Scalable Multimedia Study - SMM

Status date

The objective of this study is to assess the feasibility and commercial viability of a scalable approach using smaller satellites for providing satellite communication to new markets, services and applications. The main objective for this approach is the distribution of investment risk for satellite operators wishing to employ dedicated broadband satellites.

The study has focussed on reaching the following objectives:

  • Minimal investment risk for satellite operator,

  • Competitive transmission cost compared to terrestrial solutions,

  • Multiple use, also for broadcast/multicast, thus providing fall-back options,

  • Scalable network growth able to closely follow market demands.
The scalability of the overall system is reached through the suitable design of a small broadband optimised satellite and via the development of a deployment strategy that enables the system to adapt to the market response.

The key issue of the SMM project is the combination of the following elements:

  • High data rate per satellite,

  • Long lifetime of each satellite and,

  • Low mission cost.
These features enable a high internal rate of return, a low initial investment and a short time for financial break-even. In addition to the positive business aspects the system is based on proven technologies that reduces the programmatic risks towards the launch of the first satellite in 2009.

The main benefit of the study has been the result that a scalable approach of smaller broadband optimised satellites is not only technically feasible within a short timeframe but also provides a sound business case. For a changing market like the market for multimedia services the reduction of investment risk is of utmost importance for satellite operators entering this market. This reduction is accomplished through the lower investment cost per satellite as well as the gradual adaptability of the system to the market response.


The baseline SMM system features:

  • Deployment of three SMM satellites over Europe from 2009 to 2013,

  • SMM Services:

    • Broadband Internet access,

    • Interactive TV,

    • Regional/Linguistic TV,

    • Meshed services.

  • Data rate per satellite in clear sky conditions: 5.5 Gbps,

  • Estimated Internal Rate of Return: >30%,

  • Number of spots per satellite: 16,

  • Four-colour frequency reuse,

  • Transparent system - no onboard processing,

  • Satellite lifetime: 15 years,

  • Gateways per spot: >1,

  • Identical feeder and user beams.
The SMM services are provided through a combination of Star and Meshed type networks. Each spot constitutes its own Star type network while the Meshed network covers all 16 spots deployed from one satellite.

The transparent payload features dual-gridded reflectors for providing the 16 spots in the four-colour frequency reuse pattern. Each spot has been allocated two TWTAs where one is reserved for forward traffic while the other is used for both return and meshed traffic. In clear sky conditions the data rate reaches an average of 5.5 Gbps and traffic ratio between forward, return and meshed of approximately 7:1:1.

The SMM satellites are based on the OHB-System geostationary platform LUX, which provides a low overall mission cost, high performance and fast development cycle. Analysis has shown the capability of this platform to carry the SMM payload. The lifetime of each SMM satellite is 15 years and the launch is based on a direct injection scenario to ensure a fast and reliable orbit injection while maintaining a simple satellite design without AKM.

The study has started with an identification of commercial requirements leading to requirements for payload and network architecture. Based on these results the design of satellite platform, payload, network architecture, and launch concept has been developed. Deployment strategies suited for the scalable approach have been elaborated and finally commercial viability analyses and programmatics for further phases were defined.

Current status