ESA and its partners are developing a revolutionary multimedia car radio that works in a similar manner to a satellite receiver for television channels.
A specially designed mobile antenna, flattened so that it can be built almost invisibly into the bodywork, receives signals in the Ku frequency band used by communications satellites.
In America, Sirius and XM transmit satellite radio signals to the mobile satellite receivers of thirteen million people, via communication satellites as well as a rural network of transmitter masts.
The new European multimedia system advances beyond existing solutions. Instead of new satellites and a network of ground-based transmitters – which could require investment of more than €1 billion – the ESA system uses only existing communication satellites.
The mobile multimedia system employs a cache memory – a hard disk or its solid-state equivalent. This enables received signals to be stored and played back, and also prevents signal loss in tunnels or behind obstructions.
ESA developed the system with nine partners in the industry and service sectors. The main challenge was that the satellites used by the system were designed to broadcast television signals to large, fixed dish antennae. An entirely new approach was needed to achieve an antenna that could be easily built in by the car manufacturers.
ESA and its partners have worked on the mobile multimedia system for more than three years, and companies and institutes have carried out demonstration work with SES Astra taking the lead: BMW, Deutsche Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt (DLR), Dornier Consulting, Deutsche Welle, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Institut für Rundfunktechnik, Technische Universität Braunschweig, and TriaGnoSys.