- Satellite Evolution
Inmarsat has launched InCommand with a transceiver from IQ spacecom
Inmarsat has launched InCommand with a transceiver from IQ spacecom, a division of IQ Technologies for Earth and Space GmbH of Germany at the ILA Air Show in Berlin (Hall 6 booth 432). The ELERA-powered InCommand capability from Inmarsat enables instant commanding and telemetry on-demand for low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
Inmarsat has already developed the Inter-satellite Data Relay System (IDRS with Addvalue), with more than two dozen IDRS-equipped satellites either in orbit or in production. IDRS delivers a significant capability to both task and transmit data from LEO satellites (6U+ categories) at higher speeds via Inmarsat’s geostationary (GEO) satellites. InCommand adds to this portfolio to address another segment of the market for smaller (3U to 6U) LEO satellites and cubesats.
InCommand provides a global tasking capability via Inmarsat’s ELERA L-band GEO satellites using IQ spacecom’s low-cost and low Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) transceiver for cubesat and smaller LEO satellites.
The low-cost XLink-L receiver and transmitter, which weighs 200 grams (7 ounces) and is the size of an Altoids tin, is ideal for cubesat operators. The InCommand system will request dynamically Inmarsat L-band capacity, globally in real-time, for tasking and commanding cubesat and smaller LEO satellites via Inmarsat’s GEO network. Even the polar areas are in line of sight for the GEO-LEO link.
A successful ground test took place in May 2022, using an adaptation of the IQ spacecom heritage unit, XLink‑S transceiver, adapted to Inmarsat’s L-band ELERA network enabling two-way communications from an operator to a GEO satellite to the ground-based transceiver and back. This successful test will be followed by an in-orbit demonstration.
More than 4,000 satellites launched before 2027 will require real-time tasking for applications such as Earth observation, telecommunications, science and exploration, or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). These missions depend upon the real-time commanding of non-geosynchronous orbit (NGSO) spacecraft in short response times. However, today’s low earth orbit satellite ground stations are not all deployed along the satellites’ orbital path. Hence, the communications links are not in-real time and latency can add hours to mission delivery and require coordination and contracts with various sites and service providers around the world.
InCommand improves operational efficiencies for time-sensitive applications such as Earth Observation or spacecraft operations and removes dependencies on ground network infrastructures. It specifically addresses the tasking and commanding needs for cubesat and smaller LEO satellite operators with their on-board systems, commercially available, off-the-shelf Software Defined Radio (SDR) platforms. InCommand delivers a highly efficient, cost-effective and responsive solution for cubesat and smaller LEO satellites at the right price and required performance levels for customers.
Yasrine Ibnyahya, Inmarsat’s Senior Director, Advanced Concepts and Technologies, said “Working together, Inmarsat and IQ spacecom have taken InCommand from concept to functional service and hardware in under six months. Following our successful test, we are now looking forward to seeing this unit flying in orbit and serving customers.
“Operators of cubesats and smaller LEO satellites will be able to task their satellites immediately via Inmarsat’s geostationary ELERA network rather than wait for their payload to orbit the Earth back to their ground station. This will be a game changer for Earth observation, in-orbit manoeuvres and similar monitoring and tasking activities on satellites that are smaller than those served by Inmarsat’s existing Inter-satellite Data Relay System. It will also support safer space traffic management through active monitoring and control.”
Inmarsat is leveraging its latest ELERA developments into dynamic resource allocation technology and infrastructure to unlock InCommand’s capabilities and connect any LEO satellite when and where needed for as long or as little as is necessary. This intelligent infrastructure technology enables the satellites to hop between beams, switch from one beam to another and connect only when needed while using any third party waveform technology to be adaptive to customer requirements.
NASA has already chosen InCommand and InRange from Inmarsat Government for its Communications Service Project (CSP). The CSP partnership aims to demonstrate how Inmarsat can meet a range of NASA mission needs. This collaboration will also aim to develop new models that the agency can use to acquire commercial services for meeting its future needs, alongside other potential commercial users.