The expansion into the multi-orbit world is being driven by the desire to meet the diverse needs of customers more effectively.
By Joakim Espeland, CEO of Quadsat.
The satellite industry is moving fast towards a multi-orbit environment, with providers operating across LEO, MEO and GEO orbits. Given the distinct advantages that these different orbits offer in terms of latency, bandwidth, coverage, and capacity, operators are racing to combine orbits to provide better solutions, to meet customers varying needs. But to maximise the benefits of a multi-orbit network, satellite operators need dynamic and flexible ground segments.
While this move is driving forward innovation in the ground segment, its also adding a new level of complexity to the industry. And if not managed properly, there is a very real possibility that the increased use multi-orbit networks could result in a concerning increase in unacceptable interference.
Meeting Customer Needs
The expansion into the multi-orbit world is being driven by the desire to meet the diverse needs of customers more effectively. A single orbit often cannot meet all the demands nor provide the required resilience. Multifarious networks are needed to meet the growing, demand for high-speed connectivity. And different orbits hold different benefits. GEO satellites provide wide-area coverage and high capacity, MEO satellites offer broader coverage areas and improved signal quality while LEOs are designed for high-speed internet connectivity and applications requiring real-time two-way data transmission, such as gaming, communications, and the internet of things.
By integrating these orbits, satellite operators can leverage the strengths of each individual orbit to create comprehensive solutions that are flexible, resilient, and can be tailored to their customers specific requirements. In addition to multi-orbit architecture, were also starting to see multi-band networks with satellites operating in different frequency bands. This multi-orbit, multi-band network design offers even greater resilience, enabling providers to protect networks from disruption, to provide uninterrupted connectivity.
Ground Segment Challenges
The success of multi-orbit and multi-band satellite networks hinges on the capabilities of the ground segment. Ground level infrastructure for use with multi-orbit networks, however, is complex, and must be designed to handle the complexities associated with LEO satellites which require switching, tracking, and pointing as non-geosynchronous satellites pass overhead travelling at high speeds.
The requirement to dynamically track and switch between satellites in different orbits is one of the key challenges of multi-orbit networks. Ground segments need to be able to lock on to GEO satellites, as well as be equipped with tracking systems capable of precisely locating and following fast moving LEO and MEO satellites. And ground stations must facilitate seamless handovers and transitions between satellites, ensuring uninterrupted connectivity as satellites transition in and out of range.
Ground segments must also be able to lock on to two satellites in different orbits and potentially different frequency-bands, simultaneously, and communicate and coordinate between them seamlessly. This requires sophisticated optical beamforming technology and frequency management capabilities that can handle diverse signal characteristics. Efficient resource allocation mechanisms are also crucial so that operators can maximise the utilisation of their assigned spectrum and minimise spectrum splitting, which reduces capacity.
Antenna design then becomes a critical part of ensuring these cross-orbit networks operate properly, but additionally, well also need interference mitigation techniques to prevent cross-traffic interference. Advanced interference suppression techniques using machine learning and AI will play a role in reducing the impact of multidirectional interference. There is also a need for greater collaboration between ground equipment manufacturers and satellite providers, in order to develop standardised antenna design, and improved interference management protocols.