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25th SFGC Meeting Opens In Beijing

Ground stations make use of radio frequencies to communicate with spacecraft. Artist's impression of the ESA spacecraft Venus Express, scheduled for launch 26 October 2005. Credit: ESA.
Beijing (ESA) Oct 12, 2005
The Space Frequency Coordination Group meets tomorrow in Beijing for its annual conference, 25 years after ESA's then Director General, Eric Quistgaard, promoted the idea of creating an international group to manage and coordinate the use of radio frequencies by space agencies.

The idea originated with Gerry Block, former Head of ESA's Frequency Management Office. In brief, his idea was to set up an informal group, made up of all the major space agencies, to more effectively use and manage the radio frequency bands allocated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for space programmes.

ESA offered to provide the permanent secretariat so as to provide continuity and support meetings.

"Like water and energy, the radio spectrum is a finite resource that needs to be used wisely if everyone wants to have a share," says Edoardo Marelli, Executive Secretary of the Space Frequency Coordination Group (SFGC) and head of ESA's Frequency Management Office.

"Thanks are due to the pioneers who had the vision of creating this group at a time when it was not yet obvious that the radio spectrum was going to become a very scarce resource for an ever increasing number of users," he added.

Every space mission needs radio frequency bands to control and operate the satellite, to transmit data from the spacecraft and, in some cases, to make scientific measurements with microwave instruments such as radiometers, sounders, altimeters, scatterometers and synthetic attitude radars.

SFCG ensures that these bands are used and shared in the most effective way possible by its member agencies. This is achieved by establishing technical recommendations applicable to all missions by member space agencies and by bilateral/multilateral frequency coordination of new space missions under development.

The Group also follows and influences any changes in the international regulations on frequency use that may affect member agencies.

Beijing meeting

This year, participants at the eight-day conference will have a particularly busy agenda ahead of them. Topics to be discussed range between selecting frequencies for lunar and Mars missions, optimising the use of frequencies that are specific for wideband downlinks, and protecting passive sensing bands from unwanted emissions by users of neighbouring bands.

Each year SFGC holds its annual meeting in the country of one of its members. This year's 25th anniversary conference is hosted by the Chinese Meteorological Administration in Beijing.

Altogether 10 national space agencies attended SFCG's first meeting, held in Toulouse, France in 1980. Now the Group can count nearly all the world's space agencies among its members, representing 23 different countries.

As Edoardo Marelli proudly reports, "no other group of radio frequency users enjoys such a coordinated approach to frequency management as the space agencies represented in SFCG".

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