ESA title

Architecture for Future Earth Observation Optical Space Component and Ground Segment

Ground Segment
  • Ground Networks & Data Distributions
Space Segment
  • Payload
  • Product Development
AFFRESCO addresses the future challenges in delivering the vast quantities of Earth observation data with an end-to-end real time optical data relay architecture with the associated hardware and software needed to overcome the many physical and networking layer challenges in implementing real time optical inter-satellite links and downlinks.
Objectives of the Product

AFFRESCO addresses the provision of a high data rate (>100 Gbps) satellite optical transport network for linking future Earth observation satellite constellations to give a low latency path to distributed optical ground stations. It does this by integrating both the ground and space segment optical free space communication hardware and network layers.

AFFRESCO advances a satellite constellation SDN modem designed for real time data transport combined with an ultra-light weight and mass producible optical inter-satellite and direct to Earth link terminal in preparation for an in orbit demonstration.

In addition to the hardware and networking, AFFRESCO also critically addresses the concept of operations needed to deliver a reliable and commercial service level agreement for optical data transport.

The goal is to support the seamless transfer of data from the space segment to ground – data streaming – for increased access to high resolution and low latency EO data.

Customers and their Needs

Future Earth observation networks and constellations are looking for lower latency and reliable delivery of data to allow near real time actionable insights. This is in addition to the vast increase in data being collected by high resolution and multi-spectral science instruments. Current instruments have to discard, or highly compress, most of the data collected due to the downlink bottleneck. This happens in a ground station network that is already at capacity with >40k EO satellite downlink passes per day, resulting in prohibitive costs for associated ground station services and driving up the costs of EO based products and services. If the future of the EO market is for commoditised services and integrated applications, then a paradigm shift in efficiencies throughout the entire data chain is required.

AFFRESCO addresses future novel EO and telecom constellation dynamic topologies with inter-satellite links to enable continuous real time access to an optical ground segment, with link fault tolerant routing. This also increases the downlink time enabling higher downlink time and ultimately throughput and reliability with fewer globally distributed optical ground stations. The additional benefit is optimising terrestrial transport for distributed storage in data centres.

The hardware to flexibly adapt to customer need and different topologies is designed to be software definable, so it can adapt even after it is deployed to meet evolving service needs.

Targeted customer/users countries

AFFRESCO covers the provision of service and hardware.

The space segment hardware is currently being developed for customers in both Europe and the USA.

The Optical ground segment service is being rolled out in conjunction with our ground station operator partner which has the largest global ground station network.

Product description

AFFRESCO has two key hardware components for the Space Segment end user customers. That space segment hardware is developed to work with mBryonics’ optical ground station terminal.

The modem allows for intra- and inter-satellite network switching to grant handover of multiple optical satellite terminals and enable real time optical transport networking of constellations for low latency data transfer.

The fibre coupled optical terminal uses a low mass gimbal for course mechanical beam steering with a field of view for different satellite network topologies, including low elevation optical downlinks. The fibre coupling allows the use of fibre coupled photonics enabling multiplexing for scalable data channels to be added as needed by the end user.

The image above shows the product/system architecture (on a high level) and highlights the main system building blocks (on a high level).

Added Value

Particularly for Earth observation, augmenting ground station visibility with inter-satellite links dramatically increases throughput and enables real time data access. This also allows for improved link reliability with dynamic optical transport routing, traffic coordination, and orchestration. This leads to reduced ground segment infrastructure CAPEX, and reduced terrestrial long haul OPEX by routing data to the ground station closest to the data centre.

Current status

AFFRESCO officially kicked off in 2019 and is rapidly advancing years of research and pre-development work in preparation for an in orbit demonstration.

Prime Contractor Company
mBryonics Ltd
Ireland Flag Ireland
Contractor Project Manager
John Mackey
mBryonics Ltd. Unit 13 Fiontarlann Teo, Westside Enterprise Park, Galway, H91 XK22, Ireland
ESA Technical Officer
Amanda Reagan, Igor Zayer

Current activities