Antennas Designed by Prof. Karu Esselle’s Team are now Orbiting in Space, on board The World’s First Entirely Ka-band CubeSat Spacecraft.
You may recall that in last year Engineers’ Gala Night Keynote Speech, Professor Karu Esselle described how fast wireless communication is expanding to various extremes – from human body to the space. Late last year he has helped an American Company to leap into a new era of space communication.
Karu was the leader of the Australian team that designed the high-gain antenna system aboard the world’s first entirely Ka-band CubeSat spacecraft – Audacy Zero. It was launched to space and deployed in December last year by SpaceX (USA) Falcon 9 rocket. This is believed to be the first Australian-designed antenna system deployed in space in close to two decades, since CSIRO-designed antenna systems on board Australia’s own FedSat satellite launched in 2002.
Shown right is a snapshot of the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket loaded with the Audacy spacecraft and several other spacecrafts). Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq8kS6UoOrQ (Launch starts at 19:41 time stamp)
[Editor’s Note: SpaceX was founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who also founded Tesla electric car and battery business, in 2002 with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars.]
A senior engineer of Audacy Space – a spin-off company of Stanford University located in California, USA – attended Professor Esselle’s 2017 IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Distinguished Lecture at the Texas Instruments (TI) headquarters in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley, California, and initiated this industry connection.
In a recent email to Professor Esselle, Audacy Chief Engineer James Spicer confirmed: “Hi Karu, we are indeed flying your antennas on Audacy Zero, .. Many thanks for you and your team’s hard work on the project ..”.
CubeSat Low-Earth-Orbit spacecrafts are currently being used or being developed for a whole range of applications including earth imaging, climate and environment monitoring, astronomy from space, scientific experiments in space, global internet connectivity, Internet-of-Things (IoT) connectivity and defence monitoring and surveillance.
Audacy is building a space relay network to provide continuous connectivity to all types of CubeStat spacecrafts, space stations, and future space vehicles. Without such a space relay network, a CubeSat can be seen from a fixed ground station only for a few minutes per day and that is often not enough to download all the data collected by the CubeSat.
Through Audacy network, any CubeSat spacecraft can be connected continuously (24/7) to the owner’s computer network, through one of the three Audacy Medium-Earth-Orbit spacecrafts and three ground stations in USA, Europe and Asia, which are connected to internet. Hence, the owner can download data collected in the CubeSat continuously and upload signals as well.
Audacy has been secured spectrum to communicate with spacecrafts in the higher frequency Ka-band. Due to the larger bandwidth available in this band, the wide-band high-gain antenna system solves the problem of the limited data rates of lower frequency bands (such as UHF, C and S bands) which are commonly used in conventional CubeSats, enabling high-speed data communication between spacecrafts and between a spacecraft and Earth.
After the launch, Karu has been invited to join Audacy Alliance as a space antenna expert. Audacy Alliance is a consortium of industry leading spacecraft product and technology providers that aim towards an open global standard for inter-spacecraft wireless communication network, which may be the future “WiFi in space”.
Audacy satellite. Australian-designed twin-array antenna system can be seen on centre right. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KvucmR37-c
Karu and his research group at Macquarie University
IESL NSW Chapter would like to thank Prof Karu for providing this article within very short notice. IESL NSW Chapter is very proud of Prof Karu and his team’s engineering marvels and would like to congratulate him and his team for their outstanding work and achievement.
Video clip of the Audacy ZERO satellite, showing the twin-array antenna system designed in Sydney: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KvucmR37-c