Skip to main content

Satellite Data Acquisition in the Blink of an Eye

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BLINK (Satellite Data Acquisition in the Blink of an Eye)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2019-10-31

It is widely known that as much as 80% of key information used in many industries such as meteorology, logistics, navigation, oil and gas, agriculture, ecology and other, comes from space, or, to be more precise, via satellites. It is almost impossible to imagine how those industries would function without such data. According to statistics, in the last decade, more than 1,000 civilian satellites have been launched into Earth's orbit. Space segment science and technology, and in particular, hardware in the space segment advances so fast that it is nearly unrecognizable compared to just a decade ago. Lower launch costs, off-the-shelf components and growing demand for the satellite data fosters the exponential increase in satellite launches, not just by space agencies such as ESA, NASA and other, but also by private companies and even universities. The major challenge in the satellite industry lies in transferring big and growing amounts of information that are coming from satellites onto the ground and processing it in real time and at the same time, at acceptable costs. In comparison to the space segment, the ground segment doesn’t seem to be keeping pace with state-of-the-art technology. It is still heavily based on special-purpose hardware, which requires a lot of time and money to build, deliver, configure and use, and at the same time it is difficult to maintain and slow to fix and modify. After Haiti earthquake in 2010 – from the moment the earthquake stroke, it took 40 hours to get a satellite image-based assessment of the disaster impact. This was way too long considering the fact that thousands of human lives were in danger. The toll in human lives, suffering and property loss from these catastrophes can be reduced, with a sufficient number of satellites and fast ground segment processing. This is where Blink comes in!

Blink is an ultra-fast satellite telemetry acquisition and processing solution entirely built in software. The aim of the solution is to replace expensive and hard-to-maintainable hardware demodulators currently used in the satellite industry and to provide an affordable, scalable and flexible solution for both big and small satellite missions.

The aim of the project is to deliver Blink to the global market, a software-based solution for Earth observation ground stations which will enable assembling a full performant ground station at a fraction of time and cost that are usual at a time being. This will bring benefit, not just to growing segment of start-up companies, but also to big governmental missions worldwide, including Copernicus – the EU flagship mission for Earth observation. The goal of the project is in particular to upgrade Blink product to the highest technical readiness level and test it in the operable environments.
Main Blink components (hardware and software) are well defined and their flexible, multi-mission and market-friendly design is confirmed.

Licensing support has been integrated providing various licensing options, both traditional and Pay-As-You-Grow. A strong foundation for various installation types, platforms and environments of ground stations is added, supporting the goal of multi-market solution.

Initial versions of the hardware components have been produced and tests so far confirm the targeted high quality.

In parallel, substantial progress has been made in digital signal processing, including implementation of key capabilities, partial performance optimisation, orchestration of those components into a solution and controlled deployment to target environments. Continuous testing confirms correct behaviour and achieved performance levels.
Satellite to ground communications in the Earth Observation domain are making incremental improvements, but there are no paradigmatic shifts on the horizon. They are still heavily hardware-based, rigid and expensive. Blink is breaking new ground in pure software signal processing, having already reached processing speeds useful for a majority of missions and rapidly improving to be able to meet needs of the most demanding missions.

Ground systems do not have to be rigid. Deploying Blink at ground stations will make it possible to quickly customise, adapt and evolve reception.

Blink's platform and architecture make it possible to deploy solutions at extremely competitive prices, reducing overall ground segment cost, opening doors to operators which previously struggled to set up working ground systems.

This lowers the barriers to getting Earth Observation satellite data to the ground, data vital for agriculture, climate change monitoring, land and forest management, ecosystem observation, air pollution, cargo transportation, disaster relief and business. There are hardly more important issues for contemporary society to address.
Blink Processing Report Summary
One of the images rendered after signal processing by Blink