ESA: “Beam-hopping a reality”

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The European Space Agency (ESA) says its over-the-air beam-hopping concept, based on the DVB-S2X satellite broadcasting standard, works. The concept enables capacity to be redirected between a satellite’s transmitted beams and thus making satellite systems more flexible and efficient.

ESA’s BEHOP (Beam Hopping Emulator for Satellite Systems), developed in conjunction with Germany’s Fraunhofer IIS, Eutelsat and WORK Microwave, will deliver greater flexibility and higher performance in satellite communications.

BEHOP is intended to pave the way for full-scale in-orbit beam hopping, a feature that is supported by Eutelsat Quantum, a satellite due to enter into service in 2020.

At present, says ESA, most satellites operate spot beams at constant power and with a fixed allocation of capacity over a broad coverage region, but the benefit of beam hopping, however, allows efficient communication by putting power when and where required. It transmits adjusted beams that enable great flexibility as to how capacity is distributed. Currently, no system in orbit supports beam hopping completely.

In June 2018, Fraunhofer IIS collaborated with WORK Microwave to test beam hopping for the first time using a conventional Eutelsat satellite. To this end, the beam hopping payload emulator developed at Fraunhofer IIS was added to the uplink transmission chain along with WORK Microwave’s beam hopping enabled modulator with integrated synchronisation algorithms. In the downlink the corresponding demodulators from Fraunhofer IIS was used as receiver. The transmission technique is based on the DVB S2X standard’s Annex E Super-Framing structure, which enables several innovative technologies such as beam hopping, precoding and interference management solutions.

By way of this demonstration, the project partners proved that the beam hopping concept and technology are ready to be implemented. The demonstration validated that data arrives at the satellite in sync with the beam hopping pattern and that the system is able to automatically adjust and update resource allocations whenever capacity requirements may change. This successful test paves the way for a next generation of satellites.


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