Military Embedded Systems

Phased array prototype for SATCOM completes transmit test


September 02, 2020

Emma Helfrich

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Phased array prototype for SATCOM completes transmit test

BETHESDA, Md. Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace completed a phased array transmit test for a Multi-Band, Multi-Mission (MBMM) antenna. MBMM is designed to help enable multiple satellites to simultaneously connect with a single-phased array antenna system using multiple frequencies. It aims to increase throughput, while also shrinking the antenna’s footprint.

This marks an advancement for the U.S. Space Force’s MBMM program and moves the team closer to a full end-to-end satellite communication demonstration later this summer. 

The prototype antenna, awarded by the Defense Innovation Unit in April 2019, features proven technologies at high maturity levels like Lockheed Martin’s Horizon advanced satellite scheduler, Ball Aerospace’s modular subarray and panel design, and Kratos RT Logic advanced digital signal processing. Additionally, the prototype uses a building-block approach that can scale as the number of satellites increase or as the communication needs evolve.

The total number of commercial and military satellites in orbit is projected to increase at least four-fold in the next decade, with a projected tenfold increase in capacity needed within the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN), according to officials. That growth is presumed to necessitate new technologies like phased arrays which can connect to multiple space vehicles simultaneously. Phased array antennas are also designed to avoid significant mechanical maintenance costs when compared to parabolic dishes.

The MBMM prototype phased array is part of a broad initiative to modernize the existing AFSCN system and bring new technology faster to warfighters. MBMM increases AFSCN capacity and throughput while improving resiliency for ground infrastructure and satellite systems.

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