Addressing Small Satellite Communications Issues

Recorded webinar: Addressing Small Satellite Communications Issues.

There are major communications issues confronting the small satellite community and it's important to address the approaches to this problem. Small satellites are becoming the top choice for many types of industries. These offer low cost of implementationbackup redundancy, and multiple simultaneous launches. The system features are small and homogeneous across the constellation operation.

Communications is the principal element needed to manage the satellite network, control the satellites, monitor the health of the space systems, and recover strategic mission data. Low Earth Orbit small satellites are agile and highly dynamic, moving at up to 8 kilometers per second. This alters satellite-to-satellite and satellite-to-ground geometries, causing continuous fluctuations in antenna orientation and gain, propagation environmental loss and noise, transmission delays, and Doppler frequency shifts. In addition, the small satellite size imposes constraints on the antenna size and gain, the RF power, and the satellite attitude. Considering current developments in space laser communications, RF and laser links may be mixed within a single constellation.

Dynamic communications link budget analyses are required to ensure reliable operations of these systems. Simplistic spreadsheet Link Budget tools fail to capture the highly dynamic nature of these communications systems. We will discuss methods for analyzing link budget in various levels of fidelity to match your design and operational needs. We also will present ways to visualize dynamic analytical satellite communications results in 2D and 3D.

An often-overlooked aspect of satellite communications is “keeping track custody” of the satellite, which generally means maintaining good positional knowledge of each spacecraft so that you can schedule activities, reacquire and command it as desired and ensure intra-satellite communications links. We will explain tracking data and sources, timeline for tracking, value of GPS, trackability enchantments, cross-tags, 18SPCS, SSA Data Sharing Agreement and telemetry ground station placement.  

Additionally, the FCC’s recently proposed rule-making changes plan to streamline the satellite system application process. Insights into the FCC’s current applications process for small satellites using Part 5 and Part 97 will also be shared, as well as the conditional approval of the SpaceX constellation as a recent example of the FCC’s Part 25 application process.

Check out our recorded webinar hosted by Haroon Rashid and Dan Oltrogge where they discuss these topics in more detail.