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ESA Open Invitation to Tender: 1-11453
Open Date: 03/10/2022 09:24 CEST
Closing Date: 30/11/2022 13:00 CEST

Several recent projects have sought to evolve the existing CubeSat and microsatellite design concept. Whilst some of these initiatives have simply sought to reduce overall spacecraft size, others have investigated changing the aspect ratio of the satellite design, i.e., moving away from a cube form toward a flatter' form factor. A high aspect ratio satellite configuration provides several advantages over a more traditional design. With the continued miniaturisation of electronics, solar array and antenna accommodation are becoming more significant spacecraft design drivers than total mass for an increasing number of missions. With a thinner spacecraft configuration, there is an increase in the total surface area for a given volume, providing more room to mount solar arrays, radiator panels, antennas, and sensors. With the resulting increase in available power-to-mass ratio, such designs might allow high delta-v electric propulsion subsystems to be incorporated, enabling orbit raising or formation flying applications for example. Another advantage of high aspect ratio spacecraft is that in regular (cube form) satellite designs the electronics need to be accommodated within a 3-dimensional space, necessitating the use of interconnect and bulky harnesses. A flatter structure allows larger PCBs to be used within a given payload volume and therefore reduces complex harness routing, as well as simplifying mechanical structures and making satellite AIT easier. Recent illustrations of this concept include the Starlink spacecraft design, which can be stacked extremely efficiently inside the SpaceX Falcon 9 fairing because of its high aspect ratio, and at the same time provides a large area within which to mount the mission's phased-array antenna. The Aerospace Corporation has also recently proposed a concept called Disk Satcom prising a disk of approximately 1 m in diameter which is deployed from a dispenser. This concept is driven by the need for more DC power and area for RF apertures, and results in a containerised and almost two-dimensional satellite bus which is only 2.5 cm thick. This configuration can also be easily stacked in a smaller launcher such as Rocket Lab's Electron. Such a concept can generate much more power per unit mass than a traditional satellite, and without the complexity of deployable appendages. Swarm (USA) have demonstrated IoT services based on their U high (i.e., 2.5 x 10 x 10 cm) platform with approximately 120 spacecraft in orbit. In Europe, Mazarom Impex SRL (RO) have proposed a concept called CARD-SAT, which is also similar to the GROOVE concept from German Orbital Systems (DE). The proposed activity will therefore investigate the benefits and drawbacks of applying high aspect ratio satellite designs to satellite communication missions. The study will assess both the technical capabilities of, and the types of services that could be offered by, such designs and identify potential application markets. The activity will focus on small satellites, i.e., less than 300 kg, but given this still represents a wide size range, potential bidders will be invited to focus on either high aspect ratio CubeSats, or larger Microsatellite designs. Potential missions to be considered include Sat-AIS, ADS-B, VDES, IoT, M2M, Spectrum monitoring, and SSA, in addition to regular LEO broad band missions. The activity shall identify existing mission profiles for which such high aspect ratio satellites would be beneficial, or new applications which might be enabled by such satellites. The study shall make a comparison with regular satellite configurations using justified performance criteria for the identified missions and applications. Based on this analysis, the study will subsequently identify any capability gaps in the current European eco-system for realising the identified opportunities and make recommendations as to any required developments for technologies, products, and services. As high aspect ratio satellites are possibly very thin but also have large projected areas, issues of trackability', space situational awareness, space traffic management, and night sky pollution shall also be considered by the study. A number of non-European companies are already active in this field; therefore, an analysis of existing patents shall be part of this exercise. Dependent on the outcomes, The Executive will make recommendations and proposals as to how to support European industry capitalise on this developing market, possibly through follow-on ARTES activity. Presently, connectivity solutions for helicopters and UAVs are available in the MSS bands (L-Band) across networks such as Thuraya, Iridium and Inmarsat, but connection speeds are typically limited to below 384 Kbps. Several companies serving the United States' defence markets are now looking to leverage recent technology advances to provide more effective broadband satellite communication links. For example, Hughes Networks have utilised Getsat's MicroSat phased array antenna technology in conjunction with their own interleaving modem waveform to create a "bolt-on" aftermarket solution (HeloSat) that operates using Ku-Band geostationary satellite capacity. Viasat have also created a similar solution, and both have achieved throughputs of around 10 Mbps during proof-of-concept flight demonstrations. Whilst Air-to-Ground networks (such as the European Aviation Network, EAN) offer promising solutions in terms of throughput (EAN achieves peak data rates of 100 Mbps) and can use small form factor antenna equipment, such networks are optimised for higher altitude (circa 3000 m) operations, and therefore suffer significant gaps in coverage at lower altitudes. (Helicopter cruising altitudes can be as low as 100 m with UAVs operating at even lower altitudes). In addition to gaps in coverage between cell tower locations, terrestrial-based networks also typically only offer "best effort" connectivity solutions and cannot provide coverage in some areas where helicopter services are critical, e.g., seas beyond coastal areas and across remote regions. In the commercial airline and business jet markets, establishing effective broadband satellite connectivity has led to the introduction of a plethora of valuable downstream data services, including fleet operations management, route optimisation, real-time predictive analytics, and enhanced crew welfare and passenger experiences. In addition, the performance of many existing aircraft applications has been improved, such as search and rescue, disaster response, law enforcement, mapping, and surveillance. It is conceivable, should the right technical solutions emerge, that rotary-wing aircraft markets could mirror this growth trend and spawn new markets for devices, systems, and data services uniquely adapted for such versatile aircraft. The proposed activity will therefore explore the needs, requirements, opportunities, and potential solutions for establishing effective broadband satellite communication services to rotary winged aircraft including helicopters, commercial Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs),and Urban Air Mobility (UAMs) platforms. The starting point of this study would be to research current capabilities and limitations, as well as technical and non-technical requirements, such as regulatory and aircraft-imposed constraints. Additionally, an assessment of the applicable markets, use cases, and associated future market trends will be made to establish the economic potential for any envisaged solutions. The activity would generate requirements for use cases across both existing and emergent connected aircraft markets such as the media, entertainment, commercial, logistics, energy, mining, construction, emergency, agricultural, law enforcement, and security sectors. Military and defence applications will be surveyed to identify applicable technology that maybe adopted for civil applications. Following this initial information gathering phase, the st

Estabilishment: ECSAT
ECOS Required: No
Classified: No
Price Range: 200-500 KEURO
Authorised Contact Person: Florence Odette Jeanne Glandieres
Initiating Service: TIA-TFE
IP Measure: N/A
Prog. Reference: E/0501-01D - Future Prep 4.0.1
Tender Type: Open Competition
Technology Keywords: 8-A-I-Specification Methods and Tools / 8-A-II-Requirement Engineering / 8-C-I-Design and Simulation / 8-C-II-Multidisciplinary Analysis
Products Keywords: 2-N-1-Satellite Bus / 2-N-2-Primary Structures

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