Success in first inflight MEO-GEO satellite roaming tests


Broadband antenna company, ThinKom Solutions has completed a series of inflight connectivity tests of its Ka-band antenna on SES’ O3b medium-Earth orbit (MEO) and geostationary (GEO) satellites, which it reports have been “very successful”. The tests, which took place on 17-18 September over South Florida and the Caribbean Sea, provided the first live demonstration of airborne communication with the O3b MEO satellites and included seamless handovers between MEO and GEO satellites during flight.

The demonstrations used the Thales FlytLIVE connectivity network and incorporated the Hughes Jupiter ModMan integrated to the ThinKom Ka2517 antenna. The flight tests also used a Gulfstream G-III test aircraft, mounted with a commercially available ThinKom Ka2517 phased-array airborne antenna. According to ThinKom, the antenna demonstrated the ability to achieve high data-throughput rates while seamlessly switching among successive O3b MEO satellites, as well as transfers between O3b and SES’ GEO constellations.

The company also reported that Ka2517 achieved downlink error-free data throughput rates in excess of 265Mbps, with beam switching speeds of less than one second, while automatically resolving adjacent satellite interference (ASI) issues.

“This is the first in-flight demonstration of an aeronautical antenna communicating across a MEO-GEO hybrid satellite network. The Ka2517 with the Jupiter ModMan met or exceeded all test parameters for spectral efficiency, data throughput, beam agility, switching speeds, ASI mitigation, low-angle performance and inter-constellation roaming,” said ThinKom’s CTO, Bill Milroy.

Based on ThinKom’s phased-array VICTS technology, the Ka2517 is an airborne antenna designed to communicate through satellites in low, medium and geostationary orbits. The low-profile antenna radome provides near-zero aeronautical drag in flight and supports global coverage, including polar and equatorial latitudes. The field-proven Ka2517 is currently in commercial production, and units are in operational service on US government aircraft.

ThinKom’s low-profile Ka2517 phased-array aero antenna

SES’ high-throughput O3b MEO constellation offers low-latency, high-performance data connectivity services and has enabled SES Networks (SES’s business unit focused on data solutions) to offer more capacity, enhanced coverage, increased efficiencies and greater flexibility.

“These successful demo tests are raising the bar for inflight connectivity and the connected passenger experience. The seamless integration of our MEO and GEO satellite networks will provide our customers with unprecedented redundancy, higher connectivity speeds and a whole new level of operational models,” said Elias Zaccack, EVP of global sales at SES Networks.

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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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