European Space Agency

Compact Ku-Band aeronautical antenna for commercial airliners

Objectives

There is a significant market across the world for providing broadband "on-the-move" communications  to aircraft, covering both the commercial air transport market and other military and security applications. Currently, the preferred delivery method is via Ku-Band satellites. Various services have been launched, but many have either failed, or are struggling to get the necessary take-up. One of the key barriers to success has been the size and performance of the antennas deployed in these systems. A number of existing products exist; however, these are not attractive because either:

  • They are too large, or
  • They only cover a narrow band (generally transmit or receive, but not both), or
  • They don't have the performance needed to provide the required data rates.

ERA?s new array based low profile antenna will be designed to operate in both the Ku-Band RX and Ku-Band TX bands using a single aperture. The aim of the current programme of work is to take the technology through to pre-production.

The work will be split into three phases. Phase 1 will be to undertake technology de-risking activities. It will also include a full definition of the antenna System Specification and component specifications. In Phase 2, the antenna system will be designed and a number of demonstration units manufactured. Phase 3 will consist of system integration and qualification activities.

Challenges

The key issue is to design a cost-effective, very low profile antenna that can be accommodated on a wide range of aircraft, using as wide a range of different satellites and transponders as possible.
The antenna must also be designed with other market opportunities in mind to maximise the market potential for the design.

Benefits

Providing a European-designed and supplied low profile antenna to meet the market needs of commercial air transport operators to provide data communications for passengers

Features

The diagram below shows the complete TX/RX tracking system.


click for larger image

Plan

Phase 1 will take place over a timeframe of approximately 6 months and will:

  • Define a system architecture,
  • Define a System Specification,
  • Define component specifications,
  • Resolve technical issues,
  • Investigate the use of low cost radome materials.

Phase 2 will take place over a period of about 12 months and will:

  • Design all the component parts of the pre-production antenna,
  • Manufacture two sets of pre-production parts.

Phase 3 will take place over a period of about 6 months and will:

  • Assemble and test two sets of pre-production hardware
  • Undertake full qualification of the pre-production hardware to commercial aeronautical flight requirements.

Current status

  • Definition of system architecture complete,
  • Definition of System Specification complete,
  • Breadboarding of antenna components complete,
  • Study into the use of low cost radome materials complete,
  • Radiating Aperture designed and under construction,
  • Amplifier Subsystem designed and under construction,
  • Radome designed and under construction.

Status date

Friday, August 8, 2008 - 15:58