Project Mercury - Nanosatellite Flock Communications & Management

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  1. Generate high-fidelity simulation tools to enable analysis of satellite formation flight.
  2. Using tools, refine and stress-test flock-level and system-level requirements for the associated Flocking Module to enable formation flight and autonomous flock management.
  3. Design, develop, and mature associated RF subsystem to EM level, for inter-satellite and ground communications.
  4. Carry out mission analyses to verify value added by Flocking Module to typical constellation and cluster missions for nanosatellites.

Figure 1. Breadboard of K-/Ka-band RF system subassembly (heat sink and EM shield removed)


Flock Management System

Consideration of flock-level performance for nanosatellite constellations / clusters is woefully lacking. Substantial improvements in mission-level efficiency are viable, translating many flawed aspirations into robust business cases. This typically manifests itself as:

  • Fewer satellites required to perform a given mission
  • Reduced launch mass
  • Reduced mission operations overhead
  • Extension of mission-lifetime
  • Reduced latency with ground
  • Broadening total addressable market

K-/Ka-band RF System

We have developed the lightest and most compact K-/Ka-band RF system in the market. Being SDR-based, it is highly flexible to customer requirements (modulation, error correction, etc.). Relevant to ground and inter-satellite communications. Configurable as a transmitter, receiver, and transceiver.


Flock Management System Key Features:

  • Onboard component manifested as a small PCB based on the OrbAstro Telos OBC.
  • Highly scalable (from several to several thousand satellites).
  • Currently compatible with most constellation architectures and sparse cluster architectures.
  • Highly flexible system, allowing customisation of autonomous mission-level performance optimisations.
  • Fully autonomous flock deployment, formation maintenance, and de-orbit after decommissioning.
  • Mature fault recognition of satellites within flock tightly coupled to autonomous flock management (based on deep FMECA, FTA, and associated analyses).
  • Autonomous reconfiguration of flock to maximise relevant performance metrics and minimise disruptions associated with attrition over mission lifetime.
  • Autonomous collision-risk detection/avoidance with local space traffic (satellites/debris). Traffic data collated from various sources (currently monitoring ~90k objects). Updated onboard every 4 hours, and continuously forward-propagated by 15 days.

K-/Ka-band RF System Key Features:

  • Frequency Range: 22.0GHz – 30.0GHz (dependent on customer requirements)
  • Data Rate: up to 100Mbps (dependent on range and antenna configuration)
  • Volume: CubeSat-compatible, 0.3U
  • Mass: 120g (system), 225g (system + EM shielding + heat sink)

Lifetime: 5 years

Current status


Prime Contractor