SkyfloX, together with a team of six international partners, including a major airliner, started the ESA ARTES activity DOCS (Demonstration of ORCA Constellation Services). The activity’s main objective is to assess the issues of placing ORCA payloads on commercial airliners from technical, business, and legal points of view. The first services selected for the DOCS demonstration are Earth Observation High Resolution Imagery with focus on pipeline/infrastructure monitoring, a challenging service to evaluate ORCA capabilities. User (data) requirements received from major Oil & Gas multinationals are used to dimension the system.
- SkyfloX (NL) acts as prime, and takes care of coordination, system architecture and design, simulations, business & legal analyses
- AD&C (DE) provides key certification expertise, and will perform test flights
- TUI (NL) provides information regarding installation issues, ORCA payload placement, and other technical aviation issues
- VITO (BE) provides expertise in Earth Observation and ground-processing
- TNO (NL) addresses connectivity scenarios, satellite and terrestrial based, for real-time and near-real-time options
- SIGMA (DE) evaluates various applications from a commercial perspective, and provides early entry into various EO segments
ORCA stands for ‘Optical and RF Constellation on Aircraft’: it proposes to use Commercial Aircraft as a platform to carry small equipment mounted on the aircraft; several equipped aircraft form a ‘constellation’ which may support several Earth Observation and Telecommunication services. The equipment will be EASA certified, will not interfere with regular aircraft operations, and will be operated by the ORCA operator (thus, no intervention is required by the pilot or aviation operator). The use of existing aerial infrastructure avoids high launch costs, and furthermore does not create space debris.
In DOCS, pipeline and infrastructure monitoring services are addressed, as a challenging application to define the capabilities of ORCA. Due to the strict requirements of infrastructure monitoring, the baseline ORCA system will be capable of supporting far more Earth Observation and Telecommunication services, for applications in areas as diverse as forestry, atmospheric monitoring, asset management, competitive intelligence, smart cities, counting and analytics, news and media, financial trading, agriculture, IoT, M2M, AIS/maritime applications, and many more.
ORCA complements existing space based earth observation solutions, by realising a sub-orbital constellation capable of supplying wide coverage earth observation data with high spatial and temporal resolution, in a sustainable and affordable manner.