June 21, 2024
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SES Space & Defense Demonstrates First Multi-orbit, Multi-band Commercial LEO Relay

SES Space & Defense, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SES, today announced the successful demonstration of the first multi-orbit, multi-band commercial space relay service in support of the NASA Communications Services Project (CSP).

To demonstrate data relay services, SES Space & Defense partnered with Planet Labs (Planet), the leading provider of global daily Earth data using SES’s O3b mPOWER satellite constellation in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and Planet’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) flight-representative terminal.

SES Space & Defense and Planet demonstrated a stable data link, validating the hardware, data flow and the end-to-end system performance as well as successfully reduced flight hardware and services risk. Throughout the testing process, the performance of Planet’s flight modem correlated with expectations, achieving link budgets that consistently aligned with predicted results.

The demonstrations support NASA’s Funded Space Act Agreement, which enables commercial space relay via Geostationary (GEO) C-band and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) Ka-band satellites to spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The initiative allows for NASA’s transition from the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) to commercial systems for its space relay requirements while helping create a commercial market for space relay.

In late 2023, SES Space & Defense already demonstrated Telemetry, Tracking and Commanding (TT&C) relay services through ground testing of a C-band “always on” channel. This was accomplished through Planet’s LEO flight-ready C-band terminal and SES’s C-band GEO global beams.

“With this end-to-end test and demonstration of capabilities, we were able to successfully showcase a complete data flow through our LEO Relay System (LRS) service,” said David Fields, President and CEO, SES Space & Defense. “The data measurement results validated our multi-band commercial space relay service, set the stage for the flight demonstration as the next step, and for the future launch of the operational service offering. We are exceptionally proud of all involved in developing a multi-orbit, multi-band space relay for both government and commercial LEO operators as NASA’s TDRS system retires.”

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