SES readies for O3b’s mPOWER satellites

SES is developing a new breed of satellite for its fast-growing O3b division. Seven high-capacity mPOWER satellites are being built by Boeing and the first will be orbited in 2021. Each craft has the scalable ability to build to cover a land mass of some 400 million square kilometres with multiple terabits of capacity.  At the same time SES is having to prepare ground-based terminals.

March 8th saw it announce mPOWER’s Customer Edge Terminals (CET) will be developed with Alcan, Isotropic Systems and Viasat (of California).

“O3b mPOWER is designed to provide cloud-scale connectivity through a ‘virtual fibre’ network for application-aware services on a global scale,” said John-Paul Hemingway, EVP/Product, Marketing and Strategy for SES Networks. “We believe that working closely with partners like Alcan, Isotropic Systems and Viasat in a robust development ecosystem will enable us to introduce the latest innovations and greatest cost-efficiencies across multiple market segments at great scale.”

The new satellites operate in Mid-Earth orbits (MEO) which means that the ground-based terminals have  to cope with craft moving overhead (in a similar fashion to O3b’s orbits). SES says the trio of technology suppliers are working on the following aspects:

• Alcan is working to develop a smart antenna that is flat, low power, and has no mechanical moving parts. The antenna has electronic beam steering capability, which is implemented using liquid crystal (LC) panels that can be manufactured at low cost in LC display assembly lines;

• Isotropic Systems is developing a low-cost, low power, unlimited instantaneous bandwidth, optical-based, multi-beam electronically steered terminal that can transmit and receive high bandwidth signals in the same modular and scalable aperture;

• Viasat is designing and building an all-electronic dual-beam flat panel antenna system to meet the requirements of the O3b mPOWER next-generation MEO satellite fleet. The Viasat antenna is based on proprietary flat panel core technology, a new radio frequency (RF) integrated circuit and a modular approach that will enable multiple types of user terminals to keep pace with growing broadband connectivity demands.

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