Carlo Gavazzi Space, one of the Italian consortium members, co-ordinated the trials at the Swedish Space Centre at Esrange and took care of the High Altitude Carrier – a stratospheric balloon.
Trials using radio and optical communications equipment were carried out, using a 12,000 m3 balloon, flying at an altitude of around 24 kilometres for nine hours.
High Altitude Platforms, such as airships, offer the scope to deliver very high data rate wireless broadband links providing a real alternative to wired or satellite connections.
The lightweight, broadband wireless access radio link equipment was designed and developed by the University of York to operate in the mm-wave band (28/29GHz). This supported data rates of 11Mbit/s and throughputs up to 4Mbit/s, using WiFi (IEEE802.11b), at distances ranging up to 60km.
Dr. David Grace, the project’s principal scientific officer said: “Proving the ability to operate a high data rate link from a moving stratospheric balloon is a critical step in moving towards the longer term aim of providing data rates of 120Mbits/s.”
DLR, a German partner, performed the first known optical 1.25 Gbit/s downlink from the stratosphere to an optical receiver on the ground over a link distance of up to 64 km. The very high data rates offered by free space optical communications will be used for future inter platform and platform to satellite backhaul links.
The trial was a multi-partner collaboration including University of York (UK), Carlo Gavazzi Space (IT), DLR (D) and CSEM (CH).
Further research work continues and additional trials are planned for 2006 in conjunction with the Japanese partners (NICT and JSC).