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SES, ThinKom and Hughes enable multi-orbit connectivity for airborne missions

The demonstrated high-performance solution leverages phased-array antenna and ultra-fast-roaming capabilities between satellites to support critical manned and unmanned C2/ISR government missions.

SES, ThinKom and Hughes have demonstrated high-performance multi-orbit service capable of supporting multiple solutions for government airborne missions. The open architecture ThinKom ThinAir Ka2517 airborne satcom terminal was successfully demonstrated over SES’s Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and Geostationary (GEO) satellite networks during testing at ThinKom’s Hawthorne, CA, facilities and on an aircraft in Mojave, CA. To enable roaming across the satellites, the architecture included the Hughes Network Systems software-defined ruggedized HM400 airborne modem. The testing validated the formal release of the latest ThinAir Ka2517 software, interfacing with the Hughes HM400 modem for MEO and GEO operations.

The latest generation Ka2517 antenna is designed for full commercial Ka-band and mil-Ka band satellites operating over 17.7 – 21.2 GHz (forward link) and 27.5 – 31 GHz (return link), providing governments and the military with broad airborne communications capabilities.

The Ka2517 is based on ThinKom’s field-proven patented VICTS (Variable Inclination Continuous Transverse Stub) phased-array technology, which has proven its spectral efficiency and reliability with installations on over 1,600 commercial aircraft or more than 33m operating hours, over eight years of service. The Ka2517 is operational on SES’s GEO satellite services and the innovative high-throughput SES-17 satellite. The antennas have also been providing continuous service on US government aircraft for five years, and boast a very low profile, minimising drag and increasing time on station. The newly demonstrated MEO and GEO capability enables industry-leading performance and multi-orbit resiliency for critical mission success, especially in contested environments.

Bill Milroy, ThinKom’s co-founder and Chief Technical Officer, said: “As the industry shifts towards a multi-orbit model to boost performance and resiliency, ThinKom is leading the way with a flexible open architecture platform to support connectivity from every orbit to every mission. We are proud to be flying in continuous service on US government aircraft since 2018 and look forward to extending that partnership with the next generation of ThinAir solutions.”

Will Tong, Vice President of Strategic Government Initiatives and head of the Aero ISR market at SES, added: “The demonstrated architecture leveraging the phased-array antenna and open-standards modem has the versatility to interoperate with satellites in GEO and non-geostationary (NGSO) orbits, ensuring global connectivity that meets the governments’ Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) requirements for multi-orbit operations. This demo showcases that through our partners’ and SES’s innovative satellite technology, such as the O3b mPOWER system, we can address the rapidly growing sensor needs and future-proof tomorrow’s fleets of C2/ISR aircraft programs, enabling manned and unmanned ISR and C2 high-workload missions.”

Rick Lober, vice president and general manager of Hughes Defense and Government Systems Division, stated: “The success of the Joint All Domain Command and Control mission depends on secure, resilient and reliable high-bandwidth satellite communications. In cooperation with SES, ThinKom and others, Hughes continues to deliver innovative software-defined modem technology for missions around the globe, ensuring comprehensive, efficient service delivery for our warfighters.”

At the start of the operation, SES’s O3b mPOWER MEO system featuring thousands of high-performance, low-latency steerable spot beams, will provide truly uncontended seamless connectivity service for sending and receiving high-volume data and unlock full access to real-time information, high-resolution images and video for government airborne missions.