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© beaniebeagle dreamstime.com Components | December 10, 2014

RFEL awarded follow on R&D contract by ESA

RFEL has received a second a second, follow on research and development contract awarded by European Space Agency, and in collaboration with other European partners.
The initial contract covered the research phase into a flexible, wideband receiver, front-end architecture for next generation broadband and broadcast satellite services. As is evident in everyday life, the demand for high-speed data communications and higher resolution broadcasting services (2/4k TV) is pushing service and infrastructure suppliers to provide wideband (capacity) services for general population use. This particular project set a basic objective of being able to provide 500MHz instantaneous bandwidth capability that could be utilised by current services, typically using multiple carriers of a few 10s of MHz bandwidth each, but also be ready to accept a range of new single carrier services operating with occupied bandwidths of up to the full 500MHz.

This requirement needed a software-defined, front-end design that could be configured on the fly to meet whatever the service demands required. For example, this might be a single carrier at the full 500MHz bandwidth or perhaps up to 32 different and varied bandwidth carriers operating in the same 500Hz total bandwidth.

One element that RFEL introduced to the research was the use of a flexible and dynamically reconfigurable, digital filter bank based on its ChannelCore Flex (CCF) design. The CCF design used can extract up to 32 independent channels from an instantaneous bandwidth of 2GHz, which is supplied from a high-speed analogue to digital converter (ADC) running at 5 Gsamples per second. Each output channel can be independently configured at run-time for bandwidth of up to 500MHz, sample rate of either 2x bandwidth or 4x bandwidth, centre frequency and output filtering type. The only constraint is that the total bandwidth of all output channels must be no more than 500MHz.

"The research element of the project was a great success," said Alex Kuhrt, RFEL's CEO, "so this second, follow on contract has now been placed by ESA to build a prototype demonstrator that includes the full, front-end receiver chain with all the digital processing demonstrated in FPGA technology."

Other collaborators are AUDENS ACT Consulting GmbH, who are leading the team on the project and have been investigating novel beam forming solutions for dish-based systems that could provide significant interference reduction capabilities, and Rheinmetall Defence Electronics GmbH who have been responsible for the overall system architecture.

The funding provided by ESA for this project has resulted in the creation of technology that will be taken forward to assist in the development of the next generation of receiver technology for flexible, wideband satellite receiver technology. RFEL will be marketing the advance CCF technology developed under this ESA funded project for applications in the space and terrestrial communications market, in addition to scientific and test applications, and together with AUDENS ACT, are exploring potential applications for low complexity, digital beam-forming.
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