5G News Satellite Tech Updates

Lockheed Martin develops new hybrid satellite technology

The WAEFR technology is expected to increase the coverage area by approximately 190% compared with traditional phased array antennas.

Lockheed Martin has invented a new type of satellite dish technology with a wide range of use on satellites and ground terminals, including space-based 5G. 

The new dish, called a Wide Angle ESA Fed Reflector (WAEFR) antenna, is a hybrid of a phased array Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) and a parabolic dish, and increases coverage area by 190% compared to traditional phased array antennas at a much lower cost.

This antenna is part of a larger research and development investment in 5G.MIL technologies that will optimise and securely connect warfighting platforms to enable joint all-domain command and control (JADC2). 

Commenting on the hybrid satellite technology, Chris Herring, Vice President of Advanced Programme Development at Lockheed Martin Space, said: “We adopted a commercial mindset to quickly mature this technology and discovered there were multiple use cases and applications that could benefit from this new hybrid antenna. 5G.MIL technologies like this will bring greater connectivity, faster and more reliable networks, and new data capabilities to support our customers as they navigate the complexity of 21st-century battlefields.”

The team rapidly prototyped, tested and validated this system in a matter of months compared to what previously took years. WAEFR also features a high-performance gain of a dish with the beam agility of an ESA; Low Size Weight and Power (SWAP) common product solution to accommodate any orbital altitude or ground terminal application; and advances in 3D-printing technology and accelerated parts production.

This type of antenna will also benefit the broader communications and ISR communities by providing a more reliable scanning solution compared to gimbaled designs.

Thomas Hand, PhD, Associate Technical Fellow at Lockheed Martin Space, added: “The primary benefit of the WAEFR approach is accomplishing more mission with fewer resources. While the state of the art ESA solutions can address more demanding link performance, capacity, and data rates using multiple agile analogue beams, they do so at a premium.”