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5G Space Communications Lab

Title: 5G-SpaceLab: 5G Space Communications Lab

Principal investigator: Prof Symeon Chatzinotas

Vice principal investigators: Prof Tonie Van Dam, Prof Miguel Olivares

Researchers: Prof Symeon Chatzinotas, Prof Tonie Van Dam, Prof Miguel Olivares, Dr Jorge Querol, Dr Juan Carlos Merlano Duncan, Dr Nicola Maturo, Dr Sumit Kumar, Oltjon Kodheli, Jevgenij Krivochiza, Mohammad Gholamian, Dr Jan Thoemel, Dr Loveneesh Rana, Dr Carol Martinez Luna, Zhanna Bokal

Starting date / Duration: Sep 2020 / 2 years


The 5G Space Communications Lab (5G-SpaceLab) is a joint project of the CDF, CubeSatLab, LunaLab and SatComLab of SnT to create a unique integrated and interdisciplinary space communications and control emulation platform for the next-generation of space applications. The 5G-SpaceLab will allow to test, validate and demonstrate space operations for two different scenarios: Earth-orbiting satellite communications and Earth-Moon communications. The main goal of 5G-SpaceLab during the first year is to build a demonstration testbed and to present its initial capacities to the relevant industrial and government actors. The mentioned capacities include the evaluation of different small satellite formation control and cooperation configurations for non-terrestrial 5G networks or the realistic emulation of a space mission control room for communications and remote control of lunar rovers.


The main objective of this project, led by the SatComLab, is to design, implement and validate a 5G Space Communications Lab (5G-SpaceLab) that will be an internationally unique facility to educate and innovate in next-generation of space applications. This new facility will emerge from the joint efforts of the CDF, CubeSatLab, LunaLab and SatComLab laboratories under the Interdisciplinary Space Masters (ISM).

The 5G-SpaceLab will demonstrate space operations for two different scenarios: 1) Earth-orbiting satellite communications and 2) Earth-Moon communications.

Figure 1: 5G Space Communications Test-Bed Scenarios: Earth Orbit (left) and Lunar Communications (right).

Earth-orbiting scenario

The Earth-orbiting scenario will focus on a CubeSat 5G NTN experimentation mission. The communications payload will be based on a space-ready Software Defined Radio (SDR) from GOMSPACE (already available in the SatComLab). The SDR communications payload enables the development of flexible experimentation architectures such as bent-pipe, node-relaying or coherent distributed communications (twin payload). These payload requirements and capabilities will be co-designed in accordance with a suitable mission and spacecraft architecture for a single satellite or a small formation of CubeSats and interfaced with the Engineering Model (EM) available in the CubeSatLab in view of a future SnT mission.

Conversely to the situation in the GEO (or even MEO), commercial capacity in LEO is still a scarce resource, and if available, transparent payloads are not very common. Thus, experimentation is limited to the capabilities of the orbiting satellites. A future mission with Over-The-Air (OTA) 5G NTN testing capabilities will put SnT in a privileged position for acquiring national and international (including ESA “Space for 5G” strategic lines) funding for the next-generation 5G-enabled activities.

The existing formation flight code COSMOS will be extended for this application and demonstrated thereafter.

Figure 2: Earth-orbiting 5G NTN experimentation test-bed (left). CAD model of the proposed 1.5U CubeSat concept (right).

Earth-Moon scenario

The Earth-Moon scenario will focus on evaluating and emulating different implementations of lunar rover control and data collection through different scenarios such as direct communication between Earth and a lunar lander, communications via a lunar relay satellite (Chang'e 4 relay satellite, Queqiao, is one of the best examples), or a Moon-orbiting satellite constellation connectivity to a large number of rovers using 5G COTS devices. Different mobile-communication equipment options will be evaluated for the lunar rovers (small VSATs, low-power omnidirectional antennas, satellite Internet-of-Things (IoT), etc.) by using SDR platforms. The encapsulation of Robot Operating System (ROS) commands in the MAC/Link/PHY layer will be also investigated. More advanced approaches such as reinforcement learning and deep learning techniques for remote control will be evaluated in a second stage as a means to provide safer, trustworthy and efficient remote control of the lunar rover.

The inter-lab validation setup of realistic lunar rover control and data communications will consist of:

  1. Control and operation room will be placed in the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF). A haptics-control system will trigger the commands to be sent to the rover’s robotic arm.
  2. Earth SDR GW control signals are generated in the SatComLab and collected in the Earth-Moon channel emulator. Satellite and channel impairments (delay, Doppler, attenuation, etc) are emulated. Lunar signals are transmitted within the LunaLab.
  3. The lunar rover equipped with a robotic arm and different sensors receives the RF signals in the Luna Lab and it is able to follow control commands for the rover and for the robotics arm, and provide feedback data from the onboard sensors to the Earth. KPIs are measured in real-time. Signal validation in an anechoic chamber and control of the rover in a rover simulator (Gazebo/VREP) are also foreseen.

Figure 3: Inter-lab validation setup of realistic Lunar rover control and data communications.


Project Team:


  • Prof Symeon Chatzinotas
  • Dr Jorge Querol
  • Dr Juan Carlos Merlano Duncan
  • Dr Nicola Maturo
  • Dr Sumit Kumar
  • Oltjon Kodheli
  • Jevgenij Krivochiza
  • Mohammad Gholamian

RSA Group:

  • Prof Tonie Van Dam
  • Dr Jan Thoemel
  • Dr Loveneesh Rana

RSA Group:

  • Prof Miguel Olivares
  • Dr Carol Martinez Luna
  • Zhanna BOKAL


Relevant Projects:

  • FNR – 5G-Sky:
  • FNR – DISBuS
  • SMC – Micro5G
  • H2020 – MEESST
  • ESA – CGD