An advanced broadband satellite providing high-speed internet services that demonstrate next-generation 5G connectivity has passed its initial in-orbit tests. Because they can swiftly switch their coverage between different locations, beam-hopping satellites can connect people living in or travelling over wide geographical areas. They can also vary the power of their signals, enabling them to respond rapidly to surges in customer demand, for example, during natural disasters when emergency responders need to communicate with each other.
The beam-hopping satellite – nicknamed JoeySat after a baby kangaroo – will soon demonstrate the technology that will enable a beam hopping satellite in low-Earth orbit to connect thousands of people travelling by air, sea or on land. JoeySat was launched into low Earth orbit on 20 May, exactly two years after ESA and OneWeb signed the contract to collaborate on its creation.
Since then, it has completed commissioning tests of its platform and payload, and begun its one-year test campaign of its innovative features, which include a digitally regenerative on-board processor, a multi-beam phased array that incorporates beam-steering and beam-hopping antennas.
JoeySat is in a near-polar orbit and will send signals via ground stations in Norway and Sweden to demonstrate the full capabilities of flexible payloads in next-generation constellations with global connectivity. Experiments will include end-to-end communications with dynamic resource allocation, and 5G pilot tests with the University of Surrey.
Developed under the Sunrise Partnership Project between ESA and telecommunications operator OneWeb with support from the UK Space Agency, JoeySat is demonstrating key technologies for OneWeb’s next generation constellation. JoeySat’s fully digital and state-of-the-art payload was built using off-the-shelf components, new space best practices, and a lean management style in less than a year. Its advanced digital regenerative payload was built by communications equipment company Satixfy, and the payload environmental tests were completed in the UK.
Harshbir Sangha, Missions and Capabilities Delivery Director at the UK Space Agency, said: “It is exciting to see OneWeb’s JoeySat pass its initial in-orbit tests so that it can move on to demonstrate the huge potential of its innovative beam-hopping technology to enhance connectivity and improve people’s lives, whether that means better broadband services in remote places, or the ability to respond more effectively to emergency situations.
“The UK Space Agency has supported the mission with more than £50 million to fund both the game-changing technology behind JoeySat’s creation and the development of a wider ecosystem that will ensure a reliable and sustainable end-to-end service. We look forward to watching its next-generation capabilities come to life.”
Javier Benedicto, Acting Director of Connectivity and Secure Communications at ESA, said: “We are proud of this ESA Partnership Project with a large telecommunications operator that also includes small and medium-sized enterprises. By working in a lean style using commercial off-the-shelf components and flexible project management to bring innovative technologies to market in response to commercial needs, ESA is helping to foster innovation in next-generation 5G connectivity. ESA Partnership Projects help European space companies succeed in the highly competitive global market for telecommunications satellites.”