Northumbria University has been given over £650,000 by the UK Space Agency to continue world-leading research towards the first commercially accessible laser-centered inter-satellite communications technology. Currently, satellites communicate data using radio frequency, which has limitations in terms of data security, speed, and capacity. Researchers at Northumbria University, on the other hand, are working on a novel laser-based communications technology for small satellites referred as CubeSats, which might revolutionize the satellite communications sector.

The CubeSats become far more secure and can transfer 1,000 times more data for every second by utilizing lasers instead of radiofrequency. Last year, the University was given £360,000 to oversee the project’s discovery phase. The research team will be able to build as well as test their laser system during the next 12 months with this additional money, bringing the total sum allocated to over £1 million.

The project is being led by Northumbria University, in collaboration with Durham University’s Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, Gateshead-centered satellite communications technology business e2E Group, and Nottingham-based telecoms and electronics manufacturing firm SMS Electronics Limited.

To house the new laser communication system, they propose to combine three CubeSats into a device about the same size as that of a shoebox. This is a big problem since it necessitates the redesign and development of technologies that are generally utilized on much bigger scales to fit into this smaller gadget and withstand the air conditions in space.

Their ultimate goal is to create a commercial product for big worldwide organizations and telecoms providers that can be simply and inexpensively launched into orbit and increase data transfer in space. It would also increase real-time satellite monitoring of Earth’s environmental challenges, allowing climate experts to view high-resolution images and perhaps even live-streaming from faraway locations.

The first gadgets are expected to be ready for intensive testing in early the year 2023, with a goal of launching them into orbit by the year 2025. Via National Space Innovation Programme, the United Kingdom Space Agency announced the allocation of nearly £7 million in funding. Northumbria University is among the top UK organizations, including corporations and only three other universities – Edinburgh, Cambridge, and the Open University – that have been allocated a part of the funds to put the newest advancements in space innovation into action.

The rest of the projects are focused on environmental management or climate change, but Northumbria’s is the sole satellite communications-linked project to win money, highlighting the globe-leading work being done in the North-East region in this area.

The initiative is led by Dr. Eamon Scullion, who is a solar physicist in Northumbria’s Solar-Terrestrial Science research group. “We are overjoyed to have received this grant to advance our research,” he stated. With this prize, we will be able to go on to the next stage of our objectives, where we will be able to put our ideas into action and develop and test our designs.

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