Time to take small satellites seriously

April 11, 2018

S3 Semiconductors attended this years’ Satellite Show in Washington DC from March 12th to 15th.  Our RF Technology lead, Cormac O’Sullivan took some key insights from the show.

  • It’s time to take small satellites seriously!
    • Moving from academic projects or limited mission capability to commercially viable and reliable systems enabled by the new breed of launcher’s like those at SpaceX, from commercial off the shelf (COTs) systems from the fruits of Moore’s law, and custom ASICs from providers like S3semi
    • Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they can’t be reliable! A 3U cube satellite is very big when you’re talking about CMOS IC real estate!
    • Elizabeth Driscoll  (GOMspace) sang from the S3semi hymn sheet when talking about reliability being designed in.  Redundancy and quick recovery from upset can be a path to reliability.
  • Lots of talk about Electronically Steered Antenna Arrays
    • Isotropic Systems made a big launch splash with interesting technology joining the likes of Phasor in showing Phased Array antennas
    • ViaSat announcing co-operation with o3b/SES with their proprietary antenna systems in phased array antennas
    • mmWave CMOS is a key enabler for this new technology with up to thousands of elements per actively steered/scanned antenna where cost is paramount
    • S3semi has innovative CMOS IP available and in development in this area.
  • LEO Mega Constellations are nearly here
    • Exciting times as the new economics of launching satellites and the higher capability of smaller satellites will bring new services through these massive systems
    • High throughput LEO implies steerable antenna and Isotropic Systems announced a co-operation with OneWeb.
  • Industrial Internet of Things meets Satellites
    • Craig Malone at Orbcomm presented a very interesting overview of the Industrial Internet of Things and M2M communication enabled by Orbcomm’s LEO/GEO hybrid system.

Overall it was a really busy and interesting show and it was great to see plenty of S3 Semiconductors customers on the floor showcasing their hardware, enabled by custom chips from S3semi inside. The future is bright for custom silicon and the opportunities that our customers can develop with mmWave CMOS custom chips.

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