Satellite communications innovator and space gateway, Goonhilly Earth Station today launched its roadmap and outlined developments which will galvanise its position in the satellite industry and place it firmly at the vanguard of the new space economy driven by private investment and solid growth performance. With the agility of a start-up yet with many science and technology firsts under its belt, this roadmap underpins the firm’s ambition to become a world-leading space connectivity nexus and centre of innovation.
Following a £24 million funding injection by UK billionaire Peter Hargreaves in May 2018, Goonhilly’s roadmap includes:
Installing new deep space antennas for the launch of the first private deep space communication network. It will support commercial lunar and Mars missions from 2020
Investing in infrastructure and facilities in the US and Australia to support deep space projects, LEO constellations and international terrestrial projects
Construction of a state-of-the-art, green data centre featuring unparalleled connectivity
The opening of an R&D and manufacturing facility to support customers, to design and develop a range of satellite communications products and to further grow well-established partnerships with university researchers
Investing in talent across business development, operations and engineering
“Many of the world’s leading space companies have already selected Goonhilly as a trusted partner. As we enter into our next chapter of expansion, our aim is to be the preferred partner for organisations seeking to take advantage of our disruptive, entrepreneurial approach to business. We are always seeking opportunities to add value for our clients, so they can grow their businesses as we grow ours. We have the skills and facilities to deliver that growth as well as access to an unprecedented range of connectivity and technical options,” said Ian Jones, CEO and Co-Founder of Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd, the privately held company which acquired the iconic 164-acre Cornwall site from BT in 2014.
Pioneering private deep space communications
Goonhilly has a unique solution for deep space communications with a fully funded plan to create the world’s first private deep space network in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). It recently won an £8.4m ESA contract, and is using funds provided by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to upgrade the 32m Goonhilly-6 dish to provide ESA with communications for future lunar missions. The team is also working in close collaboration with researchers at Oxford University to create a combined radio telescope and deep space antenna using the second largest of the Goonhilly dishes, Goonhilly-3. University researchers have designed a breakthrough cryogenic receiver and back-end processor that provides the ultra-low-noise performance required for both primary tasks.
Through the collaboration with ESA, Goonhilly will be involved in upcoming return-to-the-moon missions including the communications with spacecraft on the first Space Launch System (SLS) launch.
Goonhilly has also partnered with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and ESA on a pioneering private commercial space exploration project, Lunar Pathfinder. The aim is to take a number of small experimental CubeSats on a piggyback ride to the Moon to provide communications and navigation services. Lunar Pathfinder will also provide these communication and navigation services to other lunar exploration missions.
As a stepping-stone to Lunar Pathfinder, Goonhilly and SSTL have also signed a collaboration agreement with Astrobotic to gain early flight operations experience and provide the Astrobotic mission with communications and command capabilities.
As deep space communications from a single location only provides a partial solution, Goonhilly has funded plans to create a complete deep space network by adding ground stations in Australia and USA. Using a combination of dish and phased array techniques developed in conjunction with its radio astronomy partners, Goonhilly will deploy antennas with the flexibility to meet current and future frequency planning and mission needs.
A changing near space economy
Goonhilly is looking to gain significant market share in the GEO (Geo-stationary Earth Orbit) broadcasting and enterprise satcoms sector, as well as MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) and LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite services.
Although the commercial geostationary satellite market faces downward pressure on capacity costs, while high-throughput satellites are adding data volumes and TV habits increasingly favour over the top (OTT) services, Goonhilly sees potential for disruption. It plans to do this by adopting an agile approach to developing and delivering solutions that challenge the traditional models, and working with partners to open up new value-added services.
In addition to providing value added services that address the user community, Goonhilly has a broad portfolio of offerings to support satellite operators in GEO, MEO and LEO. This includes spacecraft tracking, telemetry and control (TT&C), in-orbit testing and monitoring services.
Goonhilly further meets broadcasters’ communications needs with a datacentre that supports of data-intensive live streaming. “We have the agility, approach and technology to shake up the existing world order in the mature satellite broadcasting sector,” commented Jones.
A data centre with real connectivity
Goonhilly is in the unique position of linking space communications with bundles of subsea cables and ultrafast fibre broadband to deliver unprecedented reach around the world. Sitting at a confluence of the planet’s main internet backbone and with the launch of its tier 3/4 datacentre later in 2018, customers including broadcasters can benefit from access to this secure, highly connected and resilient network. The datacentre’s high specification physical location and low latency connections will also make Goonhilly an attractive, cost-effective choice for hosting and co-location customers.
Goonhilly is investing in a major upgrade to power and cooling systems as well as adding layers of security. It has constructed a sizeable solar farm on its roofs, and, being on the coast, it benefits from free-air cooling most days of the year. These capabilities allow Goonhilly to keep costs down and minimise energy consumption.
Building on its engineering flair
Goonhilly’s existing systems engineering team will expand from its current consultancy role into a full-scale engineering design and development business covering software-defined-radio, digital signal processing, antenna design and phased array solutions.
Goonhilly is investing in a new electronics and software test and design lab to support these activities and to enable the development of products in diverse fields including communications and IoT (Internet of Things), maritime services, public services such as healthcare and defence, autonomous vehicles, agriculture, mining and cargo management.
A nascent space communications cluster in the far Southwest
In 2018, Goonhilly will open its R&D and manufacturing facility both to benefit customers and encourage academic research. Goonhilly already plays a pivotal role in UK science and innovation: It works in close association with top international universities. Goonhilly and its customers benefit as scientific and technology innovations are brought to life by some of the best research, design and engineering minds in the world.
“Our philosophy is to have a deep understanding of problems in order to explore new ways of doing things. Working with universities in space science and radio communications reveals new technological possibilities and informs new methodologies, resulting in better products and services for our customers,” said Jones.
This approach will see Goonhilly expanding its training and outreach programmes including running accredited post-graduate programmes in conjunction with partner universities. Goonhilly has already made a name for itself running a popular annual Space Mission Operations training course. “This will help to train the next generation of engineers and scientists, keep us very close to the latest technology developments and help us grow as a company,” said Jones.
Goonhilly is an Enterprise Zone, offering incentives for companies wishing to locate offices and facilities on site. It also hosts the Southwest Regional Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications and is a UK Space Agency-sponsored incubation centre for micro businesses.
“As access to space becomes more affordable and available there is an explosion of interest in space solutions, and a new golden age of science and creativity,” said Jones. “We are providing the facilities and people to nurture ideas emerging at start-ups and universities and helping them evolve into commercial opportunities.”