Chalk up another successful test of an electronically steered antenna (ESA) against a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite. This time around the Kymeta u7 ESA repeatedly established reliable connectivity with Kepler’s two demonstration satellites.
We are truly excited about the future applications that can now be enabled by Kymeta’s u7 antenna and our high-capacity, low-cost LEO platform. For our customers, it is important to gain access to a wide range of user hardware to respond to challenging operational and system specifications. The demonstrated ability to take the currently available u7 and have it connect with our satellites makes the Kymeta ESA a great addition to our growing portfolio of compatible antennas.– Wen Cheng Chong, Chief Technology Officer at Kepler
The successful tests add another potential combination of satellites and antennae into the mobility market, though not without limitations. Indeed, the Kepler constellation offers a number of potential uses, some of which could be effective in the inflight entertainment and connectivity space. But the overall technical architecture makes adoption unlikely. The real value to the aviation world in this demonstration is showing off another successful antenna option for LEO satellites. Then again, Kymeta was an early player in the aviation ESA space before pulling back from the market, choosing to focus on other markets such as super yachts.
The Kepler constellation is designed as a store-and-forward satellite network. The system will provide full global coverage thanks to a mesh of satellites orbiting the earth, but the satellites will not always be in contact with the terrestrial network. Instead, they communicate with ground stations on a limited basis, transmitting data stored on the satellite to earth and collecting updates to spread back out to subscribed devices at the same time. As the company explains, “The store-and-forward nature of the solution makes it suitable for delay-tolerable data such as large multimedia files, high-resolution videos and imagery, and other bandwidth-intensive data within the maritime, oil & gas, tourism, and scientific communities.”
Limited inflight connectivity value
Perhaps large data loads like video content updates could be feasible for the inflight market, but that seems a stretch. Installing a dedicated connection just for that service would likely prove cost-prohibitive. Those challenges are reduced in the maritime sector, where many IFC vendors also operate. Eroding some of that business could adversely affect operational efficiencies for those companies.
Even if Kepler and Kymeta never fly the advancements in ESA technology demonstrated with these tests support the evolution of the industry. And the concept absolutely will take flight, eventually.