Inflight tests demonstrate MEO-GEO satellite roaming


ThinKom Solutions’ Ka-band antenna has been put through its paces on SES’ O3b medium-Earth orbit (MEO) and geostationary (GEO) satellites. The inflight connectivity tests demonstrated airborne communication with the O3b MEO satellites and included “seamless” handovers between MEO and GEO satellites during flight.

The inflight demos used the Thales FlytLIVE connectivity network and incorporated the Hughes Jupiter ModMan integrated to the ThinKom Ka2517 antenna.

The flights took place on 17-18 September 2019 over south Florida and the Caribbean Sea, using a commercially available ThinKom Ka2517 phased-array airborne antenna mounted on a Gulfstream G-III test aircraft. With the Hughes Jupiter aeronautical system and ModMan, ThinKom says 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 reports that the 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 inflight demonstration of an aeronautical antenna communicating across a MEO-GEO hybrid satellite network,” said Bill Milroy, chief technology officer at ThinKom. “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. The demonstration further establishes that ThinKom has the only proven no compromise antenna solutions that can support seamless global satellite communication in the air with automatic roaming among GEO, LEO and MEO constellations.”

Based on ThinKom’s patented 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 is designed to provide near-zero aeronautical drag in flight and support global coverage including polar and equatorial latitudes. The Ka2517 is currently in commercial production, and units are in operational service on US government aircraft.

“The test by ThinKom underscores the effectiveness of the Hughes Jupiter system for both MEO and GEO connectivity, and when combined with a high-quality antenna such as the ThinKom Ka2517, to deliver superior spectral efficiency, link availability and performance,” said Reza Rasoulian, vice president, Hughes Network Systems.

ThinKom says SES’ high-throughput O3b MEO constellation is the only operationally and commercially proven non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) broadband constellation today.

“These successful demo tests are raising the bar for inflight connectivity and the connected passenger experience,” said Elias Zaccack, executive vice president of global sales at SES Networks. “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. We’re very excited to have achieved this milestone together with our long-term partner Thales, as this is yet another example of how our mutual collaboration continues to bring innovative connectivity solutions with unmatched performance.”

“These inflight tests performed together with SES, ThinKom and Hughes are an outstanding demonstration of the seamless connectivity through MEO and GEO satellite systems,” said Pascal Homsy, executive vice president of Thales Alenia Space’s telecommunications business line. “Thales Alenia Space was particularly pleased to participate in this worldwide first, using the O3b satellite constellation we manufactured for SES.”

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Izzy has been part of the Business Jet Interiors International team since its second issue, and the editor since 2011. She also edits Auditoria and Railway Interiors International. Outside of work, Izzy is rediscovering her love of art by learning how to paint with watercolors.

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