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SWIFT-KTX transmitter
The SWIFT-KTX transmitter helps tiny satellites deliver big data. (Tethers Unlimited Photo)

Bothell, Wash.-based Tethers Unlimited says it’s delivered the first flight unit of a K-band radio transmitter that’s designed for use on CubeSat satellites as small as a loaf of bread.

The SWIFT-KTX transmitter builds upon Tethers Unlimited’s software-defined radio platform to transmit data at rates exceeding 100 megabits per second, the company said today in a news release. That rate is roughly on par with typical cable connection speeds.

Tethers Unlimited developed the transmitter under a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command. The company said the first flight unit was delivered to a confidential customer.

Rob Hoyt, Tethers Unlimited’s CEO and chairman, said K-band radio transmissions represent a new frontier for small-satellite communications.

“The capabilities of small satellites such as CubeSats and nanosatellites to collect images, radar data and other large data sets is advancing rapidly, but the UHF and S-band frequencies typically used for small satellite missions are too slow and have become too congested to allow these data to be delivered to users on the ground in a timely manner,” Hoyt explained.

The SWIFT-KTX system can help small satellites “break through these barriers and deliver big data to customers rapidly and efficiently,” he said.

Tethers Unlimited is working with Canada-based Orbital Research to develop a receiver that will complement the transmitter on small satellites. The receiver is due to become available later this year.

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