CesiumAstro is developing electronically scanned array antennas compatible with the Link 16 tactical data network for the Space Development Agency. Credit: CesiumAstro

SAN FRANCISCO — CesiumAstro won a $5 million contract from the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency to develop active electronically scanned array antennas compatible with the Link 16 tactical data network.

The Austin-based startup specializing in phased array technology announced the award March 2.

“Once completed, this antenna will be the only multi-beam, active phased array Link 16 solution available to support U.S. and allied military forces’ common operating picture across the global battlespace, a true gamechanger for the future of reliable and vast data transfer in high-threat environments,” according to the CesiumAstro news release.

CesiumAstro’s flat panel active electronically scanned array antennas employ multiple beams to connect satellites with “dispersed users simultaneously, disseminating critical information to the warfighter faster,” the news release said.

The software-defined CesiumAstro antennas can be reprogrammed rapidly to adapt to changing circumstances.

“This award spotlights the upcoming advancements in national security made possible by software-defined active phased array antennas,” Shey Sabripour, CesiumAstro founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Providing SDA with a multi-beam array increases architecture flexibility and capacity for enhanced theater coverage.”

Link 16, an encrypted, jam-resistant, high-speed radio frequency, is widely used aboard U.S. military and NATO aircraft, ground vehicles and vessels.

In recent years, the SDA and U.S. military services have begun buying Link 16-compatible satellite antennas.

In June, Florida-based space infrastructure company Redwire and MDA of Canada announced contracts to produce 42 Link 16 antennas apiece. MDA is supplying steerable Ka-band and Link 16 antennas to Lockheed Martin for SDA Transport Layer Tranche 1 satellites. Redwire did not disclose the antenna customer.

The CesiumAstro award is not related to the SDA’s Transport Layer Tranche 1 satellites. Instead, the new antennas are destined for future Tranche programs, according to a CesiumAstro spokesperson.

L3Harris Technologies announced plans in October to acquire Viasat’s Link 16 business for $1.96 billion.

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...