Table of Contents
Industry Trends and Analysis: (pg. 3)
Patee Sarasin, former CEO of Nok Air:
"Unlocking the Riches of In-flight Wi-Fi" (pg. 4)
David Bruner, former V.P. Panasonic Avionics:
"Buckle Up! :Turbulence Ahead in Airline Connectiviy Markets"
"The Promise of the New Iridium and Aireon Services: Big Advancements in Air Traffic Management on the Horizon" (pg. 26)
Ernst Peter Hovinga, CEO Hiber: "Disrupting the Satellite IoT Connectivity Market: The Promise of Hiber" (p.31)
"Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Events"
Satellite mobility World
Highlighting Disruptive, New, Mobility-Focused Satellite Ventures and Technologies
Volume VI, No. IX October 2021
In This Issue:
Editorially Speaking: Cloud Connectivity: The Real Value of LEO
SmartSky, Inflight Connectivity and the Battle for Business Jets with CEO David Helfgott
Lightspeed: Why Telesat is Betting its Future on LEO with Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg
Ground Segment Solution for Multi-Orbit Constellations with Gilat COO Ron Levin
Optical Terminals in Space: The Technology and its Future with Mynaric CCO, Tina Ghataore
SpaceLink: An Optical Relay Network in Space with CEO Dave Bettinger
Cover: Courtesy SpaceLink
Table of Contents...
"Hot News and Commentary" (pg.3)
"SmallSat News and Ventures" (pg. 4)
Editorially Speaking: "Cloud Connetivity: The Real Value of LEO (pg. 6)
"SmartSky, Inflight Connectivity and the Battle for Business Jets" with CEO Dave Helfgott (pg. 9)
"Lightspeed: Why Telesat is Betting its Future on LEO" with CEO Dan Goldberg (pg. 20)
"Ground Segment Solutions for Multi-Orbit Constellations" with Gilat COO Ron Levin (pg. 27)
"Optical Terminals in Space: The Technology and its Future" with CCO Tina Ghataore (Pg. 36)
"SpaceLink: An Optical Relay Network in Space" with CEO Dave Bettinger(pg 45)
Upcoming Satellite Industry Events (Pg.52)
SATELLITE MOBILITY WORLD
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Welcome to the October Issue of Satellite Mobility World. We're focusing on a variety of hot topics this month.
As SmartSky's rivalry with Gogo intensifies, we're following up last month's interview of Gogo's CEO, Oakleigh Thorne, with SmartSky's CEO, David Helfgott.
Next, we interview with Dan Goldberg, Telesat's well-known CEO. Goldberg defends his belief in the LEO constellation's supremacy and his conviction that Telesat's LEO, Lightspeed, will offer economics and performance far superior to any GEO or LEO alternative.
Following Dan, we examine two critical components of LEO constellations, the ground infrastructure, and the inter-satellite optical links. First, Ron Levin, Gilat's new COO, overviews the new hybrid satellite networks their impact on ground segment infrastructure.
Next, we look at optical technology, which has become a critical element of these new networks. First, Tina Ghataroe, Chief Commerical Officer at industry leader Mynaric takes us on a tour of their optical inter-line solutions. Following Tina, we hear from SpaceLink's David Bettinger and how his unique optical relay network in Space leverages the unique technology. Lastly, our editorial unveils what we believe to be the real value play in the LEOs. Enjoy!
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Hot News and Commentary
Lynk Proves Direct Two-way Satellite-to-Mobile-Phone Connectivity
Hundreds of ordinary mobile phones in 3 countries successfully connect to Lynk tower in orbit
Falls Church, VA – Sept. 29, 2021 — Lynk Global, Inc. (Lynk) the world's only independently verified cell-tower-in-space connectivity provider, today announced it has registered hundreds of unmodified mobile phones to its 5th cell-tower-in-space in three different countries (UK, US and Bahamas). This critical milestone conclusively proves Lynk’s proprietary core satellite technology works with ordinary mobile phones on Earth, enabling broadband, voice and text messaging — from everywhere — with the phone in your pocket.
Lynk’s 5th satellite (named “Shannon”) launched on June 30, 2021 has connected with, and registered, hundreds of mobile phones in initial tests, even in Virginia where Lynk connected in spite of the “noise” created by millions of mobile phones. Lynk has successfully repeated the tests in the United Kingdom, with testing permission from Ofcom, and in the Bahamas with the support of MNO partner Aliv. This proves that Lynk has solved the last major technology barrier to connecting everybody, everywhere with a standard mobile phone.
“Lynk has provided independent testing data that proves they are connecting existing Aliv devices that roam onto the Lynk system on areas outside the Aliv coverage footprint in the Bahamas” said Dr. Stephen Curran, Aliv’s CTO. “The testing has proven the technology’s ability to simultaneously register and authenticate mobile devices. Lynk will provide a critical maritime communication service for our users. The Caribbean is also known for extreme weather events, and for earthquakes. Lynk will assist Aliv in providing emergency communications back-up when the network experiences major issues, and our sites are down.”
“Six years ago, the entire world thought it was impossible for a satellite to connect two-ways to existing mobile phones in use today,” says Charles Miller, Lynk’s CEO and cofounder. “Lynk has now done the impossible. We recently announced the first operators to sign up for our Flagship Carrier Program, Aliv in the Bahamas and Telecel Centrafique in the Central African Republic. These and others will launch commercial services in their countries in July 2022, beginning our journey to serve the unconnected around the world.”
Isotropic Systems Secures over $37m in Additional Series B Funding for the Development of its Unique Multi-link Antenna
LONDON, UK – 27th September, 2021 – Isotropic Systems, a leading developer of transformational broadband terminal technologies, announces that it has raised over $37 million in an equity financing round, which fully funds the development of its game-changing multi-link antennas through to product launch in 2022
The round was led by Seraphim Space Investment Trust PLC - the world’s first listed space tech fund – in the first significant investment since its IPO on the London Stock Exchange in July. The round also included participation from leading strategic and deep-tech venture capital investors including AEI HorizonX, Promus Ventures through its Luxembourg based space investment fund Orbital Ventures, and Firmament Ventures.
Concurrently, Isotropic Systems continues to attract significant support from industry-leading strategic investors including SES and the UK Government. The continued support from existing investors was driven by Isotropic Systems’ significant progress into the mature stages of product development, providing accelerated funding to achieve upcoming pivotal milestones and fully fund Isotropic through the commercial launch of its first product line in 2022.
As a result, Isotropic Systems has accelerated its production phase in time to support new constellations and satellites launching in GEO, HEO, MEO and LEO orbits from 2022 onwards, and has expanded its workforce by 40% over the last five months.
Isotropic Systems’ patented radio frequency optics technology enables the high-performance multi-link antenna to simultaneously connect to multiple satellites in multiple orbits without any compromise in the performance of each link. Isotropic Systems was recently recognised by its inclusion in Lazard’s T100 Index, reflecting its potential for significant growth and sector disruption.
Inmarsat Launches OneFi, a Game-Changing New Customer Experience Platform for Airlines to Monetise Inflight Connectivity
Innovative new solution brings a host of inflight services together within a single portal interface, providing a commercial opportunity for airlines to attract ancillary revenues
Inmarsat, the world leader in global mobile satellite communications, today announced the launch of its innovative new OneFi customer experience platform (CXP) for airlines. The first-of-its-kind solution will serve as a catalyst to monetise inflight connectivity by bringing a host of onboard services together within a single portal interface, which passengers can easily access using their own personal devices.
OneFi delivers a rich airline-branded digital platform to enhance the passenger experience onboard flights. It allows passengers to order food and beverages, purchase seat upgrades, receive the latest flight and destination information, and sign-up to the airline’s frequent flyer programmes, all in real-time from the comfort of their seat. In addition, passengers can browse the internet, stream videos and audio, shop online and enjoy other ecommerce offerings, using high-speed inflight broadband that airlines could choose to offer free-of-charge, funded through OneFi’s sponsorship and advertising features.
The launch of OneFi comes at a critical time for airlines, with the global pandemic having accelerated passenger demand for digital inflight experiences. Inmarsat’s recent 2021 Passenger Confidence Tracker, the largest and most comprehensive global survey of its kind since the pandemic began, found that digital solutions that keep passengers connected and minimise their contact with cabin crew and fellow passengers can go a long way in boosting confidence. In addition, out of the 10,000 respondents worldwide, 41% believed inflight Wi-Fi had increased in importance after the pandemic.
Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “For many years, Inmarsat has advocated the vast commercial opportunities of inflight connectivity. However, until now, airlines have struggled to realise the full potential of the business model. OneFi is a step change for those looking to monetise their Wi-Fi services and ensure they keep pace with evolving passenger needs. It will empower a digital transformation in the cabin, which is especially important at this critical time for the aviation industry.
Kymeta Announces Grant of New U.S. Patent for Multi-Beam Capabilities Enabling Simultaneous Multi-Orbit Connectivity
REDMOND, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Kymeta (www.kymetacorp.com), the communications company making mobile global, announced today that the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Kymeta Corporation a U.S. Patent for its multi-beam antenna configuration, enabling redundant, simultaneous, multi-orbit satellite connectivity.
Kymeta’s innovative patented technology can generate two beams simultaneously with a single antenna panel, enabling the tracking of two satellites across multiple constellations and seamless traffic hand off from the initial satellite to the second. Kymeta’s metamaterials approach forms, receives, and transmits multiple distinct beams, each with its own receive/transmit (RX/TX) connection, for redundant connectivity and intelligent data management.
This newly-issued patent adds to the more than 140 U.S. and international patents and licenses issued to Kymeta, with an additional 178 pending, since the company was established in 2012. This issued patent represents an important step in the company’s technical lead over the market through continued innovation and advancement of Kymeta’s connectivity solutions.
Lynk Signs Contracts with First Two Mobile Operators
Commercial agreements reached with MNOs in Africa and the Caribbean for 2022 Service Start
Falls Church, VA – Sept. 22, 2021 -- Lynk Global, Inc. (Lynk) the world's only independently verified cell-tower-in-space connectivity provider, today announced that it has signed its first commercial agreements with Aliv in the Bahamas, and Telecel Centrafrique in the Central African Republic. Lynk’s satellites will enable Aliv and Telecel subscribers to stay connected everywhere on the planet using a standard unmodified mobile phone. As Flagship partners, Aliv and Telecel have acquired first-to-market rights to implement Lynk’s service in their respective countries. Lynk’s global commercial service is scheduled to be launched next year, and more agreements are expected in the coming months.
“Lynk is proud to announce the first two mobile network operators as a part of our Flagship partnership program. This speaks to the visionary leadership of Aliv and Telecel Centrafrique, which recognize the powerful benefits of providing universal mobile broadband to their customers. We are honored to be selected by Aliv and Telecel as their satellite partners,” says Charles Miller, Lynk co-founder, and CEO.
Lynk's “rapid do-learn loop” satellite design process — to develop, build, and launch five test satellites on a repeatable six-month schedule — has enabled the four-year-old company to become the world leader in a technology that will literally reach out and affect the lives of billions of people. Lynk has already applied for its FCC operator’s license and is well-positioned to begin worldwide commercial cellular service from low Earth orbit next year. Lynk will ramp up production of its American-made satellites in 2022, eventually scaling to 200 satellites per month.
Iridium® GMDSS Wins Top Connected Mobile Platform Innovation Award
MCLEAN, Va., September 15, 2021 - Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: IRDM) is proud to share that it received the Mobile Satellite Users Association’s (MSUA) 2021 Top Connected Mobile Platform Innovation Award for Iridium GMDSS. As the world’s first and only maritime safety solution that covers the entire globe with real-time satellite connectivity, Iridium GMDSS offers a modern solution for enhancing safety at sea.
The award for Top Connected Mobile Platform Innovation highlights forward-thinking satellite platforms that demonstrate innovation and disruption in the industry. The launch of Iridium GMDSS ended a decades-long monopoly held by another satellite company and enables mariners to access this life saving service anywhere they sail for the first time in history.
Iridium GMDSS offers the maritime industry a superior choice when it comes to safety services, in that it is more capable, cost effective and global than the legacy service, further positioning Iridium as a leader in this space. Unlike the historical option, Iridium Connected® GMDSS terminals include the functionality for all satellite GMDSS services and enable the initiation of both Distress Alert and Safety Voice quickly with the press of just one button.
Bryan Hartin, Iridium’s Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing accepted the award at MSUA’s award ceremony at SATELLITE 2021. "We are very proud to be receiving this award," he shared. "GMDSS is a huge responsibility because mariners depend on Iridium's GMDSS service for safety of life at sea. We take that very seriously." He continued, “Iridium GMDSS is a big change for the maritime industry, one for the better and one that will spark further safety innovation by Iridium and others.”
IMOCA Extends Relationship Naming Iridium and Thales as Official Communications Partners
MCLEAN, Va., September 14, 2021 - Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: IRDM) is proud to share that the International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA) has extended its relationship naming Iridium and Thales as its official communications partners. IMOCA skippers will continue to rely on Iridium Certus® as their primary means of satellite communication at sea, after years of successful races and even life-saving communications provided.
Beginning in 2019, IMOCA skippers set sail with the new state-of-the-art satcom system, relying on Iridium Certus during several high-profile yachting events that attracted a global audience, including the prestigious Vendée Globe race. As the official communications partners, Iridium and partner Thales will continue to equip the IMOCA racing fleet with the Iridium Certus satellite connectivity delivered by the Thales VesseLINK™ 700 terminal .
"Continuing our partnership with Iridium and Thales justifies how confident the skippers and the Class are in this technology,” says Antoine Mermod, President, IMOCA Class. “By combining the expertise of two companies, our boats are equipped with the closest land-like level of communication ever proposed. The applications of the equipment on-board an IMOCA yacht participating in the Vendée Globe race remain essential tests for any developments; this communication combination has definitely proven its worth.”
Iridium® is the only satellite network with reliable, truly global connectivity, even in adverse conditions at sea. The connectivity solution enables IMOCA skippers to easily communicate with their shore teams, send photos and texts to friends and family, conduct interviews over Skype, Zoom or Microsoft TEAMS, and in the most extreme cases, provide critical connectivity during rescue situations.
"We were already equipped with the Thales and Iridium system during the last Vendée Globe. This system has proven itself on the round the world race. The antenna and the network worked very well, even in hostile conditions and with our boats constantly on the move,” says Kevin Escoffier, skipper, Team PRB. “Moreover, the VesseLINK 700 is very efficient in terms of power consumption. I am very happy with the Iridium and Thales partnership with the IMOCA Class. Communication has become essential nowadays and this system perfectly meets our needs."
“We are very excited to continue the unique partnership with the IMOCA Class. The use of our technology by the skippers is an invaluable endorsement of the performance, coverage and reliability Iridium Certus and the Thales VesseLINK 700 terminal offer,” said Wouter Deknopper, vice president and general manager of maritime business at Iridium.
Hughes and OneWeb Announce Agreements for Low Earth Orbit Satellite Service in U.S. and India
Washington, DC, September 9, 2021 – Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), an innovator in satellite and multi-transport technologies and networks for 50 years, and OneWeb, the low Earth orbit satellite communications company, today announced that they have signed a distribution agreement in the U.S. focused on enterprise services. In India, the parties have entered into an MOU for a strategic agreement to distribute services to large enterprises, small and medium businesses, government, telcos and ISPs, including in the rural and remote parts of the country. Services will be offered by Hughes Network Systems, LLC, and Hughes Communications India Private Ltd., respectively. Hughes and OneWeb intend to work together to broaden distribution globally, with Hughes to offer OneWeb’s low-latency, high-speed connectivity for markets such as enterprise, government, commercial aviation and maritime, cellular backhaul, and community Wi-Fi hotspots.
Pradman Kaul, President, Hughes, said: “The future of connectivity depends on a worldwide network of multiple transports, including terrestrial, geostationary and Low Earth Orbit satellite services. OneWeb’s system enhances the Hughes portfolio of networking capabilities, introducing a low-latency option with global reach that complements GEO satellite capacity density and capability to meet our customers’ needs. As a case in point, in India which has been starved of high-throughput satellite services, the OneWeb services will help us meet the tremendous backhaul and broadband demand.”
Neil Masterson, Chief Executive Officer, OneWeb, said: “OneWeb is thrilled to be working with Hughes to offer our connectivity solution across the U.S and India. This agreement is another example of our commitment to deliver high-quality, continuous internet access to areas in need including in rural and remote areas of the U.S and India. Hughes is already an important investor and an invaluable technology partner, and I look forward to continuing to grow our relationship further.”
At a jointly hosted session at Satellite 2021 at National Harbor, Maryland, representatives of the companies signed the new agreements, addressed their ongoing partnership, and shared a demonstration of multi-orbit connectivity in action. The test, recorded on August 26, featured the successful real-time, seamless switching between the Hughes JUPITER 2 geostationary, high-throughput satellite (HTS) and OneWeb’s low latency, high speed LEO constellation. The demonstration highlighted advantages of each type of connectivity as Hughes ActiveTechnologies™ software instantaneously evaluated the type of traffic and transmitted it over the most efficient path: latency-sensitive activities (like fast-twitch video gaming and a video call) were transmitted via OneWeb; bandwidth-intensive activities like video streaming were transmitted via JUPITER HTS.
Today’s agreement expands an established relationship between the two companies. Hughes, through its parent company EchoStar, is an investor in OneWeb. It is also an ecosystem partner to OneWeb, developing gateway electronics and the core module that will power every user terminal for the system. And Hughes is the prime contractor on an agreement with the U.S. Air Force Research Lab to integrate and demonstrate managed LEO SATCOM using OneWeb capacity in the Arctic region.
Smallsat News and Ventures
OneWeb Strengthens Ground Segment with QuadSAT
Odense, Denmark, 22 September 2021 – OneWeb, the low Earth orbit satellite communications company is working with QuadSAT to perform verification of its ground segment antennas ahead of the global rollout of its LEO constellation. In an initial stage, QuadSAT has carried out an antenna validation campaign at the Telespazio teleport in Scanzano, Italy.
Using its unique drone payload for antenna testing, QuadSAT performed in-situ measurement generating antenna radiation patterns as well as north offset in antenna pointing. QuadSAT’s drone-based system provides users with flexible and accurate antenna testing and calibration. Antennas can be tested anytime and anywhere, and it can perform a broad range of testing missions depending on requirements. QuadSAT pre-and post-flight software ensures repeatability, control over the drone during measurements, ease of operation, and data delivery in a uniform format.
During the campaign, QuadSAT measured radiation patterns of several OneWeb antennas, enabling the validation of feed alignment and the direction of pointing. This is the first time OneWeb has utilized the capabilities of drone-based antenna diagnostics. Following successful results from this initial phase, QuadSAT will be performing antenna verification at other OneWeb sites.
Joseph Paciaroni, Director of Gateway Deployment, OneWeb commented: “We are in the process of building the ground segment for our state-of-the-art constellation. Having innovative methods for diagnostics will be an important success factor and we are particularly excited about the potential of drone-based in-situ diagnostics where traditional antenna validation techniques are not available. During this initial phase, we were really impressed with both the quality of the data and the ability to carry out the test within a very short time frame.”
Joakim Espeland, CEO, QuadSAT, added: “We are glad to be able to provide OneWeb with our measurement services for on-site validation and optimization. A fully optimized ground station is essential for OneWeb to assure the best possible service to its customers. It is therefore essential that a validation of the ground segment is carried out on-site. This is one of the services we provide at QuadSAT.”
Astroscale Selects Rocket Lab to Launch Phase I of JAXA’s Debris Removal Demonstration Project
Sep. 22, 2021 – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability across all orbits, today announced Astroscale Japan Inc. (“Astroscale Japan”) has signed an agreement with Rocket Lab USA, Inc., (“Rocket Lab”), a global leader in launch services and space systems, to launch its Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) spacecraft. Astroscale Japan’s ADRAS-J spacecraft was selected by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) for Phase I of its Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration Project (CRD2), one of the world’s first technology demonstrations of removing large-scale debris from orbit.
Scheduled for lift-off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand in 2023, ADRAS-J will launch aboard an Electron rocket. Once deployed to a precise orbit by Electron’s Kick Stage, the ADRAS-J satellite is designed to rendezvous with a Japanese upper stage rocket body, demonstrate proximity operations, and obtain images, delivering observational data to better understand the debris environment. The second phase of CRD2, which has yet to be competed, will demonstrate the de-orbit of the debris.
Xona Space Systems Fully Funded for First LEO Satellite Navigation Mission
San Mateo, CA - September 22nd, 2021 - Xona Space Systems, the leading innovator in precision LEO satellite navigation services, announced today that it has raised a new funding round co-led by Seraphim Space Investment Trust (LSE:SSIT) and MaC Venture Capital, with participation from Toyota Ventures, Daniel Ammann (co-founder of u-blox), and Ryan Johnson (former CEO of BlackBridge, operator of the Rapideye constellation). Follow-on investors also include 1517 Fund and Stellar Solutions.
Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as GPS and Galileo have become the backbone of nearly every aspect of the modern connected world. However, threats to these legacy systems along with consumer demands for enhanced performance are increasing rapidly.
Xona’s Pulsar™ precision LEO PNT (positioning, navigation and timing) service leverages the recent advances in small satellite technology to provide users with a secure and robust alternative to traditional GNSS. Xona’s patent pending system architecture utilizes the efficiency of small satellites to provide an affordable global service with more than 10x better accuracy and 100x better interference mitigation than the legacy systems.
Nautilus Labs Expands Partnership with TotalEnergies to Reduce Emissions and Maximize Efficiency of Chartered LNG fleet
(New York, USA / Paris, France – September 15, 2021) Nautilus Labs, the technology firm advancing the efficiency of ocean commerce, has expanded the pilot phase initiated with TotalEnergies, the French broad energy company that produces and markets energies on a global scale, to optimize LNG carrier’s fleet performance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their path towards carbon neutrality.
TotalEnergies was looking for a technology partner to visualize and analyze fleet data in order to optimize overall operational efficiency and cut emissions. The charterer works with various owners and therefore requires a solution that can easily and seamlessly integrate with all existing ship-to-shore systems. The partnership with Nautilus Labs started in November 2020 and has since been expanded to the full long-term chartered fleet.
Nautilus Labs leverages high frequency sensor data and builds machine learning models to predict true vessel performance, normalized for environmental factors, allowing TotalEnergies to reduce emissions along with fuel consumption and increase voyage outcomes. TotalEnergies, founder signatory of the Sea Cargo Charter, leverages Nautilus Platform to improve, streamline, and automate emissions monitoring and reporting, including CII tracking, to comply with binding and non-binding regulations, ultimately striving for their goal of carbon neutrality.
Hiber Signs Deal with Shell to Roll Out Remote IoT Monitoring of Wells
Amsterdam, the Netherlands - 13 September, 2021 | Hiber, an industrial IoT as-a-service startup, announced today that it has signed an agreement with Shell to provide well integrity monitoring solutions globally.
The global framework agreement allows all Shell entities and subsidiaries to use the HiberHilo product across the world. Launched in October 2020, HiberHilo is an end-to-end IoT solution that makes well monitoring more data-driven and safe. Based on satellite technology, the solution lets oil and gas companies measure real-time well temperature and pressure on unconnected wells in remote and offshore locations. It has already been installed at Shell operations in the North Sea.
Shell aims to use HiberHilo to reduce the amount of travel to and from wells in remote locations. The solution also allows the company to get more data on their well performance and to monitor well integrity issues more effectively, thereby improving the safety of remote and offshore wells.
“After testing HiberHilo, the opportunity was clear,” said Ian Taylor, Global Principal Technical Expert for well integrity at Shell. Operations in South-east Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are considering HiberHilo.
“HiberHilo is a simple solution to help oil and gas companies improve safety, optimize operations, and reduce their environmental footprint,” said Coen Jansen, Hiber chief strategy officer. “We’re thrilled to be working with Shell toward a technologically cleaner future. Hiber’s mission is connecting everything everywhere to deliver productivity and sustainability in global industrial IoT.”
SWISSto12 and Saturn Satellite Networks Collaborate to Bring Advanced Small Telecommunication Satellites to GEO
Washington DC, September 8th 2021 – SWISSto12, a leading provider of payload systems for telecommunication satellites based on novel 3D printing technologies and Saturn Satellite Networks, a leading developer of small GEO satellite missions, announce today a collaboration agreement whereby they join forces to build and market GEO telecom missions based on both MicroGEO, ISN, and Nationsat satellites.
These missions deliver highly competitive connectivity from GEO orbit based on small and affordable satellites, thereby enabling new application cases for satellite connectivity that complement the offering of larger legacy satellites. In this collaboration, SWISSto12 will make its end-to-end advanced flexible payloads available to be matched with three different classes of small satellite platforms: the MicroGEO, theIntelligent Space Node (ISN), or the Nationsat which are all enabled by the cutting edge bus, with proven GEO heritage from Saturn’s affiliate company NovaWurks and its HISat technology.
SWISSto12 will lead the marketing of turnkey GEO telecom satellites based on the MicroGEO platform of approximately 2kW payload power while Saturn Satellite Networks will lead the marketing of turnkey GEO telecom and high throughput satellites (HTS) based on the ISN and Nationsat platforms of approximately 5kW payload power. These classes of satellites complement each other in the emerging segment of smaller GEO telecommunication satellites and offer a complete set of solutions to address specific requirements of satellite operators.
Missions addressed range from BSS and FSS spacecraft, which can provide a competitive replacement option for aging satellites, to HTS satellites for flexible global coverage or offering regional coverage for existing or emerging operators. Available frequencies rangefrom C-band to Q/V-band. The partnership capitalizes on the experience of spacecraft and payload engineering teams from both companies with workforce based both in Europe and the U.S.
Spire Global to Acquire exactEarth
Business Combination Creates a Global Leader in the Space-Based Maritime Data and Analytics Industry
VIENNA, Va. & CAMBRIDGE, Ontario–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Spire Global, Inc. (NYSE: SPIR), a leading provider of space-based data, analytics and space services, and exactEarth Ltd. (TSX: XCT) (“exactEarth”) announced today that the companies have entered into a definitive arrangement agreement under which Spire will acquire exactEarth for approximately US$161.2 million (CAD$204.2 million) in cash and stock, which implies ~9.1x exactEarth’s Enterprise Value to LTM revenue. Once completed, exactEarth will become a fully owned subsidiary of Spire and continue to operate from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada under the leadership of exactEarth’s CEO Peter Mabson, reporting directly to Spire CEO Peter Platzer.
“Peter and I share a vision about the opportunity for space-based maritime data and the digitalization of the global maritime industry, and I look forward to pursuing that vision together,” said Peter Platzer, Spire’s CEO. “I have great respect for the highly experienced team at exactEarth and am excited to continue driving this digital transformation together, serving more customers with a more robust data and solutions platform.”
The combined company aims to be transformative for customers and the maritime industry. Bringing together real-time and historical space-based maritime data, Spire and exactEarth will provide customers with innovative solutions that drive the digitalization of the almost US$2 trillion global maritime industry, such as better fleet visibility for more efficient routing, cost savings from reduced fuel consumption, and a lower environmental footprint.
“We look forward to joining forces with the Spire team to not only have an impact on the maritime industry, but also to have an impact on the planet, through offering customers enhanced data solutions that are designed to impact not only a company’s bottom line, but also its environmental footprint,” said Peter Mabson, exactEarth CEO.
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Cloud Connectivity - The Real Value of the MEGA LEOs
If you think that the mega-LEOs can survive by selling connectivity to billions of unserved consumers and enterprises, you would be wrong. If you think that selling connectivity to ships, aircraft and vehicles and the military or IoT will justify the enormous build and operating cost of the mega constellations, again, you would be wrong. The money is in the Cloud.
In 2020, the Cloud was a $135 billion, rapidly expanding business. In the same year, the entire satellite mobility market generated only about $6.7 billion – a tiny fraction of the Cloud services market. Cloud is a high-margin business encompassing data storage, application execution and streaming. Connectivity is a low margin, commodity business.
In 2020, Amazon Web Services (AWS) alone generated over $45 billion in revenue and $13 billion or 57% of Amazon’s $22.8 billion in net income. Cloud is an enormous and profitable enterprise, far more lucrative than connectivity.
With profits like these, it’s easy to see how Amazon can justify $10 billion to build and launch Kuiper. Once completed and integrated with AWS, Amazon will have the only vertically integrated, fully secure Cloud service in the world. If vertical integration with Kuiper results in only a 10%, increase in revenues, that’s $4.5 billion, more than half of the 2020 value of the entire satellite mobility market!
Designed for business and likely featuring an enterprise grade constellation consisting of high-capacity optically inter-linked satellites, AWS can deliver high-speed data anywhere anytime with a simple, inexpensive antenna. That puts Cloud competitors Microsoft, Google, IBM, and others at an enormous disadvantage. Countering Amazon will not be easy, but it is possible.
Amazon’s well-heeled Cloud competitors, mainly Microsoft, Google, and IBM will have to move quickly. They cannot afford to lose business to Amazon. Even a tiny erosion of their market share could cost them billions in lost revenue and profits. They need to vertically integrate with OneWeb, Telesat or Starlink. So, if you thought mega LEOs would go broke selling commodity connectivity into a commodity market, you might be wrong. Ironically, investors may ultimately reap their financial reward by selling their companies to the cash-rich Cloud service providers.
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SmartSky, Inflight Connectivity and the Battle for Business Jets
An Exclusive Interview with SmartSky CEO, Dave Helfgott
Gogo has been the undisputed, sole provider of Air-to-Ground inflight connectivity for business jets for nearly twenty years. That's about to change. Armed with new and innovative beamforming technology, a thicket of patents, hundreds of million dollars of investment capital, and "first mover" advantage, SmartSky Networks is about to challenge Gogo's domination of the lucrative business jet market.
Assuming SmartSky launches its network as scheduled, they will offer business jet passengers connectivity at speeds never experienced with an ATG service. For the first time, executives can stream full-motion video, conduct lag -free video calls and ship large Powerpoint files in the air at the blink of an eye - all at least a year ahead of Gogo's competing Avance 5G offering.
Business jet owners will soon have a choice of providers. and we expect the competition to be intense when Gogo launches its 5G system.
To find out more about SmartSky and the rivalry to come, we're pleased to feature an exclusive interview with Dave Helfgott, SmartSky's new CEO.
SMW: The last time we met, you projected a Q4, 2021 date for Smartsky’s ATG network launch. Could you bring us up to date on the current state of your network and when you expect it to be commercially operational?
Since we spoke last December, we’ve completed our full system development, achieved FCC and FAA certification, and conducted many flight demonstrations for customers and partners. We’re launching our network this quarter, which combined with our advanced aircraft hardware shipsets and our application enablement layer, Skytelligence™, puts us in an excellent position next year.
Skytelligence continues to progress with multiple customers already on the data exchange. New partnerships are being developed, bringing key operations-enhancing data and innovations to more pilots and flight departments.
To catalyze this robust new Business Aviation (BA) ecosystem, we started with some of our own applications and services, and the market is now following suit.
Other business milestones include our partnerships with Honeywell and Avionica as BA Value-Added Resellers and successful completion of STC programs with over 4,000 eligible aircraft across multiple aircraft types.
We’ll have our first customers on the network by the end of the year and expect coverage to grow to around 80% of the business aviation flight hours. Full CONUS geography should be materially covered by the end of Q1 next year.
Financially, SmartSky has raised over $100M in new capital this year, most of which came from existing institutional investors. They share our view that the market is robust and growing but has been badly underserved for years and is hungry for a transformational demonstratably superior service (like 10x better).
SMW: At the industry average of $3,200 per/month per plane, do you have an estimate of how many aircraft you need to reach the break-even point?
Yes, we have an estimate. We can achieve break-even with relatively low market penetration (<5%) because our network is so efficient. Our investors are committed, enabling us to accomplish our business objectives. Early indications of interest from the business aviation community give us a lot of confidence that we will meet our market objectives.
SMW: Assuming Gogo has already sold its ATG service to many of the large fleet operators, you would have to sell to many small operators your service to reach a critical mass of users. What part of the business jet market will you target, and how will you accelerate market penetration?
SmartSky is targeting business jet owners, fleets, and operators who want an office-like experience in the air, one comparable to the one they have on the ground. To deliver this level of performance SmartSky’s network combines 1) high performance - high-rate data links 2) symmetrical networks (high gain transmission both to and from the aircraft), and 3) very low latency, all at affordable pricing for both installation and ongoing operations. As the business jet market has yet to experience a service with these qualities, we expect to penetrate the market rapidly.
SMW: How can you effectively displace an entrenched competitor like Gogo? How loyal are their business jet customers, and do you believe you can convert Gogo customers to your network?
SmartSky aims to serve customers who value the game changing performance and flexibility of our service. We think customers deserve a better option and more flexibility. So, we are offering better connectivity and flexibility.
At SmartSky, customers are free to choose their Cabin Wireless Access Point/Router (CWAP), IFE, and satellite network provider. We believe that given our advantages, we will capture a fair share of the market, whether from churn from already installed (and currently very unhappy) aircraft operators, or from greenfield market & new installs, (retrofit and line fit).
While Gogo has a strong position in the business aviation market, its existing network is at a strategic disadvantage. Based on 1990’s technology, it can’t compete with our new, high-speed service.
Just as high-speed broadband replaced dial-up, our advanced beamforming technology can displace their legacy 4 MHz network and even compete favorably against their Avance 5G service.
While SmartSky is not looking to displace any Gogo customers that are happy, we believe many of their existing users will churn to our more attractive offering, especially with the late coming and yet-to-be proven nature of their Avance 5G network.
SMW: Can you tell us what deals you have closed with existing business jet manufacturers and what partners you have in the aircraft mod-centers and in business jet line fit and retrofit markets?
We started this business by approaching aviation’s largest dealers and asking them what would it take for their customers to adopt a new solution? Our system specifications are the outcome of those discussions, including the design and optimization decisions we’ve made regarding the network, radio capabilities, antennae size vs. performance, cost, etc.
Due to our early collaboration with business aviation’s largest dealers, we’ve been very successful in getting contracts with many of Gogo’s most impactful dealers.
In the Retrofit market, the largest addressable segment, we already have contracts with Textron, Bombardier, Duncan, StandardAero, Pentastar Aviation, Pro Star Aviation, West Star Aviation, Western Aircraft, Ventura, Clay Lacy, Chicago Jet Group, and Stevens Aviation. Our initial line-fit partner is Textron Aviation, and we will soon be announcing other partners.
SMW: How many STCs do you currently have in place, and what percentage of the business jet market do these aircraft represent?
As I mentioned earlier, we currently have over 4,000 eligible aircraft covered by STCs across multiple aircraft types and different partners, with more underway. These now range from an STC on the King Air up to a Gulfstream G550 in business aviation and the Embraer 135/145 series to serve the commercial regional jet market. Through the end of 2021 and into 2022, we expect this number to rise rapidly and cover most of the popular makes and models.
SMW: You have two antennas. One is a 24 inch and the other is a 48 inch. Are there any space issues related to mounting them on the fuselage of medium or small business jets? What about cosmetics? Will the size of your large antenna be objectionable to the owner of a small or medium-sized business jet? Have you surveyed your potential customers to determine if acceptability?
Our full-duplex quadstick (FDQ) blade antenna is roughly 15” long, and our High-Performance Blade (HPB) is about 30” long. Our Flagship system fits very well on most business aircraft.
To determine the best combination of antenna form, size, and performance, we’ve done extensive study with our partners (OEMs, MROs, VARs) and customers (fleet operators), Using sophisticated radio-frequency analysis, we’ve optimized antenna locations to assure optimum performance. We are repeating this procedure for the new “LITE” product for smaller aircraft, which we plan to release later in 2022.
The full system has been successfully installed on aircraft ranging in size from a King Air B200 up to large business and regional jets.
SMW: Gogo bonds 4 MHz of license bandwidth with 60 MHz of unlicensed bandwidth. They claim that their solution provides superior resistance to interference near congested areas vs. a system that relies exclusively on unlicensed spectrum. Have you tested Smartsky’s system in congested near major airports? If so, how does it compare with Gogo’s?
SmartSky’s patented system overcomes the unlicensed band interference challenge to provide a fast, multi-Mbps connection regardless of geography, and we’ve done extensive testing, mapping, across our entire U.S. coverage to prove it. We’re confident that with our innovative and multi-patented network, we can offer a consistent level of high-quality service.
Unpacking Gogo’s plan to bond 60 MHz of unlicensed spectrum with 4 MHz of licensed spectrum, it’s yet to be proven whether bonding will enhance the customer experience in congested urban areas. Channel bonding an ultra-slow 4MHz channel with a separate faster one doesn’t necessarily make for a great experience when the faster channel is materially constrained by interference. Of course, proving out their bonded capabilities is contingent upon their ability to build out their future 5G network.
SMW: Gogo has a series of products to complement its Avance platform. In addition to Gogo Vision, its entertainment platform, it has an IoT-enabling API, a network management platform called Dash, which allows an operator to manage connectivity across their aircraft, to troubleshoot and identify problems. It also has Mix, a crew and passenger provisioning application.
They also support over-the-air equipment upgrades by placing servers at multiple aircraft service centers – a convenient and appreciated service for large fleet owners. Does Smartsky have comparable applications?
SmartSky offers several products and services to complement our ATG network service and aircraft shipset hardware. We’ve developed a ‘SmartCart’ for our installation partners, enabling an end-to-end connection for testing, provisioning, and activation of the SmartSky system while the airplane is still on the ground, making installation, testing, and delivery far more efficient.
Another innovation developed by SmartSky is Skytelligence. It’s an API-based data exchange, which hosts advanced third-party applications. For example, from it, customers can access the industry’s only real-time turbulence information application called SmoothSky™, developed in conjunction with our exclusive partnership with IATA.
Finally, rather than lock customers into having to get everything from SmartSky, our mission to empower and enable the entire aviation ecosystem to develop and deploy even more advanced applications and services, leveraging the unique capabilities of our network, hardware, and Skytelligence. Aircraft owners and fleet operators will appreciate Smartsky's service for its integration with third-party applications. For example, from it, users can access Honeywell’s GoDirect Forge platform, which allows them to customize their in-cabin experience and run diagnostics as needed.
SMW: Gogo’s Avance platform supports channel bonding of multiple streams of IP data, which means it can easily accommodate the addition of a flat panel array. Does Smartsky have the same capability?
SmartSky already offers this option. Our network is compatible with most third-party CWAPs, enabling our customers to benefit from competition, rather than being locked into a single proprietary system such as with the Avance platform.
As an example, one of our first STCs was done on a Gulfstream G550, which integrated a Ka-band GEO system with SmartSky ATG using a third-party CWAP. Most of the SmartSky compatible CWAPs can accept LEO, MEO, GEO, and ATG inputs. Examples include the Honeywell GoDirect Router and the Satcom Direct SDR. Flat-panel, electronically steered antennas (ESAs) are just another feed as far as the CWAP is concerned.
A final point – in most cases, SmartSky’s low latency broadband ATG service is complementary to SATCOM, whether narrowband or wideband, LEO, MEO, or GEO. We’re already exploring dual ATG/satellite configurations with commercial carriers and operators of large business jets.
"We’ll have our first customers on the network by the end of the year and expect coverage to grow to around 80% of the business aviation flight hours. Full CONUS geography should be materially covered by the end of Q1 next year."
As Chief Executive Officer of SmartSky Networks (SSN), David Helfgott has responsibility for the company’s strategic direction, to drive the completion, launch and expansion of its ground-breaking broadband Air-to-Ground (ATG) network, and to implement its product development and operational programs, serving the growing connectivity needs of business, general and commercial aviation markets.
As a 20+ year industry veteran, he has extensive experience in airborne communications, satellite broadband, mobile telecommunications and commercial & government SATCOM networking services. Mr. Helfgott has held leadership positions at Phasor, Inmarsat, Cobham, DataPath and SES. He holds a BA Degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the Darden School.
LEO: Why Telesat is Betting Its Future on Lightspeed
While many in the satellite industry challenge the utility and economics of LEO, Telesat has staked its future on its Lightspeed, an innovative version of LEO technology.
In an exclusive interview with Satellite Mobility World, Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg shares the logic behind Telesat's formidable investment in its Lightspeed LEO technology and updates us on the constellation's progress.
SMW: Can you update us on Lightspeed? If delayed, what is the cause of the delays? When will the constellation be launched and be commercially available?
We will launch our first satellite in around two years and enter commercial service the first half of 2024 at the higher latitudes. As you know, we have hybrid orbits, 78 satellites in a Polar orbit, and 220 satellites in inclined. We plan to launch the polar satellites first, followed by those in an inclined orbit. Once the 72 satellites are in Polar orbits, we will initiate service in the higher latitudes and have full global coverage in early 2025. To date, our progress has been dependent upon securing our financing.
In that regard, we announced a $1.4 billion investment from the government of Canada, part equity, and part debt. So, at this point, we have billions of dollars for the program’s funding, but we need to finalize our loan guarantees with the Canadian and French Export Credit Agencies, Export Development Canada, and BPI, which I believe will be completed shortly.
Despite delays in the financing process, we have continued to move forward. We are already working with Thales, Alenia Aerospace our satellite manufacturer, and our satellite phased array antenna supplier MDA. We’ve been building prototypes and announcing other suppliers in addition to Thales. Once our financing is in place, we will be ramping up satellite production.
SMW: I understand that you have raised around $4 billion in debt and equity and that the CAPEX required is $5 billion. How will you raise the additional capital, and do you anticipate an escalation in build and launch costs?
As you are aware, we will be going public in the next two months, which will generate the additional capital required to complete the project. As to the potential for cost escalation, we’re covering ninety percent of the project’s cost with fixed price contracts, which means the effect of any cost overruns would be minimal.
SMW: What is your current LEO backlog? Can you give us some examples of customers outside of Canada? Was your Canadian government funding conditional on serving sparsely populated northern provinces with broadband?
Our current backlog is approaching $1 billion, which we think is understated. We recently announced a deal with the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. A significant area of our focus is terrestrial broadband, providing low-cost backhaul to ISPs, Telecos, and mobile network operators so they can bring more broadband to the edge of their networks. That’s essentially a rural play.
Here’s how the deals are structured. The 10-year, $600 million Government of Canada commitment and the five-year, $109 million Government of Ontario commitment will each create a dedicated pool of low-cost Bits that we will then sell to ISPs across Canada and Ontario. So, the government commitments subsidize the cost of the Internet throughout the Country.
We think the $709 million in backlog from the Canadian government will double when we sell those Bits to the ISPs. Outside of Canada, we have signed a deal with OmniAccess, a major provider of capacity to mega yachts. We’ve also concluded secured contracts with a couple of other integrators and expect more to follow.
SMW: You are going to build around 300 satellites. Can you tell us about your mass production plans?
When Thales Alenia Space establishes our assembly, integration and testing facility in Quebec, their state-of-the-art factory will leverage next-generation manufacturing capabilities to deliver on average one Lightspeed satellite per day.
SMW: How valuable are optical links?
Optical links are one of the technologies that enable a viable LEO constellation. We would not have embarked on a LEO constellation without being able to link the satellites in space. This, coupled with onboard processing gives maximum flexibility in data routing and eliminates unnecessary ground hops.
OISLs are also is key for serving international inflight and maritime routes, and reduces the overall number of gateway sites required in the network, further improving our cost economics.
Thales Alenia Space is providing the OISLs through its Switzerland entity and they have already delivered and tested the first prototypes for our program.
SMW: Assuming commercial IFC is free, demand for capacity will soar, and the airline industry will be looking for the lowest cost per/bit. Can your Lightspeed LEO compete with GEO offerings, and if you need to charge more, will airlines pay a premium for low latency service?
We designed an extremely efficient LEO constellation. The dollars we are investing to deliver capacity is very low per Bit, which will allow us to be cost-competitive in any of these markets, especially aero. If you look at the ubiquitous coverage needed by aero, including over the Poles, which LEOs have a clear edge. We also excel in deliverable capacity to high-demand locations due to our low altitude and beamforming capabilities. We can focus the beams of several precisely where needed.
For example, we can direct more capacity over O’Hare airport than any other constellation. So, we will be a disruptive player in the aero connectivity market because we are global and can deploy more capacity than anyone else. Because user terminals on aircraft already have tracking ability (for example, the ThinKom Ka2517 terminal), antenna upgrades for LEO will not be necessary.
There is no other reason to retain GEO other than cost, and we will be able to be cost- competitive and provide a much higher quality of service. That’s why Lightspeed LEO is going to be the superior architecture in the aero market. It’s not apparent to me that aero connectivity via GEO is ever going to make sense. Once LEO is available, and it’s cost competitive, providing complete global coverage and a massive amount of capacity, I think it will displace GEO.
SMW: Regarding distribution, SES sells directly to the Cruise industry and now services around thirty vessels. Do you plan to go direct in the Cruise market, commercial aviation, or any other segments, or will you continue to work solely through integrators?
Our business model and focus are different than some of the other LEO providers. Out of the gate, we always have focused on enterprise verticals. We’re serving fewer customers with bigger links. It’s not optimized for consumers, which would have driven us to a different design.
Because of our enterprise focus, we have been working with integrators, mobile network operators, ISPs, Telcos, and governments worldwide for decades. We have been very successful with that approach. As long as those partners are in the market providing important functions and adding value, we’re happy to continue working with them. We don’t plan to launch a direct selling initiative.
However, if an end-user customer comes to us on their own, we will quote them and inform our integrator partner that serves the customer.
SMW: Outside of aero, will Telesat offer a hybrid networking combining GEO and LEO, much like SES mPower?
To be honest with you, probably not. I am a big believer in the power of low latency services. For the way people use the Internet, the rising importance of the Cloud, the fact that websites are encrypted, making it hard to do IP acceleration, low latency services are going to have a significant competitive advantage over higher latency offerings.
Other than applications where GEO will have some competitive advantages, for example, for direct to home satellite services, point to multi-point applications, and where a very high level of reliability is required, such as in broadcast, we expect that LEO will become the dominant satellite technology. That’s why we’re building Lightspeed.
"Optical links are one of the technologies that enable a viable LEO constellation. We would not have embarked on a LEO constellation without being able to link the satellites in space."
Daniel S. Goldberg is President & Chief Executive Officer at Telesat Holdings, Inc. and President & Chief Executive Officer of Telesat Canada Ltd., President & Chief Executive Officer for Telesat LLC, President & Chief Executive Officer at Telesat Satellite GP LLC and President & Chief Executive Officer at TeleSat International LLC (which are all subsidiaries of Telesat Holdings, Inc.). Daniel S. Goldberg is also on the board of Elmwood School, Inc.
In the past Mr. Goldberg occupied the position of President & Chief Executive Officer at Telesat Holding, Inc., Associate for Goldberg, Godles, Wiener & Wright, Chief Executive Officer for New Skies Satellites NV, Chief Executive Officer for SES New Skies BV, Chief Executive Officer at New Skies Satellites BV, Chief Executive Officer for New Skies Satellites Holdings Ltd.
Daniel S. Goldberg received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a graduate degree from Harvard Law School.
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With the advent of NGSOs, satellite operators and integrators will leverage the advanced beamforming and onboard processing capabilities of these new satellites to form hybrid networks. While the benfits of using GEO and NGSO in combination will be significant, managing the ground segment will be incredibly challenging.
Gilat is meeting the challenge in extraordinary ways. As the recent winner of a major SES mPower ground segment contract, their technology is rapidly becoming an industry standard.
To find out more about the unique technologies they have developed, we met with newly appointed COO, Ron Levin.
SMW: Multi-orbit constellations will soon become a reality. What technologies and expertise will Gilat bring to the industry to enable these new networks?
Ron Levin: (Ron): Next-generation satellite technology is evolving to multi-orbit constellations that include Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) constellations and Very High Throughput Satellites (VHTS) in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). This new generation of multiple-orbit constellations will feature software-defined radios, enabling the real-time reconfiguration of power, coverage, and the bandwidth necessary to track airplanes and ships, support robust service level agreements and deliver 5G and IoT services.
At Gilat, we refer to this next generation as the Elastic Era. It's an era in which satellite operators and integrators will leverage software-defined satellites and cloud-based applications to efficiently focus the satellite and ground segment resources where and when there is actual demand.
In this new Era, managing these complex new satellites and constellations requires unique innovation in the ground segment. Tight coordination between ground and space is necessary to manage software-defined platforms, dynamically and automatically configure carriers, do higher throughput data processing, and enable network orchestration capabilities while communicating with ‘moving’ satellites.
Gilat’s Elastic architecture is designed to address the challenges of multi-orbit operation of any satellite constellation, including medium earth orbit (MEO) or low earth orbit (LEO), GEO, and NGSO. Our architecture supports ‘make before break’ for an uninterrupted and transparent user experience. It no longer requires allocation of the maximum needed carrier size and computing power ahead of time.
This inefficient "design to peak usage" will no longer be essential. Instead, the network scales up bandwidth on demand to accommodate additional users, expand geographic coverage and meet changing demand trends. As a result, ground infrastructure is better optimized, resulting in reduced operating costs.
SMW: Gilat has announced several contract awards for Non-geostationary constellations; can you provide insight on this success?
Ron: As a leading ground segment provider for the NGSO market, Gilat is making very significant progress on several fronts.
We have partnered with SES to deliver the next-generation satellite communication for the O3b mPOWER constellation that operates in MEO at 8,000 km away from the earth’s surface. The constellation consists of high-throughput satellites with a payload that will deliver terabits of capacity at low latency.
Gilat’s and SES’ strategies align in striving to provide our customers with abundant bandwidth, optimized services across market verticals, and the flexibility and elasticity to achieve an excellent user experience.
Several months ago, we also announced an additional partnership with a leading satellite operator to supply Gateway Solid State Power Amplifiers (SSPAs) to support LEO constellation gateways. Gilat’s wholly owned subsidiary, Wavestream, was selected to supply the SSPAs because of their proven reliability in harsh environments, best addressing the stringent requirements of NGSO constellations installed in remote locations.
The advantages of NGSOs match perfectly with Gilat’s main growth verticals. They also arrive at the perfect time for MNOs to start taking their 5G strategy beyond the cities and into the hands of enterprise users in the maritime, aeronautical, and enterprise markets and governments and institutions around the world.
SMW: Recently, you published your contract award by SES for the next-generation Mobility platform; this is further to Gilat providing a large global network for Intelsat (formerly Gogo) IFC. What is it about Gilat's technology that makes it attractive to the mobility segment?
Ron: The recently secured agreement with SES for our next-generation mobility platform will enable Gilat to support maritime services to some of the world’s top cruise lines and maritime service providers. The connectivity will be delivered by our multi-orbit platform, utilizing the O3b mPOWER constellation and other SES GEO satellite assets including SES-17.
You rightly point out that this contract comes further to Gilat's leadership in the aero market, primarily exemplified by the large global network that we provide to Intelsat (formerly Gogo) for in-flight connectivity. This aero network is built with Gilat’s ground system and aero modems. Our open architecture allows working with any satellite network operator. At the same time, a central global management system and QoS features enable it to provision and manage bandwidth across multiple teleports, satellites, and user beams.
Currently, thousands of Gilat's aero modems are installed on aircraft. Our experience in the Mobility segment, a deep understanding of its complex requirements, our ability to partner closely with our customers and our innovative technology have been the key elements of our success.
SMW: Are there other disruptive technologies on the horizon and how is Gilat preparing for them? What are you working on these days?
Ron: The next major technologies to influence and shape future satellite communication are software-defined, virtualized ground networks. Our future software-defined ground networks will integrate with software-defined satellites creating end-to-end networks with a high level of elasticity. Supported by our gateway, satellite operators and service providers will experience a whole new level of network performance.
The programmable Software-Defined Network (SDN) allows for on-the-fly changes to beam carrier configuration to address dynamic network optimization. Carriers can be modified to increase or reduce capacity to accommodate service needs better or to mitigate signal fade conditions.
For example, as a larger passenger airplane goes through a beam, capacity can be temporarily increased to accommodate the need for intensified usage. Or, when fade mitigation is required, the SDN provides capacity steering to ensure uninterrupted service. Software-defined networks enable seamless reconfiguration of resources. Virtualization supports a cloud infrastructure and thereby significantly improves software agility and compute density.
These will become the standard solutions for new GEO and NGSO satellite networks within the coming years. Gilat is embracing these technologies and continuing to enhance our next-generation architecture, making it virtual, cloud-enabled, and easily integrable into an SDN Orchestrator
We also see the emergence of new frequency bands that will require Gateway baseband equipment to cope with higher bandwidth on both the uplink and downlink and better mitigate the fades caused by atmospheric conditions at these frequencies.
Lastly, we see 5G NTN (Non Terrestrial Networks) as another technology on the horizon, driven by 3GPP Release 17 and Release 18. Gilat is an active member of the working group and is keeping close track of how these new standards can expand the satellite communication industry into new markets.
SMW: How do you see the satellite industry evolving over the next 5-7 years, and what do you expect Gilat's role to be?
Ron: over the next five to seven years, expect the following advancements:
The Proliferation of NGSO constellations – today, more than 3,000 active satellites are orbiting the Earth. If current LEO satellite proposals become a reality, about 50,000 active satellites will orbit the Earth within the next ten years.
More affordable launch options to LEO/MEO/GEO orbits with reusable and 3D printed rockets.
Increased satellite flexibility enabling on-demand placement of capacity – as the number of Internet-connected devices increases in developed markets as well and developing markets, satellites will be able to dynamically and quickly redirect beams and power to meet immediate capacity requirements wherever needed.
Using tracking beams in a “follow the ship,” or “follow the airplane” model - vessel tracking via satellites will efficiently provide huge amounts of capacity to extremely bandwidth hungry vessels.
Software-defined networks will leverage all available connectivity services whenever possible, making satellite communication more agile, quicker to deploy, and less expensive to support in regional locations.
Adoption of telecom industry standards. As a result, satellite will finally become an integral part of telecom – next-generation satellites will seamlessly integrate with 5G telecom networks to manage connectivity to cars, vessels, airplanes, and other IoT devices in remote and rural areas.
The Elastic Era will go a long way toward bridging the digital divide; billions of devices will be able to access low latency, real-time applications. The Era will unleash new market opportunities where satellite communication was previously unfeasible or commercially challenging.
The new multi-orbit constellation infrastructures will support bandwidth intensive applications such as 5G cellular backhaul, video conferencing, tele-medicine, banking/trading, IoT aggregation and other cloud-based applications. The enhanced infrastructure will provide a wide range of new communication capabilities to markets already using satellite connectivity, including maritime, commercial/business aviation, education, government, and media services.
At Gilat, we will continue to meet the demands of the Elastic Era. We’ll support operators and integrators with our advanced technology and play our part in the challenging new world of multi-orbit satellite networks.
Ground Segment Solutions for Multi-Orbit Satellite Constellations
With Gilat COO, Ron Levin...
About Ron Levin:
Recently appointed COO, Mr. Ron Levin was formerly Vice President Mobility & Global Accounts at Gilat Satellite Networks, where he leads Gilat’s activities with Satellite Operators and Broadband Managed Services.
Prior to Gilat, Ron headed Strategic Sales at ECI Telecom, a leading telecom equipment provider. Previously he headed Product Management at Jungo Software Technologies, a developer of software for home and small business gateways, which was later acquired by NDS and Cisco.
Ron holds a MSc in Management from the University of Tel Aviv and a BSc in Computer Engineering from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
With Mynaric's Chief Commercial Officer, Tina Ghataore
Optical Terminals in Space: The Technology and its Future
The demand for optical inter-satellite links is acute. Driven by the need to minimize the number of ground stations and facilitate the mass transfer of satellite imagery and broadband communications traffic in real-time, optical terminals have become a critical element of satellite network infrastructure and will soon be deployed by the thousands.
Over the next several years, we'll see massive optical mesh networks emerge in Space and witness explosive growth in the companies at the forefront optical terminal technology. One such company is Mynaric, a German company that has recently established a U.S. subsidiary.
To learn more about Mynaric, and the future of optical terminal technology, we are pleased to present an interview with Tina Ghataore, Mynaric's COO.
SMW: Can you give our readers a brief introduction to the company and its products?
Mynaric, founded in 2009, is a German public company registered on the Frankfurt Exchange. Today, the company’s primary focus is developing optically based communications products for LEO and MEO satellites, a huge potential market.
In addition to our CONDOR product line for that market, we also offer a HAWK terminal for the military, reconnaissance and transport aircraft, UAVs, and commercial aircraft. Terrestrial optical connectivity is also of interest to us, and we are exploring that market as well. Our goal is to connect, satellite to satellite, satellite to ground, aero to aero or to ground with high performance, affordable products.
SMW: You recently opened an office in D.C. to pursue the military market. Can you tell us more about the potential for your technology with the U.S. Space Development Agency (SDA)?
We opened our D.C. office earlier this year to serve government and commercial markets, and we are currently pursuing opportunities in both sectors – driven by demand in government, and the commercial sector.
Recently, the SDA issued an RFP for its planned 144 satellite LEO constellation across six planes, which has elicited a response from multiple prime contractors.
The RFP encompasses requirements for inter-satellite connectivity and aero and ground, and the SDA has stated they would likely award to three U.S. prime contractors.
There will be four optical terminals on each of the satellites, and as a U.S. entity, we're qualified to bid on the terminals. We are also participants in the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Blackjack Croupier program, where Telesat Government Systems have contracted us for OCTs.
SMW: Laser links have become a significant part of NGSO infrastructure. However, while the technology is a good fit for interlinks in Space and possibly to aircraft, Space to ground transmission has been limited by clouds. How do you resolve the reliability issue and assure unlimited connectivity to the ground?
Laser technology has advanced significantly, and it is possible to close a laser link if you have enough ground stations distributed globally to achieve diversity, assuring that at least one station is always available.
SMW: Is there a connectivity standard that allows laser terminals from one company to connect terminals from another manufacturer, or are the links proprietary? Can you communicate with TESAT terminals?
The short answer is yes. The SDA outlined an optical communications standard as part of the National Defense Space architecture. Segmenting into tranches, SDA Tranche “0” outlined the need to adopt an interoperability standard for laser communication terminals.
As part of SDA’s efforts, the SDA invited the industry to help set these standards, and Mynaric had a seat at the table. If you are a commercial optical terminal manufacturer, compliance with the standard is essential to pursuing the military market.
To ensure compliance with the standard, Mynaric was first to reach the NRL and prove compliance with our CONDOR Mk2 terminal. Our 10 Gbps CONDOR Mk 3 exceeds the 2.5 Gbps requirement outlined by the SDA, assuring suitability for military and high-end commercial markets.
SMW: What about laser terminal power consumption and terminal weight? Do these factors require any modifications in satellite design?
Satellite Buses are designed to accommodate various payloads. The OCT is one such payload. So, on an existing satellite, accommodation is required. It's not just about space, but power requirements — the additional weight of this payload needs to be accommodated. But much of this is factored into the overall design margins of a satellite."
SMW: Given the redesign requirement and the high cost of the links, how difficult is it to close a sale?
We haven’t experienced too much resistance in terms of our product and our price point. We produce these products in volume, and we want to make them affordable.
Considering that an imaging satellite’s whole purpose in life is to take high-resolution images in multiple frequency bands and deliver the images, along with analysis, to their clients.
Their satellites are generating so much data and are over a ground station for only a few minutes. That means they can’t transmit most of their data to the ground. So, their current mode of transmission doesn’t meet their needs.
Suppose their business model is to provide actionable insights to their clients in a near-real-time manner. Overall, getting access a large quantity of data quickly helps our clients sell their products and justify purchasing of OCTs.
SMW: TESAT is your primary competitor. They offer three major product lines for different sized satellites, LCT 135, Smart LCT, and Cube LCT, a CubeSat product. Yet, Mynaric’s terminal is designed for satellites over 200 Kg in size. Won’t you need to broaden your product line to address small satellites and CubeSats? Can your growth be sustained by focusing only on satellites larger than 200 kg?
The short answer is that our current terminals address the largest segment of the market. Developing terminals to access the small satellite segment is in our plan. However, considering the size of the opportunity in the plus 200 kg satellite market, we plan to concentrate first on capturing a major share of that market.
SMW: CONDOR MK 3 is your latest product. According to your website, it supports link distances up to 7,500 km. Some competitive products offer greater ranges than your terminals. Is range a critical consideration?
The range requirements are specified by the customer and use case. The customer always identifies the orbit, the range between the satellites and the data they need to transfer. So, all these factors go into determining the overall performance. You can always extend the range if you lower your data rate expectations.
SMW: What about funding? Will you need to raise capital?
Mynaric is a listed company on the Frankfurt stock exchange, which allows us to raise capital as required. We raise what we need to fund our growth needs and are not reliant on NRE from programs.
SMW: When does this market reach critical mass?
In late-2022 through 2024, we will see an initial wave of mass deployments of OCTs — not just a few that are undergoing proof of concept. We are gearing up our production significantly to meet delivery demands in multiple hundreds by late 2022-2023
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Tina Ghataore is the Chief Commercial Officer of Mynaric and the President of Mynaric USA and leads the company’s efforts to position Mynaric as the preferred laser communication provider for aerospace application for both government and commercial markets.
Prior to joining Mynaric, she was the Executive Vice President of Inflight Connectivity Solutions at Yahsat, a leading UAE Satellite Operator where she was responsible for the overall strategy and execution of enabling Yahsat to launch into Mobility Satcom Services business.
Tina brings 20+ years of experience in the aerospace/aviation and telecom industries. In 2007 she founded The EKKAM Group, a strategic management consulting firm focused on serving clients in the aerospace/aviation and telecom industries.
Prior to starting her own consulting business, Tina served as Director of Broadband Communications at Panasonic Avionics Corporation.
Tina started her career at The Boeing Company’s Satellite Systems business unit.
She has a Bachelor of Honors Degree in Aerospace Engineering from Kingston University in the U.K. and is also a graduate of the International Space University.
Driven by the proliferation of Imaging and Communications LEO satellites, the demand for optical inter-satellite links is soaring. By incorporating optical terminals into their LEOs, operators can limit the number of ground stations they need, deliver images in real-time and backhaul bandwidth-intensive data to any location on the planet.
To find learn more about SpaceLink and the compelling economic advantages the company offers, we visited with CEO Dave Bettinger.
SMW: I think SpaceLink is an exciting concept. Can you give us some background? How did you and your colleagues develop the idea, and how did you turn it into a company?
Ben Greene, the CEO, and founder of SpaceLink’s parent company, Electro Optic Systems, Australia’s leading home-grown space and defense company, has been interested in space data applications for many years.
As recently as five years ago, he recognized that the new generation of LEO Earth observation satellites spend most of their time out of communications with the ground, limiting the timeliness and value of the data they collect. Around that time, another company, Audacy, had an idea for a MEO-based data relay service but ran short of funding. Electro Optical Systems acquired their spectrum, over 21 GHz, which was originally intended to be the backbone of its MEO space-relay network infrastructure.
EOS founded SpaceLink last fall. When I came on board as CEO, we realized that while the acquired RF spectrum would be required for some key applications, optical data transmission is the future. So, we re-architected our network design to encompass an optical-RF hybrid data infrastructure. That’s how SpaceLink was born.
SMW: The basis of your service is near real-time transmission of high-value imaging and scientific data. A secondary benefit is eliminating the need for a small LEO satellite operator to have ground stations. Are there other benefits?
There are several significant components of our value proposition.
We can provide access at any time to any LEO spacecraft from 350 km and above. Operators don’t have to wait until their LEOs pass over a ground station. Their satellites are always in sight of one of our optically inter-linked MEOs. At any time, they can download high-resolution imagery, receive tasking, and do TT&C (Telemetry, Tracking and Command).
Optical user terminals provide much higher data rates, consume less power, and are smaller and lighter than their RF counterparts. These efficiencies make them much more attractive to users than, for example, the 256 Kbps L-Band relay developed by Inmarsat and Singaporean company, AddValue.
Using our optical relay, LEO broadband satellite operators can inter-link their satellites with a single optical terminal on each rather than the four typically required, thereby realizing substantial savings.
Let’s not forget about the ground segment cost savings. Some Earth observation constellation operators have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve only partial global coverage and sacrifice the ability to bring their data down at preferred locations. SpaceLink eliminates this cost and inconvenience.
Cybersecurity is another significant benefit, especially for the military. We can land data at a secure gateway located in sovereign U.S. territory, eliminating the risk of data transmission over unsecured terrestrial networks.
SMW: I understand your target market is any LEO satellite with massive date transmission requirements and the need for real-time access to the data, for example, optical, infrared, and hyperspectral satellites, civilian and military. Is that correct? Can you give some examples of typical target customers?
The demand for real-time data goes across multiple segments. In addition to the military, satellites monitoring fires, floods, and other natural disasters, companies like Astroscale and Momentus that manage space debris and extend the life of satellites, and those involved in human space flight, need continuous connectivity to monitor their activities. Other potential users include the International Space Station and Axiom, building a module to connect with the ISS, and even aircraft. Typically, our market is any activity that requires real-time connectivity to the ground.
SMW: Can you say more about the Space Development Agency Network. Isn’t the Agency one of your target customers?
SDA is creating a mesh network of sensor and communications satellites. SDA standards are driving the development of optical terminals that will be interoperable with multiple constellations. Interoperability will drive higher production and lower cost for optical communications. We see them as a desirable potential partner. That’s why we are making sure that our network is entirely compatible with their optical and Ka-band RF networks.
SMW: In terms of infrastructure, you will be dealing with many different types of satellites. While it’s clear that your four MEOs in orbit will be optically inter-linked, how do you get the data from the client satellites to your MEOs? Do the client LEOs have to have optical terminals, or can they use RF?
We provide clients with either optical or RF connectivity. Looking forward, we expect most users to select laser connectivity because the user terminals provide significantly higher data rates with smaller terminal size, power, and mass requirements. Some legacy users and certain other users will prefer RF, and we provide connectivity for them as well.
SMW: Won’t it be challenging to convince target clients to line fit optical terminals on their future satellites? How do you overcome the cost issues associated with adding these terminals?
The data rate possible through an optical terminal is much greater than through an RF terminal, and the transmission is much more secure.
Optical terminals are also smaller, lighter, and draw less power, making our solution very attractive to any LEO operator who needs secure high-speed, real-time connectivity. Optical terminals are a bit more expensive. However, the customers will experience rapid payback through enhanced utilization of their on-orbit assets.
To hasten the adoption of our optical relay solution, we provide technical support and other assistance to operators that want to integrate the SpaceLink solution. Our objective is to ensure a ready market for us when we launch our service and deliver immediate benefits to users. By the time the SpaceLink network is online, we expect the demand for optical connectivity to be rapidly expanding.
SMW: Can optical terminals from two different manufacturers communicate with each other?
In the past, optical communications technologies have been proprietary, meaning different manufacturers’ terminals could not communicate with one another. However, recently, DARPA and the Space Development Agency have brought together multiple vendors and directed them to implement an optical interface standard, making their terminals interoperable. Mynaric and others have already demonstrated interoperability. The advantage for SpaceLink is that we can now source products from multiple manufacturers without interoperability concerns.
SMW: What are the critical features of an optical terminal, and why did you choose Mynaric and Blue Marble Communications?
We require two optical terminals for our service, one on the client satellite, and one on our MEO. The LEO terminals are available from multiple providers, for example, Mynaric, Blue Marble, SA Photonics, and Tesat. We recently contracted with Mynaric for the client and MEO terminals and Blue Marble Communications for another MEO terminal. Both Mynaric and Blue Marble can meet our performance, programmatic, and cost requirements.
SMW: I note you plan to transmit from satellites to the ground using a traditional satellite VSAT link. Why not use optical?
RF space-to-ground communications ensure the high level of availability, 99.9%, required by our clients, a level of reliability that not currently achievable with optical technology. We use the Q- and V-bands because they offer sufficient bandwidth to support our 40 Gbps data rate requirement. Each ground station operates three antennas placed 100 km apart to provide the diversity necessary to achieve 99.9% availability. Utilizing optical ground stations would require many more gateways and would be significantly more costly.
However, optical space-to-ground communications is the way of the future, and EOS is a leader in this technology. We will test optical ground links with our first-generation system and expect that ultimately we'll use both RF and optical for space-to-ground communications.
SMW: What is the business model? How does SpaceLink generate revenue? Do you charge by volume of data transmitted?
We plan to charge by either data volume transmitted or time on the system, depending upon the user's needs. For example, we would charge the International Space Station by time and imaging clients by data volume.
SMW: What is your timetable for launch, and when will your MEO network be operational?
Our system will be launched and operational in mid-2024.
an Optical Relay Network in Space
CEO Dave Bettinger
SpaceLink Optical Relay Network
David Bettinger is a business and technology visionary with 30 years of experience in system engineering, focused on innovative satellite communications. He is a strategic thinker with a track record of capturing opportunities.
Before joining SpaceLink, Mr. Bettinger was VP of the Communications Systems and Advanced Development Group at OneWeb. He was a founding me
At OneWeb he was successful in supporting investment activities and was responsible for the corporate technology roadmap
Previous to his role at OneWeb, Mr. Bettinger spent more than a decade as CTO and Senior VP of Engineering at ST Engineering iDirect, a $250 million satellite communications technology company which provided VSAT solutions to over 400 customers in 120 countries.
Mr. Bettinger began his career at Hughes Network Systems where he was a member of the Technical Staff in the Satellite Networks Division.
A graduate of Virginia Tech, Mr. Bettinger earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1989 and a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1992.
There are many mobility related satellite industry events, most of which have gone virtual or been postponed due to COVID 19.
****RESCHEDULED: Asia Pacific Maritime: Singapore: Live Show 16-18 March 2022:
Biggest maritime show in Asia.
****SMM: Hamburg, Germany RESCHEDULED September 6-9 2022: A must attend for those interested in VSAT use in the cargo segments.
*** RESCHEDULED AGAIN: CABSAT: LIVE: October 26-28, 2021 Dubai, UAE
*****COMMUNICASIA: LIVE AND VIRTUAL
June 8-10, 2022 Singapore: The most important communications event in Asia.
*****Satellite 2022 Washington D.C. March 21-24. Walter E. Washington Covnetion Center. The year's most important Trade Show/Conference Event. Great for an industry overview. Many good break away sessions on specific topics.
***IBC: September 10-13 2021, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
******WORLD SATELLITE BUSINESS WEEK: LIVE RESCHEDULED AGAIN - Now, December 13-16, 2021The Westin Paris, France. A must attend. The most important satellite conference of the year. and best networking opportunity.
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