Render of CesiumAstro's Ka-band in-flight connectivity terminal on a commercial aircraft. Credit: CesiumAstro

WASHINGTON – CesiumAstro, a company known for supplying phased array antennas for satellites, is entering the in-flight connectivity market with demonstrations on Airbus airplanes and helicopters.

The March 13 announcement brings Cesium one step closer to its goal of “supplying phased arrays for everything that’s mobile,” including aircraft, ships and autonomous vehicles, Shey Sabripour, Cesium founder and CEO, told SpaceNews. “We’ve got this growing demand for throughput and the piece that needs to be continuously revolutionized is the way we use the spectrum and connect everything. That’s why I have believed in phase arrays for a couple of decades and wanted to build a company around it.”

Entering the IFC market

Austin, Texas-based Cesium invested for years in developing in-flight connectivity products before being selected by Airbus, along with a couple of competitors, to demonstrate the performance of its flat-panel terminals.

Cesium will deliver the multi-beam, active phased-array antennas to Airbus in May for tests likely to occur later this year.

“I appreciate everything that Airbus has done for us as the first customer,” including mounting the Cesium terminal on aircraft and testing them, Sabripour said. “Of course, we’re going to market this to other commercial aircraft providers as well.”

Cesium has another contract, not yet announced, to demonstrate the Ka-band terminal on a drone for a U.S. government agency. The flight demonstrations for Airbus and the unnamed government customer will help Cesium collect the data the company needs to reach its goal of obtaining FAA certification for its in-flight connectivity terminal in early 2025, Sabripour said.

Cesium’s IFC terminals are designed to fit aircraft of all sizes.

“It’s a very modular tile-like architecture,” Sabripour said. “We can make it very big for a certain type of aircraft and very small for a drone.”

Space Terminals

Sabripour founded Cesium in 2017 in a quest to make phased arrays ubiquitous. Initially, the company focused on space applications.

Saturn Satellite Networks announced plans last year to buy Cesium antennas for its $500 million Space Broadband Networks-1 program.

Recently, the startup announced a contract from the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency to develop active electronically scanned array antennas compatible with the Link 16 tactical data network.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...