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The First Global Ground Station Network to Fully Exploit Microsatellites Data

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Leaf Line (The First Global Ground Station Network to Fully Exploit Microsatellites Data)

Période du rapport: 2020-07-01 au 2021-03-31

Microsatellites have disrupted the Earth Observation industry, creating unprecedented opportunities which were exclusive of large scale satellites until few years ago. However, data transfer from microsatellites is currently hindered by the Ground Segment, since solutions available to microsatellites operators are either too expensive or present insufficient performance.
Leaf Line is the first next generation global network of antennas completely dedicated to microsatellites, enabling quasi-near-real time Earth Observation.
The Leaf Line network deployed in this Phase 2 consists of 8 antennas, which together make a network configuration able to largely overcome current solutions both in terms of cost and performance. Besides, this initial network is designed to be up-scalable to an unlimited number of nodes to follow market evolution.
In this way, Leaf Line unleashes the full exploitation of microsatellites data: for example, Leaf Line enables quasi-real‐time imagery of moving ships, thus contributing to tackle illegal fishing which depletes fish stocks and costs the global economy around €18 billion every year, or help better tracking population movements in the aftermath of a humanitarian disaster. Extraordinary improvements can also be achieved in the fields of security, disaster management and precision farming, where fast intel and decision making is required.
First of all, the market requirements for the Leaf Line have been defined by means of interactions with stakeholders from microsatellite market. In particular we targeted companies operating microsatellites to delivers data coming from LEO to their final users thanks to the uplink/downlink available through the Leaf Line GS network. The requirements have been analysed and turned into product specification for the design and engineering team throughout the development process.


In WP2, the activities the focus was on hardware and network development. First of all, we installed a set of upgrades on Italian GS, to achieve the desired performance and reliability and to reach full compliance with CE regulations. Then the X-band chain has been completely developed and tested (from TRL6 to TRL9) in operative condition. We started from the objectives defined in the preliminary phase and, after some trade off on technology, we defined a solution that has been designed and manufactured. Then we installed the full chain on upgraded Italian GS and performed an extensive test campaign, to validate the design.
To full exploit the network, we have to install 5 additional ground station within the project. In the first half we installed the GS in Ireland and focused on the partner’s research for the future installations. The work performed in this phase will allow us to move forward with the plan in the second half of the project and reach the goals within M24.

WP3 was aimed at developing the entire software infrastructure and at delivering the software Beta Release. This first version of the software will be used by the internal team of Leaf Space and by some selected customers to find and fix bugs and to optimize the code.

We started from the requirements definition for the software, together with the methodology and the high-level parameters for the software development (languages, versioning, etc.). Then the entire architecture was draft, iterated and frozen. With these elements, we were able to develop an efficient software, able to satisfy the market requirements and all the other requirements coming from the operations to be performed to use the GSs network.
Finally, the activities focused on the cybersecurity aspects, to include all the procedures, tools and best practices applied to IT with the goal of identifying and prevent attacks coming from the Inter
The overall software infrastructure developed up to M12 is able to operate the network, even if there are wide margins for improving the performance and the stability of the code.

WP4 was focussed on the development was focussed on the operative tests related to GS and Network. The plan was to test the single GS and the integration of the GSs network with the developed software infrastructure, to reach the ready-to-market condition of the service.

An intensive testing campaign has been carried out also with real satellites to check the performance of the system and its reliability. The results of the test have been very positive.
Specifically, we tested tree main aspects:
• change in meteorological conditions, such as high wind, heavy rain, snow, high or low temperatures;
• hardware compatibility between satellites communication systems and our GSs;
• medium and long-term issues due to the intense use of the GSs.

The software/hardware integration has been started and we are testing the performance of the current network with real satellites. After a receiving only setup, we are move towards a full TT&C setup, in which we will test our capability to communicate with satellites bidirectionally. This final configuration has been already tested with real customers, by following the commissioning phase of a satellite. Preliminary results are very encouraging. The final step will be to demonstrate our full compliance with customer’s needs and to test the operative modes used by customers to interact with the Leaf Line Services.
In WP5 a marketing and communication strategy has been defined and put into practice although not planned for the first year of the project. In this respect and having identified the main stakeholders during the technological development of both hardware and software systems of the Leaf Line solution, this allowed us to exhibit Leaf Line at several international trade fairs, at investor events, but also at high-level events including key opinion leaders of the microsatellite market. During these events, brochures and company profiles were handed out, presentations were held, and personal meetings were held.
Furthermore, an IPR protection plan for the Leaf Line service was developed and integrated into Leaf Space’s existing strategy. In doing so, attention was paid as to how to reap synergies across Leaf Space’s product portfolio and across different protection mechanisms in order to assure a sound protection in non-European and where sole patent protection often does not offer full protection.
Leaf Line is the first European network of Ground Stations (GSs) enabling the full exploitation of data from microsatellites through a cost-effective Network as a Service offer to microsatellite operators.
To obtain such outcome, the Leaf Line technology leverages on two key components:
1. The Leaf Space Ground Station;
2. The Leaf Line software backbone.
The Leaf Line Phase 2 project focuses on the scale-up of the Leaf Line network to a full-fledged configuration with 8 GSs, which represents the basic lay-out to provide microsatellites operators with a telecommunication service having the following benefits:
1. Up to 3-fold increase of the satellite connection time;
2. Decrease of the cost-per-byte by 40%;
3. Decrease the latency (namely the average time between two consecutive visibility windows between the satellite and the GSs) from 6 to 2 hours.
These objectives are still valid for the Phase 2 project and still provide industrial breakthrough potential since no other project worldwide will reach these results in a mid-time period
Leaf Space Ground Station in Italy