ThinKom‘s new Ka2517 aero satcom antenna is the latest to prove its viability for mixed orbit satellite constellations. Building on prior success switching between MEO and GEO satellites, the company announced a successful test with the Telesat Phase 1 LEO satellite. The tests ran from June 10-14 at Telesat’s Allan Park facility in Ontario, Canada.
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The Ka2517 kit successfully acquired, tracked and maintained connection with the test satellite while reliably switching between Phase 1 and GEO satellites, according to the companies. ThinKom also indicated that satellite switching times remained consistently under one second throughout the week of testing.
These on-air tests confirm that our unique phased-array antenna architecture provides the beam agility, switching speeds, low look-angles and high spectral efficiencies required to communicate over a LEO satellite network. We are now moving into the next phase of development and commercialization of an Enterprise User Terminal for Telesat’s global LEO satellite system. – Bill Milroy, ThinKom Chairman and Chief Technology Officer
Against a backdrop of timeline questions for the newer technology electronically steered antenna products the success of the Ka2517 solution represents an option for airline or service provider customers looking for a newer system design that is available in production today. ThinKom has indicated that at least three test programs are active for potential certification and installation of the system on aircraft.
High speed, Low latency
The system delivered data rates “of up to 370 Mbps on the downlink and 110 Mbps on the uplink were achieved at extremely high spectral efficiencies, all while demonstrating the ultra-low latency capabilities (20-40 msec) of Telesat’s
LEO satellite,” according to ThinKom. The Ka2517 antenna system tracked the Telesat Phase 1 satellite as low as 10 degrees off the horizon, demonstrating an ability to reduce the number of satellite switches necessary when working with a full constellation.
Those speeds are impressive, though helped by the fact that the satellite is only being used for test communications at this time. The low latency numbers are equally important and much more likely to hold as the system transitions into production usage once the Telesat constellation is complete.
The aeronautical market is important for Telesat and these on-air tests highlight the advantages the Telesat LEO satellite constellation will bring to passengers and crew of major airlines worldwide. Telesat looks forward to continuing to partner with ThinKom and to building a complete antenna ecosystem to serve growing markets for mobile broadband. – Erwin Hudson, Vice President, Telesat LEO
The ThinKom phased array antenna solution brings certain efficiencies over traditional gimbal-mount solutions but it still depends on a mechanical steering mechanism. The design is highly efficient and offers a faster scan rate across the horizon than most competitive products, but it still requires the spinning of plates, leading to the not-quite-instant satellite switching times.
ThinKom’s successful test puts it in good company. Global Eagle successfully connected its gimbal-mount antenna to the Phase 1 system in October 2018, using its Albatross One flying test bed to prove the technology. Ball Aerospace announced a successful test with Telesat in January 2019, using an electronically steered phased array solution.