Satellite communication technology has evolved to the point that even very small satellites in low Earth orbit can have robust “comms” with ground stations. How do they do it?
One of the companies that is taking advantage of advances in satellite communications is Toronto based Kepler Communications.
The constellation of small satellites they are building relies on their custom Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based software-designed radio design.
In a presentation at the University of Toronto, Jeff Cassidy, a Digital Design Engineer at Kepler Communications, spoke to students about FPGA based software-designed radio design.
Below is the video of the talk and presentation (PDF) for you to follow along with.
Talk abstract: It is an exciting time for the space industry, with a rapidly increasing number of launch providers fostering competition to drive down prices, a growing ecosystem of manufacturers and vendors, increased participation by private companies and startups, and technological advances that enable massive reductions in cost and time. Communications nano-satellites (1-10kg weight class) are becoming increasingly capable at a weight and cost two orders of magnitude lower than previous-generation systems like Iridium.
FPGA-based Software-Defined Radio (SDR) is one of those crucial enabling technologies for size, weight, power, cost, and time to market. In Kepler’s case, it took less than two years to go from seed funding to a satellite on orbit providing services. Additionally, it permits live experiments with enhancements, and agility to meet customer needs through support for a variety of protocols and uses.
The talk will be in three parts followed by Q&A:
– Introduction to satellite communications, with emphasis on low earth orbit (LEO) and small satellites.
– The components of software-defined radio and the role of FPGAs in implementing it.
– How Kepler Communications is using these technologies to provide global connectivity and build the internet in space.