devastating economically and operationally. It’s crucial to note that space launch is inherently risky, and weather and mission issues can interrupt launches causing delays in schedules with financial implications.
4. Heritage Satellite Buses
Heritage satellite buses take on a modular design in which it’s possible to remove and replace subsystems individually or as a group. For example, it’s possible to swap out a propulsion module without requiring the replacement of all of its companion electronics and structure. The technology will enable satellites to remain operational over their entire lifespan, giving customers maximum value from their assets.
As such, it is now possible to deploy satellites at a lower cost because it’s possible to swap-out replacement modules instead of retiring an entire satellite at once. Heritage satellite buses are crucial in more demanding space applications, especially when maintaining strict weight and power budgets. For example, NanoAvionics has created an entire satellite bus dedicated to CubeSats – an innovative program enabling affordable access to space via standardized satellites weighing less than 1kg. The CubeSat satellites significantly impact scientific research, providing new data on climate change and other topics.
5. Space Mission Operation Center
Many space agencies have launched satellites that can carry a small number of passengers, for example, 3–5 and their usual payload. Examples include Earth observation satellites that carry a GPS receiver, SAR imaging satellites, and astronomy research satellites. You can also refer to these special passenger seats as hosted or co-manifested payloads, but they all share one thing in common: they require ground support when in use.
The purpose of the mission operation center is to provide access to these types of remote ground services through satellite technology enablers. It means providing direct control over a satellite’s primary functions and transmitting status information from remote locations through various communications technology such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and other wireless communications systems.
As much as a satellite is only one of many space vehicles, it’s also by far one of the most important. Various satellite technology enablers have enabled simplified access to space. Some have been around since time immemorial, while others are still in their infancy but look promising. By choosing a global player in satellite technology and services like the NanoAvionics, you can launch satellites into orbit and ensure safe and secure investment.