Fleet provider Inmarsat and communications infrastructure business Addvalue Innovation declared progress Nov. 23 to relay the data between the ground operations center of Capella Space and the synthetic aperture radar satellite Sequoia of Capella in the low Earth orbit. Inmarsat, based in London, and Addvalue Innovation, an affiliate of Addvalue Technology Ltd., based in Singapore, have worked together for years to develop a saleable (IDRS) Inter-Satellite Data Relay System to connect satellites with ground networks in low Earth orbit continuously. The first commercial demonstration of IDRS operation on Nov. 12 was carried out by Capella Space when it transmitted task orders to Sequoia in the geostationary orbit via the Inmarsat-4 L-band constellation.
Payam Banazadeh tweeted Nov. 23, “Capella Space becomes the world’s first and only commercial SAR company to use a GEO satellite for real-time tasks,” “This means quicker delivery times and more space-based actionable information.” In government agencies and industries, radar imagery and data consumers have complained of delays in transmitting tasking instructions for Earth observation, rendering SAR constellations a promising IDRS technology.
“For both Inmarsat as well as Addvalue, in-orbit connectivity signifies a thrilling new development market,” Todd McDonell, President of Inmarsat Global Government, said in a statement. What is important to LEO operators like Capella Space is the opportunity in a wired environment to deliver timely services their customers now demand. Inmarsat’s L-band satellite network is strategically equipped to enable smooth real-time communications that are optimized for connectivity and can be globally managed. IDRS technology is also expected to be embraced by clients collecting climate data and conducting disaster relief missions by Inmarsat and Addvalue. It helps operators send orders to satellites without waiting for them to fly overground stations.
According to the Nov. 23 press release, ‘The new data link should shorten waiting times for such data transfers from multiple hours to a handful of minutes. “In a natural disaster, this can improve life-saving efforts or allow observers to identify problems and direct resources to address them before they advance or get out of control.”
In a contract announced at the 2019 International Astronautical Congress, Capella Space has purchased six IDRS terminals. In a statement, Christian Lenz, Capella Space vice president of engineering, said, “We are proud to partner up with Inmarsat and Addvalue to bring an entirely new level of quality and functionality to our clients. This connectivity in real-time will allow us to largely minimize the time between customer task requests and when on-orbit data is collected.”
Inmarsat and Addvalue are both selling IDRS terminals to operators of satellite constellations. Also, the Defense Advanced Development Projects Agency established the importance of the Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Network for the low Earth orbit satellite communications. In 2010, Inmarsat was awarded an $18 million contract by DARPA for a scheme called Continuous Broadband Land Access for Low Earth Orbit Satellites.