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Epiq in Orbit: How Our SWaP-Optimized SDR Transceivers are Helping Space Applications

Posted by John Orlando on October 16, 2020

One of the trends emerging from the commercial space industry is a shifting focus toward utilizing very small satellites, called CubeSats or nanosatellites, in low Earth orbit (LEO) to do some of the heavy lifting that was once the domain of much larger, much more expensive geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites. CubeSats are constructed to standard dimensions of 10 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm as modular units and can weigh as little as three pounds, as opposed to traditional communication satellites that can be the size of a school bus and weigh up to six tons. Cost is certainly an issue, and CubeSats are a fraction of the cost of traditional satellites. In addition to being cost effective, a constellation of many small satellites is better suited than a few large satellites for both scientific research applications as well as communications applications. In fact, SpaceX is planning on launching up to 12,000 small satellites as part of Starlink, their project aimed at providing low-cost internet to remote regions of the world. Though larger than CubeSats, Starlink satellites are still small by traditional standards, weighing in at about 560 pounds. Whether for high-profile projects or just run-of-the-mill research, smaller satellites are possible thanks to increasingly smaller computing elements and off-the-shelf alternatives to building custom components.

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Topics: SDR, Software-Defined Radios, Mini PCIe