ThinKom unveils “Array of Arrays” gateway antenna

ThinKom Solutions has revealed its new innovative solution for efficient and effective land-based gateways designed to accommodate current and next generation low-Earth-orbit (LEO) and medium-Earth-orbit (MEO) satellite constellations.

“The proliferation of cubesats, nanosats, microsats and other miniaturised satellites will require a new way of thinking when it comes to gateway antenna technology,” said Bill Milroy, chairman and chief technology officer of ThinKom Solutions. “The answer is not to deploy more and larger dish farms. Instead, we’re proposing an entirely new paradigm that’s designed for the future yet employs currently available proven phased array technology.”

ThinKom’s approach uses multiple, tightly arranged, phased-array antennas, which are coherently (and reconfigurably) combined. The antenna units work together to track multiple LEO, MEO and GEO satellites simultaneously with look angles between 5 and 90 degrees in elevation and full 360-degree coverage in azimuth. The software-defined system is reconfigurable in that a single array is capable of supporting multiple links, modifying the number of beams and radiation properties dynamically to meet the link budget and throughput demands of the ever-changing number of satellites in view. It does all this without the high-power consumption of electronically scanned arrays, which is a critical feature in areas that rely on solar power or are otherwise energy-constrained due to geographic location.

The array, to be initially deployed in S and X-band operation (with higher frequencies brought on line as the market demands), is constructed in a fixed convex shape in order to provide maximum low-elevation coverage and minimise signal blockage while promoting the shedding of rain and snow. The visual signature of an array is less than two meters tall serving to eliminate the effects of high wind conditions and the footprint for a typical array (equivalent to eight 2.4-meter dishes or three 4.5-meter dishes or any mixed combination) occupies less than seven square meters, uniquely enabling flexible deployment in areas with limited real estate, such as rooftop locations.

“This radical new gateway concept is inherently flexible and scalable with far lower installation and maintenance costs,” said Milroy. “The low power and built-in redundancy provide greater reliability without routine maintenance, and individual units are hot-swappable in order to minimise or even eliminate downtime.”

“Most importantly, we’re not out to reinvent the wheel. This solution uses our patented, proven phased-array antenna technology that is in service today, minimising R&D and time-to-market,” he added.

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