Let’s start with a reality check. There are 750 million people around the world who do not have basic communication services because the communications infrastructure necessary to provide access is not available where they live, according to GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications). At the same time, about 3 billion people in the world could have access to mobile broadband (3G / 4G) coverage but they are not connecting for different reasons, be that unaffordability or lack of consumer readiness1.
It’s one thing being aware of the statistics, but quite another to take action. Cross-sector collaboration should come forward and pick up the baton for not only bringing the situation to light but also for tackling the obstacles in a multi-faceted approach.
When it comes to rural unconnected territories where mobile operators do not find commercial feasibility to build terrestrial networks, non-terrestrial networks can provide affordable and reliable broadband services. What is more, space can cover even hard-to-reach areas and difficult terrains - say, the Arctic or Sub-Saharan Africa, where deploying terrestrial networks can prove itself unearthly expensive.
Obviously, pure connectivity doesn’t entail space as the only solution, although it is one of the main solutions. Safe to say, we are witnessing the early days of a hybrid game changer consisting of terrestrial, non-terrestrial, and other solutions.
The world is at your radio links
Since Marconi’s pioneering work with rudimentary transmitters, telecommunications technology has progressed incredibly fast, all the way to modern broadband mobile communications serving high-density areas. The critical role space technology plays in bringing these key advancements to remote areas and to aerospace & maritime applications, cannot be overlooked.
The global satellite telecommunications market is expected to grow from $39.78 billion in 2022 to $41.70 billion in 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8%, states the Business Research Company. In 2027 the market is expected to reach $47.77 billion at a CAGR of 3.5%2.
As satellite telecommunication is the most mature space application, technological advancement in the area isn’t waiting around the corner and, thus, gaining popularity among New Space companies, which only feeds into the market development trend.
Satellite telecommunication aims at transferring information with the use of artificial satellites to establish communication linkages between various locations on Earth. Broadly speaking, connecting two points on the ground can serve for numerous applications, such as broadcasting, videoconference systems, tele-medicine, tele-education et al, by various verticals such as government and defence, energy and utility, transport and cargo, mining and oil, agriculture, communication companies, media, and others.
How does it work? Telecommunications satellites (SatCom) are usually placed in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO), that is 35 786 kilometres above Earth's equator and follows the direction of Earth's rotation. A satellite, placed in GEO, has an orbital period equal to Earth's rotational period, so for a person stationed on the ground it appears motionless at a fixed position in the sky.
Radio links have been the weapons of choice for transferring data from satellites to the ground. The space has been using advanced frequency-division multiplexing or time-division multiplexing techniques to squeeze as many customers as possible into a single communications satellite. Called multiple access, it allows several carriers from several earth stations to access a SatCom’s antenna. SatCom networks can be based on a single-beam antenna payload or multibeam antenna payload. In the context of a single-beam payload, the carriers transmitted by earth stations access the same satellite receiving antenna beam, and these same earth stations can receive all the carriers retransmitted by the same antenna3. What is truly astonishing is that a single satellite can reach thousands of users and serve thousands of terminals.
That said, telecommunications satellites do not exclusively belong to GEO; they can also be placed into LEO, being visible from any place for 10–20 minutes at a time. To guarantee continuity of service, a constellation of tens of satellites would need to be deployed.
One Small Step, One Giant Leap
Even though increased demand for small satellites in the telecommunications and Earth Observation (EO) areas dates back all the way to the 1990s, such trailblazing technologies as Over-The-Top services and Internet Protocol Television have recently resulted in yet another boost for satellites in small form factor.
Small satellites are used to advertise conventional satellite applications in data communications, earth exploration, space research, and many other fields; hence, the increase in the demand for small satellites for these services is expected to boost the satellite telecommunications market as well.
ReOrbit is actively developing state-of-the-art small GEO telecommunications satellites (Small SatCom) that are cost-efficient yet highly capable with a unique set of features (with a goal of having advanced 5G protocols, autonomous orbit keeping and failure detection, isolation and recovery, and more). Our software-first approach enables a satellite to adapt to different missions thanks to the advanced flexible architecture, as opposed to hardware-first approach when even a slight change in a subsystem has a substantial impact on the overall design and software protocols, in particular. This usually mounts up to a substantial part of non-recurring engineering cost, whereas we can massively decrease that cost by treating hardware as a commodity.
Several different services can be enabled by ReOrbit’s Small SatCom, compatible with most ground station providers – from high-throughput satellites to highly secure military applications. What is more, it features autonomous orbit keeping and failure detection, isolation and recovery.
ReOrbit’s Small SatCom provides unparalleled reliability, efficiency and flexibility in GEO, but that’s not all. Given the highly flexible software-first architecture, ReOrbit can adapt security levels to different customer needs, switching it from a vague concept to a tangible design aspect.
Moreover, when talking about communications satellites, most networks are owned or operated directly and indirectly by a handful of countries. Naturally, this raises an interest from different sovereign nations to have their data flow through their own networks and infrastructures. ReOrbit enables these countries to build thriving independent space ecosystems to locally manufacture satellites, by transferring knowledge and supporting with vast experience.
At ReOrbit, we develop technologies to make spacecraft platforms modular and configurable. Our main focus is streamlining data flow. Why do we put such a spotlight on moving data fast in space? Simple as that, to deliver timely and flexible missions at any orbit, you always need your data at hand, for augmented situational awareness and value-driven decision-making. Real-time data flow is pivotal to enhance connectivity and connect the unconnected, especially when it comes to integration of terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks aimed at closing the digital divide around the world.