Atlas Space Operations in Traverse City has unveiled a prototype scalable RF satellite communications antenna that requires only 10 percent of the space that comparable hardware solutions require.
The Atlas antenna is designed to address problems of growth and age within the Air Force’s current space-ground communications infrastructure.
The prototype is a result of a contract with the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center and in partnership with the Defense Innovation Unit for the development of a multi-band, multi-mission antenna system.
“With an ever-increasing number of satellites being deployed, the antennas that support the data transfer process need to be modernized,” says Ed McCarty, vice president of global sales for Atlas. “Our team has addressed all of these needs — security, multiple simultaneous contacts, and scalability — in building this new phased array antenna capability.
According to Atlas, the phased-array antenna prototype recently succeeded in late-stage testing. Using coherent beam forming, Atlas engineers are able to accept signals from multiple satellites on one array, which enables more efficient satellite communications, all within a dramatically smaller package.
Because the antenna system uses coherent beam forming, there is no limit to the scale that it can achieve, where, says Atlas, most systems would require complex degrees of scale for this to be possible. This capability is an industry first that has risen from this initiative, according to the company.
To date, the team has auto-tracked low earth orbit and geostationary satellites using multiple simultaneous contacts, with the antenna ultimately offering the capability to scale its performance many times over with minimal footprint.
The MBMM antenna system is designed to provide a rapidly deployable and cost-efficient satellite communications solution. This new technology is capable of operating in austere environments, rapidly augmenting existing architectures, and conducting simultaneous contacts with multiple spacecraft.