On-Board Processing

Icon On-board Processing
© Fraunhofer IIS

Flexible satellite payloads:
regenerative and reconfigurable

On-board processors hold the key to flexible communication payloads for digital signal processing on satellites. By processing the signals, they can be regenerated and, if required, relayed. This in turn allows for a more efficient use of satellite capacity. In addition, it is possible to reconfigure the on-board processors while they are in orbit, meaning that the satellites can be reprogrammed at any time from the ground for use in other applications or with modified regional coverage.

The benefits in detail

On-board processing improves and adds flexibility to the use cases for satellites in a variety of ways.


Versatile configuration of applications

Using on-board processors, communication payloads in orbit can be adapted for different use cases. The fact that the transmission method can be reconfigured at any time opens the door to a whole range of potential applications. These include providing high-speed Internet – for example on cruise ships, connecting 5G terminals on the ground, and IoT satellite communication services with low data rate per sensor node.



Needs-based regional coverage

Through enabling the configuration of analog components as well as digital beamforming, on-board processing allows for flexible beamforming. This provides the scope to adjust the areas of satellite coverage to meet current requirements in specific regions of the earth at any time. As a result, the satellite capacity can be used flexibly as required, supported by efficient transmission concepts such as beam hopping.

Flexible data management

Switching and routing, i.e. decentralized or centralized control of data streams, allow data to be managed flexibly and directly on-board the satellite itself: signals can be switched to individual beams or split into several beams, both at the frequency level and at the individual signal level. This allows direct connections between individual terminals, optimized connections between satellites for efficient data transmission to ground stations, and better utilization of satellites with less workload within a constellation.

Improved transmission efficiency

On-board processing enables the communication payload to modulate and demodulate. Accordingly, processing of incoming signals into representative symbols and remodulation of the symbols to generate a new satellite signal take place directly on-board the satellite. Transmission efficiency is further improved by filtering the incoming signals and rearranging them into one or more signals (demultiplexing and multiplexing).

Optimized signal quality

Error detection and correction is used to restore information in case of a corrupted transmission. This significantly improves the quality of the transmission. Even weak signals can be restored in this way, meaning that smaller ground terminals with low transmission power can also be reliably used without compromising overall signal transmission.

System consultancy for applying on-board processing

Our expertise lies in system consultancy for using regenerative payloads in various satellite systems and applications. We help you define, select and implement on-board processors.

Creating an effective system design hinges on carefully selecting and thoroughly defining the use cases it is to support. Building on this, we carry out technology and feasibility studies, develop the ideal processor design and work out concepts for how on-board processing can be used effectively and efficiently in the overall system:

  • Use case assessment
  • Precisely tailored system design for new satellite systems
  • Customized digital payload system design
  • Technology trade-off and selection based on user requirements
  • Reconfiguration framework for field programmable gate arrays (FPGA)
  • Radiation mitigation techniques
  • In-band telemetry and telecommand (TM/TC) link
  • Monitoring and control options for ground stations

You may also be interested in



Satellite connectivity


Reference project
“Fraunhofer On-Board Processor FOBP”

Reconfigurable communication payload for the German Heinrich Hertz satellite


Satellite communication

Go back to business area “Satellite communication"