An agreement signed by Inmarsat and flight hardware manufacturer Addvalue, together with a leading satellite operator, is set to streamline the way that commercial and research operations for small, near earth orbit satellites are conducted.
The agreement will allow spacecraft to stay in continuous communications with their operation centre on the ground, thereby enabling mission tasking and mission data delivery in near real time. It heralds the first constellation of Inter-Satellite Data Relay System (IDRS) equipped satellites, one that will provide a game-changing capability for satellite operators.
Previously, low earth orbiting (LEO) satellite connectivity has been limited to when the spacecraft is within line-of-sight of a ground station. This delays in-orbit testing, mission control and fault-finding efforts. With IDRS on-board, satellite operators will have access to on-demand, 24/7, near real-time, two-way IP-based links to all of their assets. This will allow them to respond to customer requirements and to operational anomalies in a timelier manner.
Addvalue has worked with Inmarsat to develop a terminal suitable for deployment on a wide range of satellites, even down to small satellites within the sub-50 kg class.
The Addvalue terminal on board the satellite will communicate to its operations centre via Inmarsat’s award-winning global network. The highly reliable geostationary network is uniquely suited to delivering IDRS – a cost effective, low-latency, on-demand data communications system – to support commercial and scientific missions. The combination of lightweight and small form factor on-board equipment plus low cost makes the system ideal for carrying out telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) communications and mission tasking, receiving mission data monitoring, trouble-shooting and restoring operations.
Todd McDonell, Vice President of Global Government at Inmarsat, said: “This service enables the constellation to be controlled and to transfer mission data via Inmarsat’s global geostationary satellite communications network, wherever and whenever required. This will help low earth orbit satellite operators to achieve their mission more effectively and will broaden the capability that they will be able to offer their users. What’s even more exciting is that this is only the first of a set of potential commercial and research missions appropriate for the IDRS service.”
Dr Colin Chan, Chairman and CEO of Addvalue, commented: “We are truly pleased to announce the signing of our first IDRS contract with a satellite operator. We believe our customer’s use of IDRS, with its unrivalled communications capability, will significantly improve the operational efficiency of their multi-satellite low orbit earth constellation.
“This contract recognises the unique value of IDRS and we strongly believe IDRS will disrupt the way future commercial and research satellite constellations are operated. We are fully committed to ensuring its successful delivery as we pursue other IDRS projects and grow our IDRS customer base. Indeed, some of these projects are already in an advanced stage of discussion.”