Com Dev Bounces Back With Government-Supported SB-SAT Partnership with Inmarsat

[Satellite TODAY Insider 10-12-10] In efforts to bounce back from a tough year and an executive leadership change, Com Dev, now under the direction of COO and interim CEO Mike Pley, announced it will enter into a development partnership with Inmarsat in order to support government deals in the United States and Europe.
    The partnership, which includes U.S.-based Broad Reach Engineering, was announced Oct. 11 after Com Dev’s European division signed a 5 million euro ($6.9 million) contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a new SwiftBroadband for Satellite (SB-SAT) terminal that will enable 24-hour access to low-Earth orbit (LEO) spacecraft on Inmarsat’s existing I-4 satellite network.
    The contract, which is being funded by the U.K. Technology Strategy Board’s contribution to ESA’s Artes 3-4 program, is split into two phases, with all work scheduled to be complete by 2012.
    Com Dev said the challenge of developing the terminal comes from the fact that LEO spacecraft currently can only communicate with ground segment during the short time when the satellites fly over the stations. Com Dev’s SB-SAT develop will aim to enable LEO spacecraft to continuously communicate during the whole orbit through specially adapted versions of Inmarsat’s aeronautical SwiftBroadband service, which will be implemented on the spacecraft and provide data rates up to 475 kbps.
    “The contract with ESA is a major endorsement of the SB-SAT concept and will provide a significant boost to its development. This pioneering technology promises to revolutionize the way in which LEO spacecraft communicate with the ground, often to share essential and time-critical information,” Com Dev Managing Director Rob Spurrett said in a statement.
    In a separate contract award, Inmarsat, Com Dev and Broad Reach Engineering also received funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to provide a space-borne SB-SAT terminal and associated services. The partners will jointly market the terminal and service to LEO satellite manufacturers and operators. Terminal production will be divided between Com Dev’s facilities in the United Kingdom and Broad Reach Engineering facilities in the United States.

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