With more than 12,000 attendees, Satellite 2023 brought everyone together to solve global challenges, bridge the digital divide, increase access to space, cultivate new innovation and future leadership, collaborate on policy, and network with colleagues and peers. We have some thoughts on the products that we saw at the show, but first we cover the conference tracks to get some insight into the challenges and opportunities facing this industry. We recorded 4 video demos and created a photo gallery.
With the recent developments from Apple, Qualcomm and satellite service providers enabling mobile phones to connect to satellites for SOS and SMS-type messages, it was no surprise that several panel sessions addressed how the wireless industry and satellite industry can partner. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, many of these discussions asked the question; “should we partner more closely with the wireless industry”. The catalyst for this discussion is the wider deployment of 5G terrestrial networks and emerging 6G discussions and developments. The satellite industry has done a good job of becoming a complement and not a competitor to terrestrial wireless networks, so participation in the evolution of wireless networks seems like a given, but the speakers brought up some interesting points.
Most of the pushback against closer integration of terrestrial wireless and satellite networks revolved around standardization. This may just be growing pains and it likely reflects the relative positions of wireless and satellite along the maturity curve, but some of the speakers were arguing against standardization. The basis of this argument was that the mobile industry only understands standards, but the satellite industry is currently differentiating based on custom systems and capabilities. The feeling was that the satellite industry had focused on technology and not regulations or standards and changing that course would not be helpful to the industry in the short term. Timing is important in this analysis because almost everyone agreed that at some point, standardization would be a good thing, but the concern was the best way to get to the point in the future.
The other interesting argument against closer integration between wireless and satellite had to do with the business model. Several speakers questioned where the customers would go as terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks become more integrated. The underlying issues seemed to include who is responsible for solving network issues and perhaps more importantly, who recognizes the revenue. These issues seem, perhaps a bit simplistically, to be similar to early wireless roaming issues. While these issues created turbulence in the wireless market, they were solved and that is probably a template to address these challenges for the wireless and satellite operators.
The industry tracks also showcased some impressive aspirations and technology. The conference is set in Washington D. C. and that helped reinforce the point that the satellite industry addresses the defense industry in addition to the commercial industry. One of the speakers declared “there is no such thing as a commercial network, everything is a partnership”. That statement reflects the growing cooperation and sharing of resources and assets between governments and commercial companies. It also recognizes that much of the satellite development funding comes from government agencies.
The aspirational focus was on making communications, connectivity and earth observation better and more ubiquitous. The goal was not only to close the digital divide, giving everyone equal access to services but to also expand those service offerings to improve the lives of everyone. Speakers were talking about the benefits space would provide to the pharmaceutical, bioengineering and manufacturing industries, with visions of more effective drugs, biomedical devices and materials.
To enable the network architectures needed for ubiquitous high-speed connectivity, the industry is refining optical links for inter-satellite mesh networks that are capable of 100 Gbps speeds and immune to interference. More of the ground infrastructure will be put into the cloud to minimize CAPEX and OPEX and improve service capability. Not unexpectedly, cost is an issue as is the path to increasing the efficiency of these networks to reduce this cost per gigabit of data metric.
Flat panel beam steering arrays are starting to take a strong foothold in the market with many technologies and solutions available. From metamaterial beamsteering, to phased arrays to rotating antenna disks, there are several approaches being used to minimize power consumption, size and weight while delivering the performance needed.
The exhibition hall was buzzing with the attendees and more than 300 exhibiting companies, many of whom advertise with and provide editorial content to Microwave Journal. The booths were a good place to see products and services from suppliers along the entire supply chain.
We visited many of the RF and microwave companies in the exhibition – here is a summary of what we found:
AmpliTech debuted its newly released MMIC amplifiers and showed off its line of space-grade amplifiers and passive components. The company's product portfolio spans the frequency range from 50 kHz to 44 GHz and also features the lowest noise, lowest power-dissipating amplifiers. AmpliTech also recently began offering system integration services to further reduce implementation complexity and lead times generally associated with rolling out next-gen communication systems.
CesiumAstro announced its entry into the in flight connectivity (IFC) market, providing the industry’s most advanced multi-beam active phased array for airborne satellite communications applications. As the leading designer of active phased array technology for LEO space, CesiumAstro will provide the first multi-beam make-before-break phased array supporting multiple Ka-band constellations for airborne commercial and defense markets. The high performance yet cost effective system is designed as a scalable solution for a wide range of airborne platforms spanning large commercial aircraft, business jets, helicopters, and unmanned aerial systems. CesiumAstro’s new IFC system is scheduled for multiple flight demonstrations with Airbus commercial aircraft and helicopters. These demonstrations will showcase the scalability and flexibility of the solution and its ability to connect to multiple satellites and orbits at one time, enabling make-before-break handoff, and other key features that enhance overall quality of service.
Crane Aerospace & Electronics showcased their industry leading power conversion and patented Multi-Mix® product solutions. Additionally, the team showcased our long space heritage in DC-DC converters and passive RF products. Newly qualified to MIL PRF 38534, class K our SMP120 was featured at the show, our first converter running off a nominal 100V bus. Our MSQP product line with over 100 space qualified products were also on display. Together, these highly reliable products have been space qualified for over 50 years on multiple satellites and payloads from LEO to Deep Space.
Delta Electronics was featuring their threaded (SMP-T, SMPM-T and SMP3-T) and ganged (SMP-G, SMPM-G and SMP3-G) RF connectors. You can choose your configuration using any Delta SMP(X)-G or SMP(X)-T connector or create a custom design.
ERZIA Technologies is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, the company is launched several new products, expanding its facilities, and exhibiting at all the industry’s main events in 2023. In addition, there will be multiple celebrations with its customers and employees throughout the year starting with Satellite 2023. Over the past two decades, ERZIA has experienced tremendous growth and innovative success, expanding its reach into Electronic Warfare, Aeronautics, SATCOM, Radar, and Space industries across the globe. One new power amplifier they were featuring is a Ka-band 29-31 GHz HPA with 46 dBm of output power and 45 dB gain. ERZIA has also added a line of equalizers, switches and mixers.
ETL Systems launched Genus Digital to enable government and defense organizations, satellite operators, broadcasters and telcos to fully or partially digitize the analog signal in their satellite ground segments. The new technology will enable customers to improve operational flexibility, resilience and redundancy by making it possible to sample analog signals then transport them as IP packets for reconstruction at another location. This is a key requirement for interfacing to a virtual environment as the virtualization movement within the ground segment gains pace. One of the many benefits of Digital IF is the flexibility it will allow, enabling the physical decoupling of antennas from modems. Being able to geographically separate system elements, with no impact on signal quality, enables ‘behind the wire’ encryption, reducing the risk of exposure. Working as part of the Digital Intermediate Frequency Interoperability (DIFI) Consortium, ETL Systems has ensured that the technology aligns with an open, interoperable Digital IF/RF standard. Sold as an individual component rather than a turnkey solution, it facilitates easier re-routing of signals via IP addressing, as well as removing the need for specific fiber types required for RF over Fiber.
Gilat Satellite Networks and ST Engineering iDirect announced a successful proof of concept (PoC) of converting analog signals to digital signals utilizing the DIFI 1.1 Standard, developed by the DIFI consortium. The demonstration, being held during the Satellite 2023 event in Washington, D.C., lays strong foundations for the goal of interoperability. The standard provides a path to enable the digital transformation of the space industry by providing interoperability at the IF/RF layer. The standard will enable all manufacturers to build interoperable technologies that work in both open and closed network topologies, resulting in highly flexible networks and enabling the industry to respond rapidly to customer demands. The two companies are showcased that an iDirect modulator can output a digitized signal that conforms to the DIFI standard and is interoperable with a BUC from Gilat’s fully owned subsidiary, Wavestream. A DIFI v1.1 link, between the modem and BUC, carries the digitized waveform over a 10 Gbps fiber connection. The modem’s output waveform is DVB-S2X, but the digital link is waveform agnostic.
Greenerwave is addressing SATCOM applications with a unique solution that boosts the potential of LEO and GEO satellites. Its technology, based on intelligent reflectors, maintains a low-latency broadband connection between a moving or geostationary satellite and a flat mobile antenna. Agnostic to protocol, easy to install, cheap and energy efficient, this solution could in time free up land-based infrastructures and put an end to white spots. Greenerwave designs metasurfaces comprising elements that shape electromagnetic waves. These metasurfaces consist of a group of elements of centimetric size called pixels that act as micro-mirrors. Each pixel can modify the sign of the reflected wave. Interactions between pixels and microwaves are managed by algorithms derived from the world of physics that direct waves after their reflection on the surface. This passive and low cost technology aims to improve the use of electromagnetic waves to lower energy consumption and infrastructure costs.
Hughes Network Systems discussed their JUPITER System that operates on more than 75 satellites globally to enable multiple services, including consumer internet, enterprise networking, cellular backhaul and community Wi-Fi hotspots. System features include private cloud-delivered network management, dynamic traffic load balancing across gateways and data centers, and smart software for orchestration and management – all to meet operator needs for high performance and scalability. Hughes announced that Stargroup, a Mexican telecommunications and entertainment company, has selected the Hughes JUPITER™ System and managed satellite broadband to extend LTE service to customers in rural communities and also that “UZ-SAT”, JV LLC (UZ-SAT), a joint venture among “Uzbektelecom” JSC, “Satellin Group” LLC and private enterprise in the Uzbekistan Republic, has chosen the Hughes JUPITER™ System ground platform to power satellite solutions to help close the digital divide.
Intellian Technologies unveiled their ARC-M4 Block 1 that provides simultaneous X- and Military Ka-bands plus all commercial Ka, the Block 1 marks the next extension of Intellian’s Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) certified products. Intellian’s ARC-M4 Block 1 is a tri-band terminal for X-band, MIL Ka-band and ultra-wide 2.5 GHz commercial Ka-band networks. Naval customers can utilize simultaneous X-band and Ka-band transmit and receive when operating on a WGS satellite, giving unprecedented layers of resilient connectivity and throughput for mission critical operations. Intellian’s flat panel user terminal portfolio includes solutions designed to operate across fixed enterprise, land mobility, maritime, government and defense sectors. The full-duplex ESA user terminal will operate on the OneWeb satellite network, with production slated to commence in Q3 2023.