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(15 December 2020 – IEC Telecom) IEC Telecom and Thuraya have introduced Orion Edge V, a state-of-the-art satcom system which offers an affordable VSAT-like experience over compact hardware. Digitalisation, previously reserved for large vessels, is now available for smaller crafts.

At a time when some 60% of Middle Eastern companies report that they are now actively investing in digital technologies, digitalised vessels have a competitive advantage when it comes to adapting to challenges and optimising business opportunities. The United Arab Emirates is one of the top 20 most digitally advanced economies in the world, and in the maritime sector, many Middle East port operators are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) to drive value in the digital economy, which is estimated to grow to a value of $14 trillion by 2030.

Until now these digital benefits have been unavailable to small and mid-sized vessels. However, IEC Telecom has joined forces with Thuraya, the leading global satellite operator, to bring affordable quality satcom technology to customers with limited onboard space via the cutting-edge Orion Edge V. The new solution enables a VSAT-like communications experience over L-band with access to a cloud-based system, offering a wide range of telecom services.

Incorporating IEC Telecom’s ground-breaking OneGate system into the pre-existing Orion Edge solution has brought communications to a new level with a wide range of telecom services now available via a virtual platform. ICT managers can monitor and control the network across all vessels of their fleet remotely via a user-friendly set of dashboards. New services, including telemedicine, videoconferencing, and remote maintenance, can be added on demand via IEC Telecom’s application store.

Following the successful launch in Asia-Pacific at the end of November 2020, IEC Telecom and Thuraya introduced this digital game-changer to EMEA customers during the Seatrade Maritime Middle East Virtual event, a three-day tradeshow and conference, which took place in Dubai from 14th to16th December, 2020. Nabil Ben Soussia, CEO for Asia, Middle East & CIS, IEC Telecom Group, and Shawkat Ahmed, Chief Commercial Officer, Thuraya Telecommunications Company, also shared their knowledge and experience during a deep dive live session on Tuesday, December 15th, where they outlined how the virtualisation of telecommunication services presents new opportunities for all vessel types.

Mr. Ben Soussia said, “Today we are experiencing a significantly higher demand for digital solutions, which has been escalated by the pandemic. Launching Orion Edge V in the UAE market has highlighted the benefits of digitalisation that are now available even to small vessels via state-of-the-art virtual platforms, keeping in mind investment and space constraints.”

Mr. Ahmed stated, “We are pleased to work with IEC Telecom to develop this connectivity solution, which brings significant benefits to an important market segment. In today’s competitive marketplace, innovation is key to success. You need to be able to adapt quickly to business requirements with efficient solutions. Orion Edge V packs the broadband capabilities of Thuraya’s Orion IP terminal with the reliable voice, tracking, and monitoring features of Thuraya MarineStar. The combination offers a stable voice and data connectivity solution that can easily be transferred to another vessel, if needed.”

Digitalisation enables optimised operations, cost efficiency, and a competitive advantage, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further served to accentuate the need for digital solutions in the maritime sector. In the past, digitalisation was reserved for large vessels connected to VSAT. Virtualisation of telecommunication services extends this benefit to all vessel types over compact L-band terminals.

Globally, the small boats sector has evolved steadily over recent years and is forecasted to grow at 7% by 2024 to become a $13.8 billion industry. The UAE fleet includes numerous smaller vessels, particularly those supporting its growing offshore oil and gas sector.

Mr. Ben Soussia commented, “For small ships, such as offshore support vessels, it is important to remain within tight budgetary requirements. This agile product gives you the confidence to be in control of costs while benefitting from all that is possible through digital communications now and for years to come. To support this market, IEC Telecom offers Orion Edge V with flexible tariff plans and an option of free hardware for project-based subscriptions, enabling fleet managers to get their vessel connected with zero capital investment in a short span of time. It’s a win-win and we are delighted to introduce Orion Edge V during this year’s virtual Seatrade Maritime Middle East.”

With a digitalised world now inevitable, the digital economy has grown two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years. It is now worth $11.5 trillion globally, equivalent to 15.5% of the global GDP. The global digital transformation market is predicted to grow to $1,009.8 billion by 2025, and organisations in the Middle East and Africa are expected to spend $30 billion (Dh110.1bn) on digital transformation this year.

Mr. Ben Soussia commented, “For maritime and offshore businesses, digital connectivity represents the future, and we are pleased to announce that the future, particularly for forward-thinking countries such as the UAE, is available now!”

Orion Edge V offers:

  • Least cost routing due to its dual satellite / GSM modes
  • Clearer, more reliable, communications via bandwidth optimisation provide a user experience up to 2 Mbps
  • A digital dashboard for network management and data consumption monitoring
  • Crew calling and data access even on small boats
  • Optimised applications for emails, videoconferencing, automated file transfer, video surveillance, route planning, remote maintenance, etc
  • Bandwidth prioritisation for critical vessel functions or during high-use periods
  • Real-time compression to enable up to 90% reduction in traffic for regular reporting and email exchange
  • Robust back-up services and advanced cyber security
  • Easy to setup, remove, and reinstall
  • Vessels remain reachable at all times with full visibility from shore using GPS tracking
  • With no long-term commitment needed, connectivity can be assessed on a project-by-project basis

About IEC Telecom

IEC Telecom Group is one of the leading international providers of satellite communications services. Renowned for supplying high quality satcom solutions for more than 25 years, IEC Telecom delivers efficient end-to-end voice and data services when and where it matters most.

We enable digitalisation for the maritime industry as well as remote units on land, where GSM coverage is not available.

For urban networks, we provide a powerful satellite back up to ensure the business continuity of customer enterprises.

IEC Telecom has long-standing business relationships with all the key satellite operators. As a strategic partner for Inmarsat, Iridium, Thuraya, and Yahsat, we’re in the unique position to support organisations with global operations as well as offer a wide variety of plans for area-by-area use to regional customers.

IEC Telecom’s integrated approach of in-house design and engineering expertise allows us to develop truly unique solutions that enable full control over customer satellite assets.

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JAXA, Taiyo Wire, NGK, Technosolver, and Koyo Materica develop a metal mesh for onboard deployable reflectors

JAXA Taiyo Wire NGK Technosolver and Koyo Materica develop a

(26 January 2021 – NGK Insulators) Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Taiyo Wire Cloth, NGK Insulators, Technosolver Corporation and Koyo Materica Corporation have jointly developed a metal mesh for onboard deployable reflectors that has achieved a dramatic cut in costs.

Artist image of deployable reflector using metal mesh. (courtesy: JAXA)

In order to realize faster communications speeds, next generation communications satellites need to be able to work with high frequency band, which necessitates large deployable reflectors. Conventionally, the metal mesh of the antennas have been made from gold plated Molybdenum wire, which is a mixed metal of precious metal and rare metal and therefore difficult to obtain and very costly. To cut costs, the five organizations have jointly developed a new metal mesh.

The new metal mesh is made from Zirconium Copper wire and fabricated by tricot weaving. It is light weight, flexible, and has excellent electrical reflection properties at the high frequency band of Ka (30 GHz). Zirconium Copper wire has characteristics similar to Molybdenum wire and is applicable to metal mesh. On top of this, Zirconium Copper wire is strong enough to be fabricated into a metal mesh without gold plating. These two reasons make it possible to dramatically cut cost compared with conventional metal mesh.

The new metal mesh is expected to be applied primarily to next generation communications satellites and SAR (synthetic apature radar) satellites, both of which use deployable reflectors to improve satellite capabilities.

Taiyo Wire Cloth Co., Ltd, and three other corporations are planning to make the new metal mesh available on the market for commercial satellites.

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Satnav antenna built for ends of the Earth

Satnav antenna built for ends of the Earth

(27 Janaury 2021 – ESA) A new ESA-supported wide-bandwidth satnav antenna has been designed to receive both satellite and augmentation signals from anywhere in the sky, even down to just a couple of degrees above the horizon.

With a growing number of satnav constellations in operation, Canada-based Tallysman Wireless’s new VeroStar antenna aims to pick up all available signals, as well as support the availability of L-band correction service signals. Its development was supported through ESA’s Navigation Innovation and Support Program (NAVISP) programme.

The precision of GNSS fixes is routinely sharpened with correction signals from augmentation systems, such as Europe’s EGNOS and the US WAAS, which also provide ongoing integrity (or reliability) information for high-accuracy and safety-of-life uses, such as aircraft descents. However, these augmentation signals are transmitted by geostationary satellites, hanging at fixed points above the equator, meaning that they become less visible for receivers in the far north or south.

VeroStar wide-bandwidth satnav antenna (courtesy: Tallysman)

satnav 2

Petal antenna design (courtesy: Tallysman)

“If you think of a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver as resembling a camera, then the antenna would be the lens,” explains Allen Crawford of Tallysman. “Now, you might have an excellent top-of-the-range camera, but if it doesn’t have a clean, distortion-free, and well-focused lens, then all you’re going to get are blurred pixels that no post-processing software can fix.

“So our antenna is like a lens, except it gathers radio signals instead of light – and it is the first step in the measurement process. We want the antenna to reproduce the received satellite signals as precisely as possible, in terms of amplitude and of signal phase, on a fully representative basis, for the receiver to process.”

Available in various models and sizes, including pole-mounted, surface-mounted, and embedded versions, the VeroStar is aimed at high-performance mobile applications, such as land surveying, precision farming, maritime and autonomous vehicle navigation, typically requiring positioning accuracy down to a few centimetres.

“Different customers have differing requirements,” adds Julien Hautcouer of Tallysman. “There are plenty of GNSS antennas that work on a ‘good enough’ basis – for instance, antennas on top of cars just need to give a rough position, then the navigation receiver uses its map to estimate what street you’re on.”

“What we wanted to do, starting from scratch with this new design, for high-precision mobile users, was to be able to employ as many satellite signals from as many constellations as possible – not just GPS but also Galileo, the Russian, Chinese, Indian, and Japanese systems, plus correction service signals – and this requires good stable performance across a very wide bandwidth.”

“We want it to provide nothing but the pure right-hand circular signals, minimising any misleading reflected ‘multipath’ signals,” notes Gyles Panther, CTO of Tallysman. “We also paid special attention to the symmetry of our antenna, so that satellite signals are treated in exactly the same way, no matter where in the sky the signals are coming from. It’s like looking through a good quality wine glass when you rotate it in front of your eyes, and your view through it stays the same.”

At the same time, the modern radio spectrum is very crowded, so the design team paid particular attention to filtering out radio interference that could cause a situation where a drone might be forced down by local radio noise.

The VeroStar design is based on eight curled ‘petals’ of printed circuit boards, inspired by the post-war Alford loop antenna, which was originally designed for simultaneous transmission of multiple FM radio signals.

“The Tallysman team performed a long optimisation process using electromagnetic modelling to define the final shape for manufacturing,” notes ESA navigation engineer Nicolas Girault, the project’s technical officer. “They ended up with an inexpensive, easy to repeat process, which is ideal, really.”

The design maximises antenna efficiency and performance, adds ESA engineer Damiano Trenta: “Its rotational symmetry geometry and wideband behaviour help to provide a stable phase centre over frequency and angular range. Optimisation of the petals’ shape helps to improve the minimum gain at very low elevation angles, compared with the current products on the market, and keeps a very low cross-polar level for multipath mitigation. ”

Subsequent production line checks revealed this value remained consistent across all antennas.

The VeroStar models are now being marketed commercially both individually and as an element within customer products. VeroStar development was supported through NAVISP Element 2 – aiming to boost Member State competitiveness through the development of improved or innovative commercial products – as well as the Canadian Space Agency.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission plans for May asteroid departure

NASAs OSIRIS REx mission plans for May asteroid departure

(26 January 2021 – NASA) On May 10, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will say farewell to asteroid Bennu and begin its journey back to Earth.

During its Oct. 20, 2020, sample collection event, the spacecraft collected a substantial amount of material from Bennu’s surface, likely exceeding the mission’s requirement of 2 ounces (60 grams). The spacecraft is scheduled to deliver the sample to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023.

This illustration shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departing asteroid Bennu to begin its two-year journey back to Earth. (courtesy: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

“Leaving Bennu’s vicinity in May puts us in the ‘sweet spot,’ when the departure maneuver will consume the least amount of the spacecraft’s onboard fuel,” said Michael Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Nevertheless, with over 593 miles per hour (265 meters per second) of velocity change, this will be the largest propulsive maneuver conducted by OSIRIS-REx since the approach to Bennu in October 2018.”

The May departure also provides the OSIRIS-REx team with the opportunity to plan a final spacecraft flyby of Bennu. This activity was not part of the original mission schedule, but the team is studying the feasibility of a final observation run of the asteroid to potentially learn how the spacecraft’s contact with Bennu’s surface altered the sample site.

If feasible, the flyby will take place in early April and will observe the sample site, named Nightingale, from a distance of approximately 2 miles (3.2 kilometers). Bennu’s surface was considerably disturbed after the Touch-and-Go (TAG) sample collection event, with the collector head sinking 1.6 feet (48.8 centimeters) into the asteroid’s surface. The spacecraft’s thrusters also disturbed a substantial amount of surface material during the back-away burn.

The mission is planning a single flyby, mimicking one of the observation sequences conducted during the mission’s Detailed Survey phase in 2019. OSIRIS-REx would image Bennu for a full rotation to obtain high-resolution images of the asteroid’s northern and southern hemispheres and equatorial region. The team would then compare these new images with the previous high-resolution imagery of Bennu obtained during 2019.

“OSIRIS-REx has already provided incredible science,” said Lori Glaze, NASA’s director of planetary science at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “We’re really excited the mission is planning one more observation flyby of asteroid Bennu to provide new information about how the asteroid responded to TAG and to render a proper farewell.”

These post-TAG observations would also give the team a chance to assess the current functionality of science instruments onboard the spacecraft – specifically the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS), OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES), OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS), and OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA). It is possible dust coated the instruments during the sample collection event and the mission wants to evaluate the status of each. Understanding the health of the instruments is also part of the team’s assessment of possible extended mission opportunities after the sample is delivered to Earth.

The spacecraft will remain in asteroid Bennu’s vicinity until May 10, when the mission will enter its Earth Return Cruise phase. As it approaches Earth, OSIRIS-REx will jettison the Sample Return Capsule (SRC). The SRC will then travel through the Earth’s atmosphere and land under parachutes at the Utah Test and Training Range.

Once recovered, NASA will transport the capsule to the curation facility at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and distribute the sample to laboratories worldwide, enabling scientists to study the formation of our solar system and Earth as a habitable planet.

Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona in Tucson is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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