Emerging from Hibernation

Like for so many other companies, the last 18 months have been very challenging for Heliaq. The COVID-related lockdowns, travel restrictions and supply chain shortages have had a major impact on us. Unfortunately, this prevented us from rolling out the Global Ground Station Network (GGSN) as intended.

The supply chain and transport issues will still be a major obstacle going forward, which could delay the roll-out of the GGSN even further. But, now that at least the travel restrictions are becoming less of an issue, this post will look forward to what Heliaq has in store over the next few months.

During the brief respite in restrictions during the Summer of 2020 we managed to deploy and test one AP24 ground station at Goonhilly in the UK and, with the exception of the dish feed, the ground station performed flawlessly. Since then we have redesigned the AP24 dish feed to be simpler, lower cost, lighter and with better RF performance, but at the cost of significantly reduced RF bandwidth. However, we do not believe this will be an issue, since the AP24 is still able to cover the entire satellite S-Band allocation (and UHF if required). Before the end of the year we will be manufacturing and rolling out the new dish feeds, which is the key component required to commission several more AP24 ground stations.

Along with the dish feed, we also completely re-wrote the Software Defined Radio (SDR) signal processing software. The new software has excellent performance, since it fully utilises all available resources of the host system, and it is tightly integrated into the GGSN control system. Like all the other GGSN software sub-systems, we have full visibility and control of the SDR software source code, thereby reducing the likelihood of interference to clients' data by other parties to near zero.

The biggest news is probably that we also wrote a completely new HMI / SCADA system to control the GGSN. For several years now we have not been able to find a professional, fully featured but lightweight, open source industrial control system framework. Given our long history in control systems, we decided to develop our own using Python and the Kivy graphical framework. We are most pleased with how this system turned out, and are planning to offer it as a standalone product to the wider market shortly. Just imagine what you will be able to do with a operator interface that combined the power of Python, a full 2D graphical engine (Kivy), MQTT and external visualization tools like Google Earth! More information on this system is available here: Industrial IoT Control Systems

Over the next month or two we will be performing final testing on the feed, SDR and control system upgrades, and hope to start commercial operation of the GGSN before the end of the year.

We have also been making steady progress on some of our other activities, including a new version of our low-cost electric drive system, our open-source-to-silicon industrial controller and gateway, as well as revised versions of our ALV-3 modular sounding rocket system.

Hopefully the coming months will be far easier than the previous!