Start-Up Developing Ka-band Antenna For Aircraft

By Amy Svitak
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

In addition to mobile, fixed and portable ground receivers, Fotheringham says Kymeta will explore the potential to develop metamaterial antennas for use on spacecraft. “We are exploring reconfigurable beams on satellites looking at the ground as well as links between satellites as we grow into maturity here,” he says.

Kymeta's first contract was a study initiative awarded last year by start-up fleet operator O3b, which this year will launch the first eight satellites of an initial 12-satellite constellation in medium Earth orbit designed for Ka-band broadband applications in the oil and gas exploration, cellular backhaul, maritime, military and cruise ship markets.

“The project involved providing them a tracking antenna solution to get them an alternative to mechanically steered infrastructure,” Fotheringham says. “The work study project came to conclusion a few months ago, and we're actively engaged with them to work to a prototype development here shortly.”

The company is also discussing the potential for metamaterial surface-antenna technology to extend the life of on-orbit satellites with Luxembourg-based SES, the world's second-largest telecommunications satellites fleet operator by revenue. Near the end of a satellite's service life, the gradual loss of onboard propellant leaves it circling in an inclined orbit from which ground tracking can become a challenge.

“Because most satellites still have plenty of performance left in their solar panels, we're thinking about the ability to allow a satellite to continue its useful life with a low-cost ground segment that can track the inclined orbit,” Fotheringham says.

In the meantime, Kymeta is expected to deliver the Aero Antenna to Inmarsat by November 2014, and separately plans to release its commercially available laptop-sized portable satellite receiver in the first quarter of 2015.

“We're getting a lot of pressure to go faster, but we're disciplined enough to stick to our plan and take a crawl-walk-run approach to becoming a viable contributor to the community,” Fotheringham says.

Watch an animation of Kymeta's antenna at work on our On Space blog:

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