Thursday, January 04, 2018

The Upcoming PSLV-C40 / Cartosat-2F Launch Includes Two Canadian Satellites from Telesat and Kepler

          By Chuck Black

Next weeks anticipated launch of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-40 mission, designed to place in orbit the latest of the Indian build Cartosat series of Earth imaging satellites, isn't only noteworthy for its primary payload or for the large amount of satellites being carried into orbit on the same rocket (thirty-one in total, including the Cartosat 2F).

From a Canadian perspective, the launch is noteworthy for two Canadian private sector satellite firms, Ottawa, ON based Telesat Canada and Toronto, ON based Kepler Communications, who have independently built two small satellites, included as secondary payloads on the PSLV C40, which are intended to serve as demonstrators for two separate and far larger low Earth orbit telecommunications constellations expected to be deployed over the next few years.

The Telesat LEO Vantage 1 is based on the popular Type-42 micro-satellite bus developed at Guildford, UK based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), originally a spin-off company of the University of Surrey and curently owned by Toulouse, France based Airbus Defence and Space.

One way to transform global communications. Graphic c/o Telesat.
Telesat will use the satellite as a test bed to assist with optimizing the design and performance of its planned 290 satellite LEO constellation.

A second test satellite, the Telesat LEO Vantage 2, built to a different design by Palo Alto, CA based Space Systems Loral (SSL) using a bus developed by the Toronto ON based University of Toronto Institute of  Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), was lost shortly after launch in November 2017.

As outlined in the September 18th, 2017 post, "Telesat Now Planning 290 Satellite Constellation," the expanded constellation was first announced at 2017 Euroconsult World Satellite Business Week, which was held in Paris, France from September 11th - 15th, 2017.

More recently, and as outlined in the December 08, 2017 post, "Long Awaited DND Polar Sats Postponed. Will be Cancelled/ Replaced/ Renamed After Next Election (Like Last Time)," Telesat has been suggesting that its constellation could fulfill Department of National Defence (DND) requirements for northern communications better and at a lower cost than the long-delayed Enhanced Satellite Communication Project - Polar (ESPC-P).

According to the undated Telesat website under the name, "Telesat LEO: Transfoming Global Communications," the constellation design "will leverage advanced technologies while utilizing a combination of polar and inclined orbits to create a next generation, global telecom system with unmatched communications advantages."

Graphic of the Kepler 1 nano-sat from the Clyde Space website. A series of Clyde Space nano-sats will support Kepler in deploying its proposed in-space telecommunications network, "to provide connectivity to devices that gather the world’s information. Over the next 5 years, nearly 6 million devices will require satellite Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications, these initial two satellites will pave the way for CubeSat based global M2M communications." Graphic c/o Clyde Space.

As outlined on the Gunter's Space Page listing for the Kepler 1 and 2 micro-satellites, The Kepler demonstrator is a 30cm x 10cm x 10cm 3U CubeSat operating in the Ku-band with deployable solar arrays, software defined radios (SDR) and high gain antennas.

The nano-satellite was designed and built by Glasgow, Scotland based Clyde Space Ltd and is one of two expected to be used for testing before a larger constellation of ten to fifteen nano-sats is deployed.

Up to 120 nano-sats could eventually be added to the constellation, depending on market demand.

According to Gunter, Kepler’s goals "are to provide a vastly improved IoT backhaul for customers on the ground, as well as real time access to satellites in the same orbit." Applications for the data collected from the satellites is expected to have a range of applications including shipping, smart agriculture, traffic management and wearable technologies such as temperature monitors to improve personnel health and safety.

Also noteworthy are two other secondary payloads on the PSLV C40 manifest which will likely have a direct effect on future Canadian space efforts.

These include:
  • Four Dove Earth imaging cube-satellites, designated as "Flock 3m" models, which will join the approximately 165 Dove cube-sats already in orbit to become part of the growing constellation owned by San Francisco, CA based Earth imaging provider Planet
The company, which also owns German geospatial information provider RapidEye and its five satellite RapidEye Constellation (built by what used to be Richmond BC based Macdonald Dettwiler)  is slowly building out massive Earth imaging capabilities likely to overwhelm anything Canada or most other nations could reasonably generate any time in the near future. 
  • The NovaSAR-S, a joint technology demonstration initiative from SSTL (the same firm which also built the Telesat LEO 1), and Airbus, which was funded by the UK Government via the UK Space Agency (UKSA).  
As outlined in the October 10th, 2011 post, "SAR Satellite Designers Living in Interesting Times," the original SSTL proposal was for a synthetic aperture radar satellite (SAR) able to "build, insure and launch" the next generation of SAR satellites for less than 50M euros each, a sum which worked out to only about 1/3 the cost of one of the three upcoming Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) satellites currently expected to launch sometime this year. 
SSTL acts as a subcontractor to RCM prime contractor, the San Francisco CA based Maxar Technologies, so there is certainly a chance that the cost savings will be passed along to Maxar and everyone will benefit. 
Or maybe not. After all, SSTl and it's wonderful new technology, is owned by Airbus, which has made no secret of its wish to go head to head with Maxar on Canadian government aerospace contracts. 
    Editors Note: Looks like this blog was wrong about the Kepler satellite being a secondary payload on the Indian PSLV C40 mission on January 19th, 2018.
    But Kepler Communications has been far more reticent about either confirming or denying that its satellite has launched on board the Chinese rocket.
    We'll likely find out why over the next little while. Stay tuned...
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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