Sky and Space Global tests narrowband, RF interference tools

Over the last 30 days, Sky and Space Global (SAS) announced it has successfully tested its narrowband communications network with Globalsat and demonstrated a capability to perform radio frequency interference (RFI) monitoring using its satellites.  Both steps are leading to building up a set of customers and capabilities for the company’s forthcoming constellation.

Globalsat is a consortium of  companies providing satellite communications services in Latin America, with offices in the U.S. and throughout the region.  SAS’s constellation of around 200 Cubesats will be deployed in a belt around the equator, providing narrowband voice service between 15 degrees North and 15 degrees South. IoT services will be available between 18 degrees North to 18 degrees South.

IoT  (Internet of Things), M2M (machine to machine) and data transfer services testing was done using a trio of SAS pathfinder satellites currently in orbit. The full constellation is expected to be deployed by 2020, with first launches of production satellites taking place next year.

Having proved the technology and network works, SAS and Globalstar will now work out the commercial details for Globalstar to be a reseller of SAS IoT and M2M services in the Central and South America. About 10 percent of the Latin American population has no access to mobile connectivity with larger areas having poor mobile connectivity due to a lack of cellular coverage outside of city centers, according to the SAS press release.

IoT and narrowband voice services have been a part of the SAS business model from the beginning, but the company’s announcement of radio frequency interference (RFI) detecting is a newly announced capability.   SAS said its trio of pathfinder satellites has performed the world’s first spectrum monitoring of radio frequencies by nanosatellites. Other New Space start-ups, such as Kleos Space, HawkEye 360, and UnseenLabs have announced plans to put up dedicated small satellite networks to monitor radio frequencies for maritime activities tracking, spectrum usage, and spotting interference, but none have put hardware into orbit yet.

The trio of SAS “Diamond” satellites also successfully detected and identified a source of interference in Europe for a leading geostationary satellite operator using software-defined radio, according to the company’s press release.  Few other details were provided as to the radio spectrum band or bands affected or how accurately SAS was able to pinpoint the source of interference, but the feat provides the company with another potential source of revenue by providing spectrum monitoring and interference detection services.

According to Wikipedia, SAS’s satellites use a combination of spectrum bands, including S- and L-band for mobile communications, S-band for intersatellite communications links, and a combination of S-band and UHF for control frequencies.  Software-defined radio would enable SAS to quickly load code to perform sensing in those bands and potentially others, depending on the ability of the onboard hardware and limits of the satellite antennas.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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