European Space Agency GEO Satellite Opportunity

    • Official Post

    At the recent RSGB Convention / AMSAT-UK Colloquium at Milton Keynes, Frank Zeppenfeldt, PD0AP, from the European Space Agency Satellite Communications Group, made a presentation on the subject of a future ESA backed amateur satellite mission to GEO. Frank has obtained funding of 250,000 Euro to investigate the possibility of an Amateur satellite or payload to be placed in GEO orbit. The presentation emphasises innovation and microwave communications.

    Franks full presentation is available on YouTube

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    [and here at the AMSAT-DL colloquium:

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    As a member of the UK microwave / Satellite community, we would like to invite you to contribute to the design concept of this mission.
    We would welcome any thoughts you may have via e-mail etc and we will add those to the overall discussion.

    In a follow up Teams meeting on Wed 1st Nov between Frank and AMSAT-UK, it became clear that an ideal solution from an ESA perspective should provide a service to amateurs in Canada as well as Europe. - Canada is an ESA co-operating state. Note that any GEO covering part or all of Canada will also cover a significant proportion of The USA. AMSAT-UK is working to identify a suitable range of GEO slots which meet this requirement.

    What is needed, is a proposal for 2 or 3 ideas for what this GEO mission (most likely a hosted payload) should include. See notes / Franks presentation.

    AMSAT-UK aims to respond with some proposals by Dec 4th. These do not need great detail, but should justify bands used and other ideas.

    For Example.
    What bands should be included. - This project is not aimed as a QO-100 replacement.
    Is 24G and up practical? Can a ground station generate enough power economically with today's available technology for an uplink on 24/47/76G
    Given a resource in space, is there an 'easy' entry level on say 24G - RX or TX so we can attract new microwave operators.
    Should the transponder/s be old style bent pipe configurations or contain on board processing to decode RX signals then encode the downlink?
    What digital protocols are appropriate for the above?
    Is 5.6G viable as an uplink given the WiFi presence? Any observations on 6cm interference would be valuable.
    Note: The antennas on the satellite will likely have a min gain of 20dB as this covers the visible portion of the Earth from geostationary orbit.

    In recent discussions with BATC etc we have concluded that a 10G downlink should be the baseline to take advantage of the large existing userbase and that a minimum power output onboard needs to be 10W into a 20dB antenna.

    If the proposals are considered substantial enough for further discussion, we have suggested a meeting at the ESA technical centre in The Netherlands around end Feb / March next year. This 2 day (?) event would be funded by ESA probably via A-UK. If this meeting happens, then representatives from A-UK BATC and UK microwave group could attend along with other groups from The EU and USA so we can take the project forward.

    Frank anticipates doing some initial prototyping and then present the findings to a meeting of GEO platform operators next year. Hopefully this will find a commercial partner with a platform going to an appropriate GEO slot.

    If any of this is of interest, please let us know your thoughts.
    This is a rare opportunity. I hope you can give it your support.


    David G0MRF / Noel G8GTZ

    • Official Post

    In ANS-344 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletins is an article about the "Proposal Submitted to ESA for Geostationary Microwave Amateur Payload" from AMSAT-UK and BATC. My personal meaning is this proposal is too one-sided in favor of the microwave bands. The usual bands, 2m & 70cm, should also be taken into account as on AO-40 and P3E. We should also revive the 23cm band. After ITU WRC-23 there should be no problem. See article here...

    What do you think ?

    • Official Post

    If we are talking about a hosted payload on a commercial GEO satellite, anything below 23cm will be very difficult because the antenna size on the satellite will be prohibitively large. Just remember the antenna farm for 2m and 70cm on AO-40, such an area is just not available on a commercial satellite. And deployable aerials will scare the ... out of the provider.

  • Thanks, Thomas.

    It is time to move higher up in frequencies. The pressure on amateur radio allocations is significant, even if they are only secondary. If we don't use them, we lose them. In addition, we need to start doing what we have done the best (in the past), being innovative and approaching new frontiers. That's the reason why the new "Amateur Radio Satellite and Systems - Canada" Association will support 13cm and up.

    • Official Post

    Hallo Stefan

    You may be right, but I hope they have really learned from QO-100. The idea to use TV LNB's for receiving was brilliant. The ground equipment must be easy and not only for microwave specialists. Otherwise the satellite will be under-used. These are my concerns.

  • Hallo Thomas,

    Yes, that is a very important aspect. What QO-100 also showed was the ability of the community to quickly adapt and offer products and tools to everyone. So many small businesses are now offering antennas, amplifiers, up/down converters, DATV tools etc. It has been fascinating following these developments. In addition, we are seeing more and more SDR-based radios being developed for experimenters, hobbyists, and amateur radio users. Just looking at the AntSDR E200 on CrowdSupply as an example.

  • ESA Satellite Communications Group Explores Future Amateur Satellite Payload

    Frank Zeppenfeldt, PDØAP, representing the European Space Agency (ESA), provided key insights during a presentation on February 4th at the FOSDEM 2024 conference held in Brussels, Belgium. The discussion centered around ESA's initiative to collaborate with the amateur satellite community in defining a prospective payload for Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) or Geostationary Orbit (GEO). The ESA's involvement aims to build upon the success of the QO-100 payload in geostationary orbit, fostering innovation and technological advancements.

    During the FOSDEM conference, the ESA Satellite Communications Group outlined preliminary ideas, stressing the significance of engaging with the Software-Defined Radio (SDR) community. The primary objectives include consolidating requirements, exploring diverse payload options, addressing user segments, and thoroughly examining financing, procurement, and operational scenarios for a potential MEO/GEO amateur payload.

    The project's scope encompasses the consideration of various payload options and trade-offs, encompassing aspects such as frequency bands, analog or digital transmission, on-board SDR/Linux/GPU-box configurations, potential applications, technical risks, inter-satellite links, geographical coverage, degree of centralization, and educational components.

    Proposed Planning for ESA MEO/GEO Amateur Payload. [Credit: Frank Zeppenfeldt, ESA Satellite Communications Group]

    To ensure a comprehensive and well-informed approach, the ESA plans to actively involve the amateur community. This engagement seeks to gather valuable input on lessons learned from the QO-100 experience, amateur requirements and interests, as well as suggestions for payload options. The consultation process extends to reaching out to AMSAT and other relevant groups, alongside dialogues with satellite operators, primes, and various stakeholders.

    Looking ahead, the ESA has outlined a timeline for the project. In March 2024, the agency intends to solicit input from the amateur satellite community and other stakeholders, guided by valuable insights from the AMSAT community. By May 2024, detailed payload options will be presented for discussion at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands, with the support of technical expertise.

    More information from this presentation including the ten page Slide Deck can be found…ollow-up-qo-100-payload-/.

    The culmination of this extensive process is expected in September 2024 at the World Satellite Business Week, where dedicated discussions with satellite operators will be organized. The ESA envisions proposing a selection of payload options at a subsequent FOSDEM conference in 2025, further demonstrating the collaborative commitment of ESA and the amateur satellite community to propel advancements in satellite communications and explore innovative possibilities for future amateur satellite payloads in both GEO and MEO orbits.

    [ANS thanks Frank Zeppenfeldt, PDØAP, ESA Satellite Communications Group, for the above information]

  • Finally, AMSAT-DL's proposal to ESA is also available Online:

    The next generation of a GEO/MEO amateur radio payload?
    At the request of the IARU, the European Space Agency (ESA) is supporting an initiative to define a future amateur radio satellite payload in geostationary…

    Die nächste Generation einer GEO/MEO-Amateurfunknutzlast?
    Auf Anfrage der IARU unterstützt die Europäische Weltraumorganisation (ESA) eine Initiative zur Definition einer zukünftigen Amateurfunksatelliten-Nutzlast im…

  • May I ask an ignorant question. QO100 currently uses different polarisation on the WB and NB transponder.

    There is a similar one-sentence requirement in the AMSAT-UK answer to the ESA request.

    "why do these polarisations have to be different?"