On 14 February 2020, the ESA Columbus Ka-Band Terminal (COLKa) started its journey to the ISS, which is currently orbiting earth. Here, the terminal will be installed on the European Columbus module, a science laboratory which is part of the ISS. It will then enable continuous signal transmission to the ground via the European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS) system.
According to Drøpping, this will enable the European astronauts and scientists to exchange important information with ground stations in real time. They will benefit from higher bandwidth communications, faster delivery of scientific data, and high definition video imagery.
The terminal will be delivered to the International Space Station as part of Northrop Grumman’s thirteenth contracted commercial resupply services mission. Northrop Grumman launched their Cygnus spacecraft aboard an Antares rocket from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, US, supplying will ISS with several tons of cargo.
Kongsberg has been part of the team developing the terminal, through its Space & Surveillance division’s environment in Horten, Norway. The project has been headed by MDA Space and Robotics Limited, the UK division of MDA, the world leading Canadian space equipment manufacturer. The Space Electronics team in Horten, formerly known as Norspace, has developed, manufactured, and delivered frequency converters. They are critical parts of the COLKa Ka band Inter-Satellite Link (ISL) terminal provided by MDA. The terminal itself offers the astronauts greater capacity and availability of broadband connection, as it is capable of speeds of up to 400mbps downlink and 50mbps uplink, says Ellen Tuset, Vice President Division Space in KONGSBERG.
COLKa has been designed and integrated by MDA in the UK with both internal investment and funding provided by the UK Space Agency though the ESA Human Spaceflight program. Both KONGSBERG and Antwerp Space have supported the project with significant investments in the development of key subsystems.