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CEA RF Chip Enables Ultralow-Power IoT Connectivity For Remote Devices Via Astrocast’s Nanosatellite Network

Accelerated Development for Communication Module Enables Low-Cost Connectivity for Devices in Maritime, Oil & Gas, and Transport Sectors

GRENOBLE, France and Lausanne, Switzerland – Sept. 20, 2022 – CEA, a technology-research organization, and Astrocast, a leading global satellite Internet of Things network operator, have announced their successful collaboration on a low-cost, bidirectional communication module that enables corporations to communicate with their remote assets in areas not covered by terrestrial networks.

The module’s L-band chip, based on a new architecture developed by CEA-Leti, is a key hardware component that enables Astrocast customers to cost-efficiently communicate with their assets in the field via its network. It was completed earlier this year in an expedited project between the research institute and Astrocast, and is embedded in Astrocast’s RF module, called Astronode S.

The chip’s architecture is split over the RF core and digital processing and control units. It is fully optimized to support Astrocast’s dedicated bidirectional ground-to-satellite protocol and provides an optimal trade-off between link budget and low-power and low-cost constraints. The chip also embeds all low-earth orbit (LEO), satellite-specific features such as satellite detection and robustness to Doppler shift.

The miniaturized, surface-mount module communicates with terrestrial devices via Astrocast’s constellation of LEO satellites. Using the L-band spectrum, the network primarily targets maritime, oil & gas, agriculture, land transport and environmental applications in which ubiquitous coverage is required.

“Terrestrial IoT networks cover only about 15 percent of the planet, which leaves vast remote and rural areas where our global satellite network provides coverage that is crucial for our target markets,” said Laurent Vieira de Mello, Astrocast’s COO. “Leveraging its expertise embedded in a preliminary version of the RF chip, CEA-Leti developed its chip and delivered the final prototype to meet our requirements and time-to-market goals. They managed the chip technology transfer to our industrialization, qualification and production partner.” 

The project’s critical time-to-market window was managed through a flexible collaboration model covering both prototype and industrialization phases.

“An accelerated time-to-market goal drove this project from the outset,” said Michel Durr, business development manager at CEA-Leti. “We pioneered this RF technology in 2019, and our team customized it for Astrocast up to production in only three years.”

CEA-Leti’s industrial tester used for characterization was key to accelerating from prototype to production, which enabled prototype characterization in parallel on the tester and in the lab, Durr explained.

“This process provided a short-loop debug capability with all skills available at CEA-Leti, and enabled us to deliver fully validated inputs to Astrocast’s industrialization partner for an easier industrial test-program development,” he said.

The low-energy, compact, surface-mount Astronode S module for highly integrated, battery-powered IoT systems offers a total cost of ownership up to three times lower than traditional satellite IoT alternatives.

About CEA

The CEA is a key player in research, development and innovation in four main areas: energy transition, digital transition, technology for the medicine of the future and defense and security.

According to the Clarivate 2022 ranking, the CEA is in The Top 100 Global Innovators, in terms of number of patents filed in France and Europe. We help businesses in all sectors be more competitive, creating high-performance products that stand out from the crowd and developing trail-blazing solutions that lead to changes in our society. We deploy this dynamic approach at sites all over France, aiding local partners to innovate themselves, thus helping to create sustainable value and jobs nationwide, tailored to meet actual industry needs. Alongside this, the CEA provides more than just a kick-start to our 222 startups, agile vectors for transferring the disruptive technology and knowledge developed at our laboratories to industry. For more information: www.cea-leti.com 

About Astrocast 

Astrocast SA operates a leading global nanosatellite IoT network, offering services in industries such as Agriculture & Livestock, Maritime, Environment & Utilities to name a few. The Astrocast network enables companies to monitor, track, and communicate with remote assets from anywhere in the world. It relies on superior L-band spectrum through a strategic alliance with Thuraya. In partnership with Airbus, CEA/LETI and ESA, Astrocast developed Astronode S, an ultra-low power and miniaturised module compatible with inexpensive L-band patch antennas. Founded in 2014 by a renowned team of experts, Astrocast develops and tests all its products in-house, from the satellites to the modules. Astrocast is listed on Euronext Growth Oslo and recently announced the acquisition of Hiber. For more information visit www.astrocast.com  

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