The UK Space Agency has awarded a group of UK space tech companies £32 million contracts to develop a new beam-hopping satellite that will allow satellites to switch which part of the world they cover. The project is led by the global satellite communications network OneWeb, and a demonstration satellite is due for launch in 2022.
The satellite, nicknamed Joey-Sat, would be able to manage real-time surges in commercial demand or respond to emergencies such as natural disasters. Joey-Sat’s design will allow beams to be directed remotely to boost coverage in certain locations, such as areas of high usage where the network is struggling to cope with demand.
“From helping during a disaster to providing broadband on planes, this amazing technology will show how next-generation 5G connectivity can benefit all of us on Earth,” said UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway.
As a part of the contract, the satellite’s pilot beam-hopping payload will be developed by SatixFy at the cost of £25 million. Celestia UK has been given £4.4 million to develop and test smart ground station technology featuring multibeam electronically steered antenna to reduce the footprint and costs of each ground station and increase the efficiency of the whole ground network.
OneWeb has so far launched 182 satellites of its planned 648 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, global gateways, and air, maritime, and land user terminals.
“Innovation and collaboration are at the core of OneWeb,” said Massimiliano Ladovaz, Chief Technical Officer at OneWeb. “Working together with our partners, OneWeb will accelerate the development and expansion of our cutting-edge technologies and manufacturing capabilities for the benefit of communities, enterprise, and governments around the world.“