Home >> December 2021 Edition >> Year in Review 2021: Part I
Year in Review 2021: Part I
APCO Technologies • Blue Sky Network • Calian, Advanced Technologies • EM Solutions



APCO Technologies

As specialists in complex, electromechanical systems, APCO Technologies (near Lake of Geneva), is active in three domains: Energy, Naval and Space, each representing a third of the turnover ($120 million per year).

New company developments are managed at the firm’s headquarters in Aigle, with products being manufactured and assembled in seven, 16,000 sq. ft. buildings, of which three are dedicated to Space with three, large cleanrooms. 

The APCO Technologies Picture 

At the European Space Port in French Guyana, APCO Technologies is in charge of the following activities for CNES, Arianespace, Avio and ArianeGroup: 

Ground support equipment for SATCOM.

1. Operations and maintenance of the satellite halls where spacecrafts are prepared before launch, 
2. Supply of all individual protection equipment for the entire site, 
3. Development and modification of mechanical equipment for the launch base 

Ground Support 

APCO Technologies is producing equipment to assemble, test and transport satellites for the European Space Agency (ESA), the CNES, the European Space industry, which includes Airbus Defense & Space, ArianeGroup, Thales Alenia Space, OHB Systems, …), and U.S. Space industry products, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, PACE and Orion for NASA.

Sentinel 5P platform structure.

The company has also delivered the ESA Large Space Simulator motion system — a 6-degrees of freedom robotic arm that is capable of handling 6 ton satellites in extreme thermal conditions to simulate any trajectories on-orbit. A catalog of the most typical satellite products can be found online, it will guide the users. 

Ground support equipment for launchers is also an APCO Technologies specialty. The company developed, produced and qualified all the main hoisting, tilting and transport machines used by ArianeGroup in Bremen and Les Mureaux, as well as for CNES in Kourou. The Upper Composite Trailer, operating from the final assembly building to the launch pad, and the transport containers for the upper and lower Ariane 6 liquid propulsion modules (one of them is probably the largest ever built in Europe): 100x25x25 ft., for a mass that is limited to 110 tons) are already operational. 

Structural + Thermal Structures 

Another important space activity at APCO Technologies is the development, manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing of structural and thermal subsystems for satellite platforms and instruments.

Sentinel 3 instrument structure and thermal control.

Satellite structures are made of composite materials that offer mass optimization and thermal stability. Two production lines are in service, one for larger structures (up to 200 sq. ft.) for satellite platforms, and one for smaller structures dedicated to satellite instruments.

The production, including layup preparation, curing, machining, bonding, assembly, and final integration, has been streamlined for commercial and institutional clients. 


Euclid opening mechanism.

APCO Technologies recently equipped satellites for several programs: 

— Sentinel 1, 2, 3 and 5p for the EU program Copernicus 
— MeteoSat Third Generation for Eumetsat 
— EarthCARE and BIOMASS projects for the ESA Living Planet program 
— Solar Orbiter satellite for ESA Science 

APCO Technologies delivers also shutter mechanisms for scientific missions. With its knowledge in micro-vibrations management, the company developed opening mechanisms for optical instruments (10 years lifetime with 500,000 actuations while maintaining satellite pointing stability). One of them has just been installed on the European space telescope EUCLID program (looking for dark energy and dark matter). 

Ariane 6 booster nose caps

APCO Technologies is on board the Ariane 6 launcher, responsible to ArianeGroup for the delivery of the highly loaded, booster nose cap, as well as the lower booster attachments with the mechanical, anti- pitching systems. The equipment allows for the ejection of Ariane 6’s boosters without influencing the launcher’s separation trajectory. With a production rate of around two boosters per month, approximately 1,500 parts are manufactured and assembled each year. A dedicated, digitalized production workshop has been built, all according to industry 4.0 standards. 

As a subsystems integrator, managing projects from A to Z, with 4.0 industrialization and satellite structures production capacity, APCO Technologies is increasing its production rate, all the while reducing costs to become an important and reliable actor in the development of satellite constellations. 

Blue Sky Network

2021 was a year of intense focus for Blue Sky Network and the year will be remembered by the company for being the first-to-market for disruptive new technologies and solutions.

Rewind the clock three years. Blue Sky Network was viewed as an established player in the aviation communications and tracking space. Applied Satellite Engineering (ASE) was acquired, and that company’s similar cultures and complementary offerings resulted in a smooth integration of workforce and products into Blue Sky Network’s business. This strategic move launched the company beyond aviation and positioned it as a market competitor in land mobile and maritime markets. 

Returning to 2021 — the company tagline, “Any Operation, Any Asset, Anywhere,” perfectly summed up Blue Sky Network’s capabilities heading into the year and remains just as well suited at year’s end. Installable and portable solutions were now available for air, sea, and land, anywhere on the planet. A best-in-class, fleet management, software package, SkyRouter®, accompanied the product. 

As a proven Iridium® Value Added Manufacturer (VAM), Blue Sky Network was selected to design one of the world’s first Certus 100, mid- band, Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite solutions. Blue Sky Network agreed to design a mobile SATCOM solution with the Iridium 9770 modem and the company moved beyond traditional terminals and challenged itself to be different, to build a better solution. This led to the unique concept named SkyLink, and in September of 2021, it was the first Iridium Certus 100 solution to ship to customers. 

With SkyLink, Blue Sky Network developed a holistic approach and designed a single networking solution that can be used on air, sea, and land. Will the device connect the user to the internet? Yes. Does the solution offer high-quality voice capabilities? Yes, and not just for one line, but two lines. The hardware consists of a device that is similar in size to an Apple iPad Mini and lends itself to fixed or mobile installations and is also man portable. Customers have access to their own cloud-based portal, with software hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS), where they can securely configure and monitor their assets and network environment. 

SkyLink supports legacy telemetry data and analog voice lines. With a dynamic firewall and on-site, edge computing capability, SkyLink is also future proofed for autonomous vehicles, UAVs, and IoT assets such as wind generators, remote entry points, and monitoring stations, among countless other environments. 

Maritime Tactical Systems, Inc. (MARTAC), a leading provider of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) for the military, security, commercial, and scientific missions, had this comment regarding SkyLink, “We are very excited to be working with Blue Sky Network’s leading-edge, low SWAP, multi-carrier network for our USVs. Our Devil Ray and MANTAS vessels operate Beyond Human Capability and therefore reliable, robust, low-latency communications anywhere in the world is critical.” 

SkyLink was considered so disruptive, this networking solution won the Mobile Satellite Users Association (MSUA) Chairman’s Award for outstanding innovation and successfully moved Blue Sky Network beyond
the company’s reputation as an aircraft tracking provider as the first phase of its transformation as a connectivity
solution visionary was executed. Another product that launched by the company in 2021 was Global Traveler, a proprietary software designed for a geographically dispersed workforce. This product provides up-to-date information on teams of people working in remote locations and allows operational command centers to send bulk messages to the workers. The Global Traveler app enables the workers to complete authenticated safety wellness check-ins and provides them with quick access to emergency contacts and safety information, based on their location. Global Traveler provides operational teams with a quick go-to solution for efficient and safe operations management. 

Geographically, 2021 will be remembered for expansion in the Americas; specifically, across the United States and in Brazil. As a global company providing mission critical asset monitoring and connectivity service, several continents and many countries demand reliability and timely responsiveness. Blue Sky Network listened to its business partners and doubled down on government and military efforts in North America and across the globe. With more than a decade of experience in Brazil, finance and support depth was expanded to deliver enhanced, technical support and engagement to serve the areas that most relied upon SATCOM connectivity. 

For many of Blue Sky Network’s business partners, service levels and connectivity needs have returned, if not grown, from pre-pandemic levels. Looking ahead, 2022 will involve solution enhancements for SkyLink that will ensure the core business, that being the provisioning of lower-bandwidth voice and data solutions. 

Among these upcoming enhancements are also significant opportunities within the Defense sector for both mobile connectivity and secured docking stations. General Dynamics Mission Systems has partnered with Blue Sky Network to produce the only docking station for the 9575A Iridium satellite phone. Named ‘Bearcat,’ this docking station will be made available to all Five Eyes and NATO countries and is the only approved docking cradle for the upgraded handset supported by General Dynamics. 

Additionally, the need for trackside telephony solutions will continue to be a targeted area in 2022. Of particular focus is Europe, where there is a requirement for SATCOM to support outdated emergency systems that are slated for overhaul. Blue Sky Network is poised to help rail operators improve safety, reliability and resiliency for their operations in the most remote areas. Whether core business enhancements, or technological advancements, the lifeblood of the company is engineering expertise. Known to the industry for proprietary hardware and software innovations, additional depth has been added to focus on common-use connectivity platforms and SaaS-based monitoring platforms that allow for dual-mode connectivity of both telephony and data transfer for years to come. 

Blue Sky Network will continue to innovate and seek the art of the possible for Any Operation, Any Asset, Anywhere. 

Calian, Advanced Technologies

Over the past year, the theme for Calian, Advanced Technologies (formerly SED Systems) continues to be growth and innovation. The company is a global supplier of sophisticated satellite communication (SATCOM) systems, products and services, and they have been serving customers for over 50 years.

Calian, Advanced Technologies’ business line includes communication ground systems and services, communication gateways and planning systems, as well as lines of communication products that are tailored to support customers in the satellite industry.

10M Composite Carbon Fiber Antenna.

Calian, Advanced Technologies offers a tightly integrated approach with the offered engineering design services and manufacturing capacity co-located in a single purpose-built facility. The company has the expertise, capacity and resources required to design, build and fully test each component of the deliverable ensuring performance in the most demanding environments.

Satellite advancements in capacity, functionality, speed and complexity are bringing significant opportunities, as well as, industry challenges including requirements for increased performance and flexibility of the ground system hardware and software.

Calian, Advanced Technologies, along with its partners, has been developing innovative new technologies to ensure these challenges are met. Recent contract wins are evidence of the companys leading position in the delivery of complex satellite Earth station projects and programs.

Communication Ground Systems + Services

Calians Ground Communication Systems Engineering capabilities cover the integration of RF transmit and receive systems, antenna and tracking systems, capacity and payload management tools, modems, network and carrier monitor and control systems and cloud-data-management. This broad range of skills means they can deliver resources to help customers meet their network deployment requirements over a complete network solution.

As customers pursue Ka-band, and Q/V-band networks with higher capacities, they have the skills and experience to face the challenges of super-broadband, high-frequency, high-reliability systems.

The ground communication systems group brings a focus on customer satisfaction and project management from requirements definition through to the delivery of turnkey RF gateway solutions for L-, S-, X-, C-, Ku-, Ka-band, and even the challenging Q- and V- bands.

Calian, Advanced Technologies grew their team this year with the addition of Tallysman and InterTronic Solutions. This added expertise expands capabilities in both small and large advanced antenna systems development.

Thanks to the dedication and hard work of their engineering and installation teams during the 2021 pandemic, Calian, with the continued support of their customers, deployed over 15 Earth stations in six countries on four continents. This work included multiple Earth station deployment of the first commercial Q/V band network assets.

Software Defined Solutions

The companys software defined solutions division provides systems for satellite communications, capacity management and performance monitoring. Over the past year, Calian, Advanced Technologies has deployed a variety of satellite capacity and real-time management solutions around the world.

New advanced highly flexible satellite payloads, along with complex and dynamic LEO constellations require advanced capacity planning and payload management tools.

Calians innovative real-time satellite resource management and capacity planning software solutions provide the tools for their customers to efficiently plan and direct satellite capacity to meet their geographical demands and changing business needs.

Satellite network operators are seeing the advantages of incorporating Cloud Computing and Virtualization infrastructure in their networks, and they arlooking to capitalize on the flexibility, scalability, and configurability that these technologies provide. Calian, Advanced Technologies has been addressing this need by architecting their solutions to take full advantage of the capabilities that these technologies provide.

With the growth of the companys engineering pool over the past year, this experienced team has the agility and experience required to support the most complex needs of their customers and the satellite industry in general.

Communication Products

Calian, Advanced Technologies line of satellite communication products continues to provide their customers with innovative and high-performance units and systems that are used in satellite networks and integrated into service offerings. These communication products also serve as the building blocks for the satellite ground systems that they deliver directly to their customers. The

SATCOM products have a compelling value proposition and provide cost-effective innovative technology, while also reducing time to market and overall risk.

The Decimator D4 Spectrum and Signal Analyzer is the fourth-generation model of their flagship product line and has proven to be a very popular item in 2021, generating a solid demand for units into 2022. Decimator is popular for standalone operations in teleports and gateways, as well as for inclusion in satellite carrier monitoring systems from Calian, Advanced Technologies and other vendors.

The Decimator D4 includes extensive built-in capabilities as well as newly introduced features for spectrum and signal analysis. The Spectator and Detector software add-ons provide an insightful graphical view into carriers being monitored by the Decimator.

Stay tuned in 2022 for additional Decimator product evolution as the hardware platform has ample processing power and substantial capacity for further enhancements.

While their satellite modulator product line supports standard DVB-S/S2/S2X applications, they also specialize in developing custom and innovative products based on the latest technology and architectural concepts.

Calian, Advanced Technologies’ multi-channel modulator and intelligent switching technologies offer an attractive and reliable way to reduce capital and operating expenses. Their low-data-rate SDTS modulator continues to have a significant presence in GNSS augmentation transmission for the satellite precise positioning market. Development is underway in several new and exciting areas, with product announcements forthcoming next year.

Calian, Advanced Technologies satellite test and monitoring systems continue to be popular in the marketplace.
Mon-A-Co, their Monitor and Control (M&C) systems product, is field-proven to be reliable and comprehensive
for satellite gateways. Coupled with innovate uplink power control capability and their carrier monitoring systems,
the M&C is a critical application for always-on Ka- band and higher frequency Q/V- band gateways and TT&C systems.

As part of the test systems product line in 2021, they deployed multiple state- of-the-art in-orbit test (IOT) systems
to test complex communication payloads after launch and validate operating characteristics and have several other
IOT systems under development.


2021 has been an exciting year for Calian, Advanced Technologies. Together, with its partners, the company is looking forward to continued growth, challenges and opportunities in 2022.

Various authors at Calian contributed to this article, including Darren Schlageter, VicPresident, Communication Ground Systems, Dan Baril, Vice President Software Defined Solutions, and Peter Waskowic, Director, Satcom Products.


EM Solutions

Figure 1. EM Solutions maritime Cobra terminals awaiting
final factory acceptance testing.

COVID is lingering for far longer than most believed it would — the unexpected fact is that, during this ongoing ‘invasion,’ many businesses have performed more strongly than ever experienced before, certainly exceeding the prospects anyone had dared to project at the start of 2021.

Just as in the previous year, and still domiciled by international travel restrictions, the EM Solutions team had to fall back on the relationship credit they had built previously with customers over many years. Unable to meet in person, EM Solutions’ customers throughout the world continued to trust us to build and deliver quality satellite terminals and subsystems to exacting military specifications. Trusted relationships
and proven commitment have been the keystones that have enabled
EM Solutions to survive as well as grow during the past year.
We closed 2021 with record sales and a record 18-month order book.

EM Solutions’ Cobra maritime terminals (Figure 1) continued to
underpin the company’s growing business. Covering three frequency
bands (military Ka-, commercial Ka-, and X-bands), and with superior
tracking and pointing capabilities, these terminals are now in use
with six of the world’s greatest navies. 

These terminals are WGS and Inmarsat GX certified and have been delivered for installation on the Royal Australian Navy’s newest Offshore Patrol Vessels, having already proven themselves on the Royal Australian Navy’s Cape, Supply and Anzac Class vessels, as well as the LHD HMAS Canberra. During the year, we managed remote installation of Cobra terminals on frigates belonging to three of the largest European navies. 

Figure 2. The Antenna Diversity System, a multi-port RF switch that
improves link availability and capacity by switching modems between
one or two terminals with the best view of the satellite.

The company also achieved both WGS and Inmarsat GX certification for our new Antenna Diversity System (ADS) (Figure 2). The ADS enables singlelook or dual-look operation to satellites from a pair of antennas, by switching between them when the ship or vehicle orientation blocks visibility from one of the pair. The ADS is a highly sophisticated system that brings resilience in satellite communications to a new level. 


The company is also nearing completion of its new 2 meter Fleet maritime terminal — already pre-ordered by three navies. This new terminal is unique — a full, mil-spec satellite terminal that simultaneously covers both X- and the entire (commercial and military) Ka-band spectrum, and will track LEO, MEO and GEO systems. With features such as optical fiber interconnect between decks and complete built-in redundancy as an option, the Fleet terminal will be an exciting new addition to the communications portfolio of many naval customers. 

Pictured: Rowan Gilmore, CEO of EM Solutions, based in
Brisbane, Australia, with one of the company’s terminals.

On the flat panel antenna front, the company has developed and tested a portable low data rate X-band terminal for use by the Australian Army. With a built-in spread spectrum modem using the latest Software- Defined Radio (SDR) technology, and measuring just 20 cm along each edge, the antenna offers convenient, tactical, on-the-pause communications to the deployed soldier. 

EM Solutions is also renowned for its technical expertise and the seamless, vertical integration of its own receivers (LNBs) and transmitters (BUCs) into numerous terminals, including its own. In 2021, the company delivered a several hundred-piece order of its new, broadband, Ka-band transceiver for the L3Harris Panther II manpack terminal. The transceiver’s frequency coverage and ability to meet demanding WGS specifications made EM Solutions a natural choice for this customer. 

Two of EM Solutions’ biggest advantages have been the firm’s flexibility and innovation, and these have not waned. Innovation occurs by building on the shoulders of giants that have gone before. The real giants in the innovation puzzle are those customers who embrace innovation and are prepared to fund its development. Such customers push the technology envelope and drive innovation by demanding specialized requirements, new features, and performance improvements. 

As 2021 draws to a close, EM Solutions salutes its customers who are the real heroes.