In-orbit software update gives satellite PTT capabilities

Monday, 18 March, 2024

In-orbit software update gives satellite PTT capabilities

Fleet Space Technologies, an Australian space exploration company, has announced the successful demonstration of satellite-enabled push-to-talk (PTT) capabilities for the Australian Defence Force Joint Capabilities Group as part of the ASCEND2LEO program. This achievement is said to signify a major leap forward in tactical communications capabilities, cementing Fleet Space as one of the few companies to demonstrate PTT capabilities via satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO).

The ASCEND2LEO program aims to develop and demonstrate a LEO satellite communications system leveraging Fleet Space’s next-gen Centauri satellites to deliver tactical voice and data transmission where connectivity is limited. Built with 3D-printed, all-metal patch antennas and advanced field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), the Centauri satellites can be reprogrammed to deliver high-quality, fit-for-purpose voice capabilities while in orbit, as per the new demonstration. This milestone in PTT capabilities opens a path to a future enabled by secure, instantaneous communications across vast distances using highly advanced microsatellite architectures.

During the live demonstration, hosted by the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), Fleet Space’s PTT capabilities performed well according to a strict criterion for one-way voice transmission, including voice quality, reliability and link persistence across thousands of kilometres in manifold operational environments. The SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre and Safety from Space supported Fleet Space by adapting a variant of the ‘Beagle’ communications waveform, developed under previously SmartSat-funded projects, which was implemented on the Centauri-4 satellite for the demonstration.

Voice capabilities for the reprogrammable satellite were enabled via software update, establishing a proof of concept for the Regenerative Voice System architecture underlying the ASCEND2LEO program. As a result, the demonstration validated the ability of highly adaptable microsatellite constellations to rapidly deliver purpose-built, high-quality SATCOM capabilities at scale to meet complex needs in diverse scenarios.

“Enabling an entirely new voice capability for a satellite that is already in orbit is a tremendous technical accomplishment,” said Peter Kerr, Defence & National Security Coordinator at SmartSat. “With this proof of concept, SmartSat is playing a critical role in helping Australian industry develop SATCOM resiliency for Defence and validate the Regenerative Voice System architecture which is a powerful and ambitious approach undertaken by the ASCEND2LEO program.”

“Custom waveforms are a critical part of enabling high-performing satellite capabilities,” added Dr Mark Rice, founder of Safety From Space. “We’re excited to continue working with partners to help build secure and resilient satellite-based solutions in support of the ambitious objectives of the Australian private and public sectors.”

With this successful demonstration, Fleet Space has shown the ability of its satellites to support critical missions and enable the development of a resilient space infrastructure for Australia and its allies around the world. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Matt Pearson, said Fleet Space was “proud to be the developer and operator of the world’s smallest known voice-enabled satellite, creating new innovation pathways to advance new capabilities for the global space industry and beyond”.

Image credit: Fleet Space Technologies.

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