L3Harris develops electronic antenna for command and control of military satellites

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Col. Wallace “Rhett” Turnbull, of the Space and Missile Systems Center, said modern antenna technology will be needed to meet a growing demand for satellite control capacity.

WASHINGTON — L3Harris Technologies announced Jan. 12 it completed the development of an electronic phased array ground antenna for the U.S. Space Force. 

The prototype “multi-band multi-mission” antenna is one three that were developed under a Defense Innovation Unit 2019 contract. Lockheed Martin and Atlas Space Operations also have completed prototypes. 

The DIU program was to examine available commercial technology for ground antennas to help the Space Force improve communications with its satellites. A single phased array antenna can communicate with multiple satellites across different frequency bands. The military’s traditional parabolic or radio antennas can contact only one satellite at a time.

The antenna developed by L3Harris — like those from Lockheed Martin and Atlas Space — were integrated with the Space Force’s Satellite Control Network to demonstrate multiple simultaneous satellite contacts. The SCN is an aging network of parabolic dish antennas located around the globe used to fly military satellites. 

The phased array antenna demonstrations “showcased the advancements in phased array technology and relevance for satellite command and control with live DoD systems,” said Col. Wallace “Rhett” Turnbull, director of the cross mission ground and communications enterprise at the Space and Missile Systems Center. 

Turnbull said modern antenna technology will be needed to meet a “growing demand for satellite control capacity by providing more affordable and resilient access to Space Force satellite systems.”

The Space and Missile Systems Center has not yet decided what type of electronically steered antennas it will buy for the Satellite Control Network.

“The multi-band multi-mission demo effort is still ongoing and will continue technology maturation this year,” Turnbull said in a statement to SpaceNews. “We are currently developing a strategy for how to transition from the ongoing prototype effort to a follow-on program that will be able to deploy a long-term MBMM solution for the Satellite Control Network.”