RF module for direct satellite IoT

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

French lab CEA-Leti has helped develop a bidirectional module for direct connection to the Astrocast nanosatellite network for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Astrocast in Switzerland operates a leading global nanosatellite IoT network, offering services in industries such as Agriculture & Livestock, Maritime and Environment & Utilities using L-band spectrum through a strategic alliance with Thuraya.

The L-band chip in the Astronode-S module was developed with Airbus and the European Space Agency and is based on a new architecture developed by CEA-Leti for direct links to the constellation.

The chip’s architecture is split over the RF core and digital processing and control units. It is fully optimized to support Astrocast’s dedicated bidirectional ground-to-satellite protocol and provides an optimal trade-off between link budget and low-power and low-cost constraints. The chip also embeds all the satellite-specific features for low-earth orbit (LEO) networks, such as satellite detection and robustness to Doppler shift.

“Terrestrial IoT networks cover only about 15 percent of the planet, which leaves vast remote and rural areas where our global satellite network provides coverage that is crucial for our target markets,” said Laurent Vieira de Mello, Astrocast’s COO.

“Leveraging its expertise embedded in a preliminary version of the RF chip, CEA-Leti developed its chip and delivered the final prototype to meet our requirements and time-to-market goals. They managed the chip technology transfer to our industrialization, qualification and production partner.”

“An accelerated time-to-market goal drove this project from the outset,” said Michel Durr, business development manager at CEA-Leti. “We pioneered this RF technology in 2019, and our team customized it for Astrocast up to production in only three years.”

CEA-Leti’s industrial tester was used for characterization and was key to accelerating from prototype to production, which enabled prototype characterization in parallel on the tester and in the lab, says Durr.

 “This process provided a short-loop debug capability with all skills available at CEA-Leti, and enabled us to deliver fully validated inputs to Astrocast’s industrialization partner for an easier industrial test-program development,” he said.;

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