New high-frequency signal from space to Earth

Artist’s impression of W-cube CubeSat flying on a Low Earth Orbit. Photograph: VTT and Reaktor Space Lab For the first time, an ESA-supported nanosatellite, currently being developed in Finland and featuring a Finnish platform and radio transmitter, will send a W-band signal from space to Earth.

ESA and the selected industrial consortium participating in this project, led by Joanneum Research in Graz, Austria, will be investigating the use of this frequency band for next-generation communication satellites.

Funded by ESA as part of its ARTES programme, this activity will demonstrate the use of the 75-GHz frequency band for future communications. In order to design telecommunication satellites with the appropriate features to start utilizing the new frequency band, the propagation of the high-frequency signal from space to Earth has to be characterised.

The cost-effective Finnish CubeSat satellite, named W-Cube, based on Reaktor Space Lab’s “Hello World” satellite platform, which is itself scheduled to launch on its first mission this summer, will weigh approximately 5kg. The launch of the W-Cube will take place during 2019.

The W-Cube nanosatellite will have an integrated dual-frequency beacon transmitter developed by VTT and the broadcasted signal will be observed at the Joanneum Research’s measurement station in Graz, Austria. The Vice President at VTT, Tauno Vaha-Heikkila said: “VTT has lead the way in the millimetre-wave satellite hardware development and in terrestrial 5G telecommunications radios. The W-Cube-nanosatellite provides a unique opportunity to combine our world class expertise in these two application areas."

Many new telecommunications and constellation satellites are planned for launch in the next few years, such as OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink. Alongside the increase in the number of satellites and telecommunication transmission speeds, the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation becomes congested and very soon higher frequencies will become a necessity. The next-generation of 5G communication networks will also use increasingly high frequencies.

Other participants to the ESA project are Fraunhofer IAF, LC Technologies, University of Stuttgart and Université Catholique de Louvain.


Reaktor Space Lab
Joanneum Research 
Fraunhofer IAF
LC Technologies
University of Stuttgart
Université Catholique de Louvain

Published 20 June 2018
Last updated at 21 June 2018 - 07:40