CesiumAstro has a lot of experience delivering phased array antenna solutions in space. Now it wants to bring that hardware a bit closer to earth. The company announced a new Ka-band electronically steered antenna (ESA) platform at Satellite 2023, including plans for the commercial aviation sector.
And while there are plenty of ESA solutions vying for attention these days, CesiumAstro claims something relatively uncommon in the market: Multiple full-capacity, simultaneous links on a single array.
“The receive array operates two simultaneous beams, using the full aperture,” explains Wayne Phelps, CesiumAstro’s Director of Business Development for the new antenna platform. “We can deliver simultaneous, continuous connectivity to two different constellations, across LEO, MEO, or GEO.”
Delivering multiple beams from a panel is not necessarily unique; the concept is inherent in the modular element design of ESAs. Doing it simultaneously across the entire panel, however, is much less common. And, as lead RF engineer on the program Spencer Erekson explains, CesiumAstro did it without increasing the power demand on the platform. “We basically get the second beam for free. The challenge was in packaging and getting the circuitry put together. But we solved that challenge, so at this point it is more or less free to get two beams.”
Phelps suggests that aircraft could use this feature to deliver make-before-break connections, ensuring seamless service. This includes transition between satellites in different orbital planes. Only the receive panel supports the dual link design; transmitting back to the satellite remains a single-link option. But with nearly instantaneous switching, the company doesn’t see that as a limiting factor for the technology.
CesiumAstro currently has a contract with the US Air Force to complete development and testing of the receive panels. Myers notes that is progressing apace and the company has not encountered any major issues with the timeline there. The first over-the-air test against a military satellite is planned for May 2023.
It has also secured participation in a test program with Airbus. The fully developed solution will participate in a commercial aircraft test program, with ground testing anticipated before the end of the year. Flight testing will follow. A scaled down version will also be tested with Airbus Helicopters on a similar timeline.
The terminal will ultimately be delivered in three sizes, scaled for small UAVs up to the largest commercial and military aircraft flying. They have a common architecture, with the larger models featuring additional element panels to increase performance and capacity of the system.
Phelps anticipates a 2025 horizon for a fully developed and certified solution to enter service. And while that’s a few years away still, he notes there’s good reason to not be too early to market, compared to when the Ka-band LEO constellations are ready to deliver the connectivity CesiumAstro plans to enable.
More news from SATShow 2023
- Removing inflight connectivity friction, and maybe creating another problem along the way
- Astronics plans Ka-band antenna program for 777s
- ThinKom sees ESA integration as a Plus for connectivity hardware
- Orbit makes antenna play for the regional jet IFC market
- CesiumAstro brings Ka-band ESA to life; Airbus trials planned
- Hanwha sets stage for aero ESA trials later this year
A favor to ask while you're here...
Did you enjoy the content? Or learn something useful? Or generally just think this is the type of story you'd like to see more of? Consider supporting the site through a donation (any amount helps). It helps keep me independent and avoiding the credit card schlock.
Leave a Reply