5 mins read 28 Apr 2021

Gilmour Space and SpaceLink explore collaborative opportunities

Queensland-based Gilmour Space Technologies are looking to explore technology integration with SpaceLink, the US subsidiary of ASX-listed company, Electro Optics Systems (EOS). 

Left. Dr Ben Green, CEO of Electro Optic Systems (EOS) and Right. Adam Gimour CEO of Gilmour Space. Credit - Gilmour Space Technologies

SpaceLink, a US-based satellite company who are looking to develop a data relay network for Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite users have signed an Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with Queensland-based Gilmour Space Technologies. The MOU will see SpaceLink and Gilmour work together to ensure the compatibility of SpaceLink communications terminals with the new Gilmour Space Technologies G-Class satellite platform. 

According to SpaceLink CEO David Bettinger, “Both Gilmour and SpaceLink are looking to lower the barrier to entry for space industry participants.”

The MOU will provide an opportunity to explore the incorporation of “Gilmour satellites into the SpaceLink network by implementing intersatellite communication links between Gilmour and SpaceLink satellites” said Bettinger. 

"We see the signing of this MOU as a strong endorsement of the business plans of both SpaceLink and Gilmour Space,” said Ben Greene, Chairman and CEO of Electro Optic Systems (EOS), the key strategic investor in SpaceLink. “SpaceLink looks forward to working with Gilmour Space on a definitive contract later this year.”

“We are very excited to be working closely with another leading space and defence company to enhance our small satellite and launch capabilities,” said Adam Gilmour, CEO of Gilmour Space. “The SpaceLink relay service has the potential to bring real time, high-capacity communications capability to our satellite customers.”

It is hoped that the MOU will lead to a definitive contract after providing both organisations the opportunity to ensure the compatibility of the SpaceLink communications terminals with the Gilmour space platform and to share technical and business information. 

According to Bettinger, “under the MOU SpaceLink and Gilmour will engineer compatibility with our network into Gilmour’s platforms. Long term, we will look to allocate service capacity for Gilmour on SpaceLink’s network.”

The SpaceLink Network

An example of the SpaceLink relay network. Credit - SpaceLink

One of the challenges of satellite missions is data management and relaying the data back to Earth. Much of the data is relayed via ground stations which can only be used for a short period of time whilst the satellite is within view of the ground station. 

Typically, with a satellite in LEO this can be 10 minutes or less. The more ground stations you have the more opportunity you have to collect your data or send commands to your satellite. With the ever increasing amount of information and tasking required, and the cost of building and managing ground stations, it is not surprising that companies are looking for alternatives. 

SpaceLink are developing a relay network, which according to their website, will ensure, “a SpaceLink relay satellite always visible to any spacecraft in LEO, and a secure ground station always visible to the relay satellites, our turnkey solution ensures direct data delivery to any point on the globe in milliseconds.”

“SpaceLink is building a satellite relay system that makes it easier for operators of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) spacecraft to send and receive real time data between their satellites and the ground,” said Bettinger.

“It helps close the business case for Earth observation companies, commercial space stations, satellite servicers and tugs, and meets requirements for the U.S. government and close allies that need to leverage industry solutions to maximize capabilities.”

“Because SpaceLink’s satellite network is in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) we provide lower latency than satellites in GEO for applications where real time communications are crucial. SpaceLink’s unique architecture is designed so that at least one of our relay satellites is always visible to any spacecraft in LEO, and each of our relay satellites is always within sight of at least one of our ground stations,” he said.

SpaceLink’s parent company EOS, who recently announced working on Adaptive Optics (AO) and infrared laser technology to potentially guide space junk into a safer orbit, are looking to benefit from the advanced optical communications technology that EOS have developed.

G-Sat, Gilmours latest offering

Gilmour hope to launch their G-Sat from their Eris Launch vehicle. Credit - Gilmour Space Technologies

As part of the release Gilmour have also announced that they are developing a scalable satellite platform, the G-Class Satellite Bus (G-Sat). It is within this platform that they hope to incorporate the SpaceLink relay network, leading to the integration of G-Sats into the SpaceLink network. 

The G-Sat will be made up of 600mm x 600mm x 600mm sections, like a bigger version of the standard CubeSat. Designed to fit into the Eris launch vehicle and other commercial launch vehicles, the scalable platform will result in larger and more capable small satellites according to Gilmour. 

According to Gilmour Space they are hoping to create a “new international satellite standard that is affordable and scalable in the same way as the 1U’s but resulting in larger and more capable small satellites”. 

“Gilmour is committed to providing affordable and reliable spacecraft, and their specialized ‘G-class’ satellite platform will meet the growing demand for next-generation space systems. Operators of G-class satellites will require the high-speed low-latency always-available communications and data transfer that only SpaceLink can deliver.” said Bettinger.