The Viasat Ka-band solid-state, fully-electronic phased array flat panel antenna is ready to begin the final stages of testing on the SES O3b mPOWER constellation. The system entered the Test Readiness Review (TRR) stage of the program. TRR is the final stage of testing to verify compliance with the antenna’s performance requirements.
The flexibility designed into the Viasat phased array antenna will enable our current O3b constellation of 20 MEO satellites and next-generation O3b mPOWER system to bring reliable, high- speed broadband communications for our government, enterprise and mobility customers.– Stewart Sanders, Executive Vice President, O3b mPOWER Program Lead at SES
Like most phased array designs, the Viasat model is a modular system that can scale up or down in size, shift shape and be customized to fit the requirements of the station hosting it. For SES’s O3b mPOWER Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) system, the phased array antenna will operate over the full ITU Ka-band spectrum. Conveniently, this could also extend to the company’s own Ka-band satellites in the future.
The company notes that a different version of the antenna can be made to operate on Ku-band. Thus far most commercial phased array antenna companies have kept the Ku and Ka-band development separate by about a year on their timelines, but focused on Ku-band first, not Ka-band.
Phased array antennae can dynamically steer beams for rapid, accurate satellite position tracking and seamless handover between satellites, including the O3b mPOWER constellation. They are also ideally suited for operation in a hybrid MEO-to-GEO (Geostationary) environment.
Dave Ryan, president, Space and Commercial Networks at Viasat calls the new antenna a “significant advancement in scalable phased array terminal technologies” that “leverages years of investment in research and development and commercial innovation.”
While the initial focus is the O3b constellation it could extend to other platforms as well. Viasat has not been shy about discussions of its own potential LEO/MEO constellations, for example. The phased array antenna solution could also be beneficial to the company’s existing in-flight connectivity portfolio, though, as others have also discovered, the specialized requirements associated with putting these systems on an airplane can derail even the most optimistic of developers.
Confirmation of the antenna TRR progress follows an announcement earlier this month from SES selecting Gilat and ST Engineering iDirect for modem technologies and other core infrastructure critical to bringing O3b mPOWER into broad service.
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