Latest development from the UK Space Agency will provide fast Internet on the ISS

27th Feb 2020
Columbus Ka Band

The latest satellite communications module The Columbus Ka-band Terminal (COLKa), developed by the UK Space Agency, arrived at the ISS earlier this month.

On Tuesday, February 18, COLKa — the latest invention by the UK Space Agency was delivered by the Cygnus rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) and is due to begin operations later this year. An antenna the size of an ordinary household refrigerator will allow astronauts to communicate with the Earth at the speed of a wired Internet.

COLKa terminal — the path to high-speed Internet in space

COLKa is Britain’s first industrial contribution to the International Space Station, which has been in orbit since 2000.

Columbus K-Band Terminal (ColKa)
Columbus Ka-Band (ColKa)

According to the British Space Agency, the development will allow ISS astronauts to use a high-speed Internet connection, without relying on NASA systems.

MDA Space and Robotics Limited were assigned to design and manufacture this terminal. This is an international communication and information company headquartered in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

David Kenyon, CEO of MDA UK, said that thanks to the COLKa programme, his company has every chance to become a leading supplier of space equipment in the UK.

“This development opens up great opportunities for growth, allows us to create new jobs both in the space and the communications market,” states Kenyon.

UK Space Agency development will start operating this year

The company plans to install and connect the device this year. The antenna will be located outside the Columbus module (ISS Science Lab).

To connect the module, the astronauts have to exit the ISS into outer space. The device will be located on the meteoroid protection panel.

The European Space Agency (ESA) reports that COLKa will transfer scientific data not only to European but also to other international stations. This will give scientists quick access to data from the latest experiments.

The device will send signals from ISS orbiting at a distance of about 250 km from Earth to European satellites 13,670 km away. From there, data will be transmitted to Earth.

ESA expects COLKa to ensure data transfer speed up to 50 Mbp/s. This will allow “astronauts and scientists to have a direct, high-speed connection with the Earth.”

Dr. Graham Turnock, Executive Director of the British Space Agency, called COLKa another example of how cooperation with the ESA has a positive effect on the British economy.

The Agency stated that they plan to use all knowledge and experience gained in the design, creation, and operation of COLKa, and in their further projects. In particular, the UK Space Agency implies the development of communication systems for the Lunar Gate, a small spaceship that will revolve around the moon.

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