Phased-array antenna test brings LEO closer

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ThinKom Solutions (“ThinKom”) has successfuly completed the first live test of a commercially available phased-array antenna, intended as a means to provide seamless, low latency, high-throughput broadband services on a global basis. The test – of a Telesat Phase 1 LEO satellite – was performed using a production model of ThinKom’s Ka2517 aeronautical satcom antenna, designed for commercial air transport and business aviation, as well as military airborne applications.

The test was part of the development process following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between ThinKom and Telesat in September 2018 to jointly develop a Ka-band Enterprise User Terminal for Telesat’s planned LEO satellite constellation. This live on-air test represents a major step forward in the development process.

ThinKom reports that during the test, the Ka2517 antenna successfully acquired, tracked and maintained seamless end-to-end connectivity with the Telesat LEO satellite. The company also states that full-duplex throughput data rates of up to 370Mbps were achieved on the downlink, and 110Mbps on the uplink, both at “extremely high” spectral efficiencies, all while demonstrating the ultra-low latency capabilities (20-40msec) of Telesat’s LEO satellite. Additionally, says the company, the Ka2517 reliably transitioned from tracking the LEO satellite to a geostationary (GEO) satellite and back to the LEO satellite, with switching times consistently shorter than one second.

The on-air tests were conducted on 10-14 June at Telesat’s Allan Park facility in Ontario, Canada using the  Ka2517 antenna and a Newtec MDM6000 modem. The ThinKom antenna acquired and tracked the LEO satellite at elevation angles as low as 10° above the horizon.

“These on-air tests confirm that our unique phased-array antenna architecture provides the beam agility, switching speeds, low look-angles and high spectral efficiencies required to communicate over a LEO satellite network,” stated Bill Milroy, ThinKom’s chairman and CTO. “We are now moving into the next phase of development and commercialisation of an Enterprise User Terminal for Telesat’s global LEO satellite system.”

According to Milroy, ThinKom has also conducted successful on-air demos with the Ka2517 across multiple GEO satellites and medium-earth orbit (MEO) constellations from fixed platforms, as well as an aircraft in flight.

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Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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