OneWeb and SatixFy UK plan to add a full digital payload on OneWeb’s launch schedule during 2021, according to the companies. The digital system will demonstrate the capability to flexibly support regional peaks in user demand without increasing the size of OneWeb’s satellite constellation.

The digital payload, with an onboard processing subsystem including chip-sets from SatixFy UK, will enable full beam hopping with both the forward and return links, as well as independent links with different capacities to the user and gateway. The design will use an electronically steered, multi-beam antenna with true time delay beam forming, which will enable pointing and switching multiple beams in multiple directions simultaneously.

The system will enable maximum capacity to be directed to hot-spots like airports, and the beam hopping will ensure seamless handover between beams and satellites. For example, a terminal on an aircraft used for in-flight connectivity will be able to link to LEO and GEO satellites simultaneously and maintain make-before-break connectivity between rising and setting LEO satellites.

This combination of capabilities will significantly boost the satellite constellation’s throughput without adding satellites. Areas with higher demand can be dynamically allocated capacity from areas with low demand.

The digital payload will also meet all national security requirements.

Massimiliano Ladovaz, CTO at OneWeb, said, “This leading-edge satellite will be fully operational and is a great opportunity to showcase what can be delivered with our payload technology. The improved performance, greater efficiency and targeted capacity, together with sophisticated ground infrastructure, puts us at the forefront of LEO communications network services.”

Yoel Gat CEO of the SatixFy Group, said, “We have designed several chip-sets across the full satellite value chain, including terminals, payloads and gateways, creating a full ecosystem based on our own software. This new OneWeb satellite will demonstrate all of these capabilities.”

The two companies are discussing a collaborative program with support from the European Space Agency and the U.K. Space Agency.

OneWeb launched its first test satellites in February 2019 and plans to start regular satellite launches to deploy the constellation this year, leading to global broadband service at the end of 2021.