Electronically-Steered Antenna Successfully Tracks LEO Satellite
Richard Adefioye posted on February 06, 2019 |

The ability to swiftly transmit data between the ground and fast-moving satellites is one of the biggest challenges faced by low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, mostly because the satellites keep drifting in and out of range. With this in mind, Ball Aerospace, an antenna technology company, decided to join forces with Telesat to develop better satellite communications (SATCOM) terminals.

(Image courtesy of Ball Aerospace.)
(Image courtesy of Ball Aerospace.)

Electronically steered antennas, as opposed to their mechanically steered counterparts, have been shown to solve the drifting issue without the need for large mechanically controlled dishes moving back and forth. These flat-panel antennas make non-stationary satellite tracking easy by allowing them to move seamlessly from one satellite to another.

This, of course, is important in large LEO constellations. Electronically steered antennas are more reliable due to the absence of moving parts. They also have the added benefits of being easy to install and can be manufactured in large volumes at low costs.

In the premiere low-latency broadband communication test by the two companies, which involved Ball’s electronically steered flat-panel antenna and Telesat’s LEO Phase 1 satellite, the antenna succeeded in tracking the LEO Phase 1 satellite across multiple passes, depicting a total compatibility in system architecture.

As a part of the test, the electronically steered antenna communicated with the LEO Phase 1 satellite to capture real-time video data, thereby showcasing the low-latency, high-throughput nature of Telesat’s LEO satellite system.  

The test took place at Telesat’s ground station in Ontario, Canada, and is believed to be the launching pad for a successful collaboration between the two companies. Among other things, the low-cost, maintenance-free end-user terminals capable of satellite tracking and easy handing off between satellites and beams will improve value to consumers. It will also take both companies one step closer to achieving their objective of providing readily available fiber-like, high-speed internet connectivity to consumers in both urban and remote locations.

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