In a new era with many small satellites swarming around the Earth these constellations need to be safe, efficient and reliable. In April 2019, Hyperion and the Royal NLR signed an MoU for a collaboration. Both companies aim for future solutions in the area of small satellites.
At an altitude of 350 kilometres or higher we encounter many small satellites these days. Those that belong to one collective contribute to the same mission, ideally in an autonomous way. Such collaborative constellations can provide numerous advantages compared to the traditional bigger satellites that – most of the time – operate on their own. For instance the revisit times can be reduced drastically and they have the benefit to deal with gradual degradation (if one small satellite fails, the other in the constellation can take over). Also tasks can be shared as some of them can be dedicated to measurements, while others can communicate data to earth.
“Both types of functionality ask for intelligent solutions”, states NLR Vice President Aerospace Systems Mark van Venrooij. “Together with the industry NLR aims to develop key technologies for small satellites and their constellations. This is where both Dutch parties can strengthen each other: the expertise and knowledge of NLR combined with the hands-on know-how and experience of Hyperion”.
Bert Monna, CEO of Hyperion, fully agrees: “At Hyperion, we like exploring products that do not exist yet and for this we strongly believe in co-engineering with partners such as NLR. Together we want to develop a hardware platform for modern, high-performance computing, as well as solutions to bottlenecks in communication, for example deployable antennas for small satellites.”
Small satellites use more and more high-resolution sensors, but have, on the other hand, a limited downlink capacity due to constraints because of their small size. Progress in low-power on-board computers however enables more sophisticated processing in the satellite itself. So, preferably not all data but only processed and relevant information is sent to Earth. New computational techniques are very promising for helping to achieve these objectives. Hyperion and NLR will join forces in the ambition to develop these solutions, hardware and software, for small satellites.
Deployable antennas and higher frequencies
“For the desired bandwidth antennas need to be big enough. Available volume during launch is very limited though. This means that antennas for small satellites need to be deployable in a smart way. Together Hyperion and NLR want to develop such antennas including supporting electronics”, explains Van Venrooij. According Monna the complexity also relates to the radio communication. “Another approach is the usage of frequencies in the X-band or Ku-band. A lot of research still needs to be done. Therefore, once more: the collaboration of NLR and Hyperion is a good next step in this mutual exploration”.
About NLR – Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre
NLR is a leading international research centre for aerospace. Its mission is to make air transport safer, more efficient, more effective and more sustainable. Bolstered by its multidisciplinary expertise and unrivalled research facilities, NLR provides innovative and comprehensive solutions to the complex challenges of the aerospace sector. NLR’s activities span the full spectrum of Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation (RDT & E). Given NLR’s specialist knowledge and state-of-the-art facilities, companies turn to NLR for validation, verification, qualification, simulation and evaluation. They also turn to NLR because of its deep engagement with the challenges facing our clients. In this way, NLR bridges the gap between research and practical applications, while working for both government and industry at home and abroad. For more information, go to www.nlr.org.
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