Preparing for a spacewalk usually means diving for rehearsals and fine-tuning operations. The European Space Agency (ESA) showed what this process looks like.
NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover will install a small refrigerator-sized device outside the European Columbus module during their spacewalk scheduled for this year. ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen will be at NASA’s Mission Control Center, leading the spacewalkers. The Columbus terminal in the Kₐ-band, dubbed ColKa, will provide faster connections to Europe. Now the cosmonauts are “rehearsing” this process.
Orbiting the planet every 90 minutes means that the space station constantly establishes and breaks short connections with ground stations on Earth as it passes over them at an altitude of 400 km.
With Colka, a European telecommunications satellite in geostationary orbit can receive data sent from the Columbus module. This satellite is part of the European Data Relay System and will be able to transmit signals directly from the module to European territory via a ground station in Harwell, UK.
The current data relay system routes through the United States, which increases data transfer times. The ColKa update will bring faster connectivity between Columbus and Europe, up to 50Mbps downlink and up to 2Mbps uplink. This will allow astronauts and researchers to benefit from direct connectivity to Europe at home broadband speeds, providing streaming video and data to the entire family for science and communication.
ColKa was designed and built by British and Italian companies using products from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany and Norway, some of which have been certified under ESA’s Advanced Telecommunications Research (ARTES) program.