European Space Agency

Objectives

Prior to the SDS-Mk2 project a pilot project was executed to create the basic functionalities of a satellite based narrowband data service, for mobile and static applications. But this was not sufficient to start a commercial service for which some major issues needed a proper solution. Therefore the SDS-Mk2 project aimed at developing the foundation for a system and service which could be offered to the market. This included:


  • Development of end user solutions especially a "trailer pack" and a "metering pack" for gas meter monitoring and read-out.

  • Elimination of single points of failure within the whole system chain.

  • Development of algorithms and implementation in software to gain additional link margin to enable the service to operate over geostationary satellites with a hemispheric beam and a low G/T.

  • Development of a new core satcom technology dubbed "SpaceChecker Open Satcom Core SOSC" which offers the features and flexibility required by the European market

Challenges

The key issues addressed in the project were the following:


  • To make the service operate over the Express satellites with a hemispheric beam and a simple low cost patch antenna on the user equipment. For this a flexible algorithm had to be developed that facilitates the exchange of data rate with link margin.

  • Development of a new satcom and ICT system infrastructure, and the implementation in a major new release with more flexibility and built-in redundancy.

  • Development of the SOSC technology and implementation in a new generation base station and field modems. Major difficulties were encountered in the RF developments, digital hardware and embedded software.

  • Prepare the technology for OEM type customers so that SpaceChecker can offer a full private network with a dedicated satellite channel and base station for one user or distributor.

Benefits

The SDS-Mark2 project enabled SpaceChecker to become an independent network operator and system provider. This allows SpaceChecker to implement the market needs and wishes in a way that competing systems don't do. Today the market offer of track& trace systems mostly comes from relatively small companies who depend heavily on several external providers for network capacity, modems, base stations, ground infrastructure etc. which makes it quasi impossible to create on overall service package that is optimised for the tracking and monitoring business.

The new SOSC technology (SpaceChecker Open Satcom Core) is fully in the hands of the company so it no longer depends upon external suppliers to do debugging, system optimisation and customisations. This is an important strategic improvement compared to the past. SpaceChecker now controls the whole value chain - with the exception of the satellite capacity- and is now in a position to create true customer value for money.

Features


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Segment 1: Local Intelligence (digital user field equipment)
The equipment installed in the field contains a GPS receiver providing accurate location and local time which is used for network synchronisation. The local intelligence collects data in-situ from various sensors.


Segment 2: Modem (RF user field equipment)
The modem provides the access to the satcom network. The modem functions are implemented in a digital circuit and RF up- and down converters with antennas and built-in amplifiers for receive (RX) and transmit (TX) and GPS receiver.

The total unit to be mounted on a vehicle together with its power converter, battery, charger, sensor interfaces, diagnostics, waterproof casing etc. is called a Pack.

Segment 3: Space Segment
A multi-satellite space segment is foreseen in Geostationary L-band, through Artemis@20East, Express@14West and Express@40East.

Segment 4: Satcom Ground infrastructure


  • Land Earth Station Brussels and LES Vladimir as feeder station for the Russian space segment.

  • Base stations (transmit & receive) for signal processing (modulation):

  • Data Routers: once demodulated the data packets are forwarded to the database of the ICT backbone.
Segment 5: ICT Ground infrastructure
The ICT network backbone or Network Operation Centre (NOC) constitutes the part of the chain between the Land Earth Station and the User Home Bases, where data is delivered (or comes from). It performs forwarding of data packets, consistency checks, identification and interpretation of data records, encryption and decryption of data packets where needed. It also temporarily stores data and takes care of dat

Plan

After the SDS-Mk2 project SpaceChecker aims at being in the position to offer a reliable and professional narrowband data service over satellite over a robust system infrastructure so that Service Level Agreements may be concluded with users. The company will be quite autonomous in its mission because it will have its proprietary technology, infrastructure, certificates and licences to guarantee the service provision to end users and distributors.

Also, maximum flexibility is offered to system integrators and OEM-type users because new user application routines can be added to the intelligent modem software

Current status

The project is now is a phase of valorisation: the new SC200 modem is ready for production in volumes, and preparations are underway. The market is quite keen on having the new product soon and most distributors - being aware of the new features - now have stopped selling the old product and bet on the new one instead.

The production engineering work and the extensive test campaign (lab tests, environmental testing, field testing, pilot user testing, production testing) brought to light several shortcomings and these are being solved now. This process of the working out the learning curve of a new product is something which will continue for about 6 months, after which the product and production will be stable.

The modem allows for a wide array of upgrades and new network features purely via extension/upgrading of the embedded software. The development focus now is still on having stable and performing hardware but the new emphasis will be on exploiting the full possibilities of the system by software extensions.

Status date

Monday, February 2, 2009 - 12:54