Linked to a Satellite!

Imagine you are lost in one of the most remote place in Antartica or in the Amazonian jungle, it seems like all hope is gone and your life is about to reach an end… Except if you are properly linked to a satellite!

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Figure 1 – Telephone linked to the satellite constellation Iridium manufactured by Thales Alenia Space

Then you can call anywhere on the earth and connect to anyone in a snap. The problem is to figure out how the satellite will know when and where to help you and that’s the moment my project comes into place. Louis described the ears of the satellite with mind-boggling antennas, I consider my work has more to do with the brain of the satellite: it must know in which region on earth it must focus its ears. To use specific words, my work is on satellite payload. But why adding a load on a satellite ? This payload is the brain of the satellite, it points the antenna and gives proper amount of power in the correct direction so you can for example communicate or surf the Internet. The payload shares these services with all the people who pays to use the satellite. This may seem easy but sometimes enabling a lot of people to use the satellite at the same time is a problem to pull one’s hair out. Just remember that time you wanted to send a text or make a call at New Year’s Eve. If the network is crowded you must find some way out, it is the same with satellite network so the focus of satellite’s resources must be on the busiest regions. On the contrary, steering the antenna towards Sahara desert would be quite pointless…

Moreover in the case you want to serve a busy area, interference between users becomes a serious problem you must take into account. If you want to have an idea of what interference is, imagine a meeting where everybody is speaking at the same time, the voice of each other would jam the conversation and it would result in a joyful cacophony. Exactly the same phenomena happens in some cases when either the satellite speaks to users on the ground or users on the ground to the satellite. Mitigating these effects is also part of my work.

To wrap it up, my work is to make satellites’ architectures smarter, more flexible to any situation that may occurs whether you are in Antartica at the brink of death or if you just want to wish a happy new year to your loved ones. The video presenting Thales Alenia Space constellation Iridium with worldwide coverage is below:

 

 

Deployable structures for antennas

So yes, what am I doing exactly? “Deployable structures for antennas” – what is it? And why does it have to be “deployable”?

When a telecommunication satellite is launched, it’s main goal is to talk with the Earth, to listen on one side, and to repeat the message on the other side. It works a bit like a phone in a way: it allows two people, two computers or two machines to discuss. But a satellite can be very, very far from the Earth, so how can he listen, or talk, to you? He needs really big ears, and a really big megaphone. Ok, the comparison stops there, because it’s not sound but radio waves that are used, and it doesn’t really have ears nor a mouth. But it does have big, sometimes very big antennas.

How big? you see the smallsatellite antenna dish on the roof antennas on the side or the roof of some building, pointing at the sky? Those are actually used to “listen” to TV satellites that broadcats all kind of channels. And they are probably about 50cm in diameter. Well, it is pretty common for satellite antennas to measure 2 or 3 m in diameter! And some are even much bigger: the largest antenna flying measures close to 20m in diameter – that’s a 6 floors building!

80sqvsgfkmEvftZuFcRJwQqiegCe-ORHEnWsmWyy8lcSo now that we have those big antennas (and I have only mentioned telecommunication, but they can also be used for earth or space observation, radars, etc…), how do we launch them? See, the problem is that you cannot put this 20m antenna in a rocket, it would not fit. The last stage of the rocket, where the satellite is, has a diameter of 4m for the biggest rockets. Because of that, even for a “small” 4m diameter antenna, there is only one solution: you have to fold it, and once up there, open it up. There is something really similar that is used really often here, on earth. It can be very small, fit in your bag, but when it rains it get big enough to keep you dry: that’s right, I’m building a giant umbrella, for a satellite.

Does it look like an umbrella? Hmm, not really, but the idea is there. How do you do it then? Well, that’s the whole point of my thesis! I wouldn’t spoil it all and tell you now, right? But as a trailer I can show you what Large Space Structures GmbH, a partner of the REVOLVE project, has been doing recently.

Banner image and video : courtesy of LSS GmbH.
Ariane 5: ESA-CNES-ARIANESPACE-Photo Optique Video CSG

Future space engineers boldly go…

A press release went out today from Heriot-Watt University as we welcome the next generation of space engineers!

 

Project Coordinator, Professor George Goussetis  explained: “This is the start of an extremely interesting but ultimately exciting journey for these PhD students…the REVOLVE project provides them with a unique, multi-disciplinary learning experience to ensure they are industry ready”.

Later this month the team will travel to Toulouse in France to attend the projects annual workshop at Thales Alenia Space. There they will be joined by representatives from the other agencies involved in REVOLVE.

Further information on REVOLVE can be found via @revolve_project and www.facebook.com/revolve.hwu.7

 

A WARM WELCOME TO OUR 7 REVOLVERS!

Cr_NewstartsA warm welcome to our seven new doctoral candidates who have started their programmes as part of the H2020 project REVOLVE. They will spend the next two months at Thales Alenia Space and will be mentored by Hervé Legay from the Research & Technology Department. We very much look forward to hearing more about their time at Thales and in particular, how they meet the challenges inherent in the world of space communications! Updates will follow with regular contributions to this blog by our young researchers…please check back again soon!

Women in Engineering

A new video has been uploaded on the Women in Engineering page!

Dr Rebecca Marr talks about her experience as a civil engineer and researcher within the Institute for Infrastructure and Environment, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

The Institute for Infrastructure and Environment undertakes cutting-edge research to deliver technological advances and inform government policy on topics relevant to the global challenges of: climate change; sustainable development; infrastructure deterioration; and personal and national security.

Their research includes the specialist themes of water management; ultra-speed railways; systems, sustainability and society; construction materials and geo-mechanics; and structures. Within these themes our staff possess the expertise and experience necessary to undertake projects ranging from ‘blue skies’ research, through research investigations of innovative technologies, to industry sponsored consultancy projects.

Rebecca’s video can be viewed here.

 

Welcome to REVOLVE Outreach

Juline Legay is presently preparing for her exams for a Business School in France and has created and developed this Outreach Initiative for REVOLVE!

Juline has a strong interest in communication and enjoyed a short internship in the communication department of Thales Alenia Space in Toulouse 4 years ago. This summer, Juline volunteered for a one month internship in Heriot-Watt University, where she worked on outreach activities as part of the Revolve project. She was supervised by Prof. George Goussetis and Dr. Carolina Mateo-Segura and during the internship the main focus was on two objectives: Dissemination of the research and space telecommunications activities for kids and finding ways to dismantle the barriers that prevent girls from becoming engineers.

With the assistance of Lynn, REVOLVE Administrator, Juline set up the Revolve Outreach website, developing a website that is more accessible for the younger audience. Juline also created a series of short videos that explain what a satellite is and how it moves in orbit. She included some videos promoting women for engineering along with an additional video of Herve Legay, Technical Director at Thales Alenia Space (France), presenting the Revolve project. Juline also suggested the communication project ‘Space for Kids’, the objective of which is to create a regular link with young pupils throughout Europe and their research team. Some details surrounding Space for Kids and the PhD students have already been presented on REVOLVE Outreach.

The REVOLVE group agree that it will be a great platform to carry out their dissemination activities, and give sense to the scientific adventure! It will be also a great opportunity for the kids to follow our group of researchers, learn more about space, and hopefully encourage them to consider engineering as a vocation. This link could be implemented with the use of social networks and we have planned a competition which will include ludic activities. Juline hopes that this project will interest the wider public and that both the kids and students will be happy to take part in the exciting initiative!!