Space Exploration Technologies has been granted a patent for a user terminal that can find and connect to a satellite for network entry. The terminal includes a connection manager, an antenna assembly that searches the sky for the satellite, and a media access control layer component that generates an uplink radio frame for communication. The patent also includes a claim for the user terminal’s configuration and functionality. GlobalData’s report on Space Exploration Technologies gives a 360-degree view of the company including its patenting strategy. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s company profile on Space Exploration Technologies, V2V communication antennas was a key innovation area identified from patents. Space Exploration Technologies's grant share as of September 2023 was 49%. Grant share is based on the ratio of number of grants to total number of patents.

Satellite-based network entry request and communication system

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Credit: Space Exploration Technologies Corp

A recently granted patent (Publication Number: US11757526B1) describes a user terminal and system for network entry in a satellite-based communications system. The user terminal includes one or more processors coupled to a memory, which generate an initial network entry request. An antenna assembly is configured to search the sky and find a satellite based on the request. The user terminal also includes a media access control (MAC) layer component that generates an uplink radio frame with a random access channel (RACH) request for the satellite. The RACH request is placed at a specific portion of the uplink radio frame selected by the MAC layer component.

The user terminal's uplink radio frame consists of multiple portions, known as RACH resources, allocated by an uplink (UL)-map received from the satellite. These RACH resources are located at the end of the uplink radio frame in the time domain. Each RACH resource comprises contiguous resource blocks within the uplink radio frame. Additionally, the uplink radio frame consists of multiple orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) symbols, and more than one RACH resource can be included in an OFDM symbol.

The RACH request sent by the user terminal includes a temporary service identifier selected by the MAC layer component. It also includes an identification blob associated with the temporary service identifier for contention resolution. After authorization into the network, the user terminal receives a new service identifier from the satellite, replacing the temporary service identifier. This new service identifier serves as a unique identifier for the user terminal within the network.

The antenna assembly of the user terminal is configured in a receive mode to locate the satellite. The initial network entry request is generated by the user terminal's connection manager component. If multiple user terminals initiate network entry requests at the same time, they can use the same temporary service identifier, as each user terminal selects it independently of others and the satellite. In case of contention, the user terminal can resend the request to initiate network entry.

The system described in the patent includes multiple user terminals that search the sky and find the satellite by sequentially changing the beam pointing direction of their respective antenna assemblies. The user terminals generate and transmit radio frames to the satellite, including initial network entry requests at different portions of the radio frames. The satellite combines these radio frames to generate a single received radio frame, with the portions being either different or the same. The initial network entry requests can cancel out, commingle, or add up in the frequency or time domain, depending on the specific scenario.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData Patent Analytics tracks bibliographic data, legal events data, point in time patent ownerships, and backward and forward citations from global patenting offices. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.