The Geodesic Dome Phased Array Antenna – Advanced Technology Demonstration (GDPAA-ATD) is part of a multi-phase activity to upgrade the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN). By replacing large dish antennas with advanced phased array antennas, a GDPAA is expected to greatly improve satellite communication links for the AFSCN. The program is jointly sponsored by the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in support to Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) who manages the AFSCN.
About the Program
Ball Aerospace is developing, integrating and testing the ATD hardware to validate the GDPAA concept of using a geodesic dome phased array antenna for ground-based satellite communication links. The phased-array technology is expected to provide more flexible and reliable satellite telemetry, tracking and command capabilities, and communications for the Air Force.
Ball Aerospace is preparing a top-level design for a future GDPAA system, using the ATD to demonstrate its ability to meet the requirements for a full-up GDPAA.
Communicating from a parabolic dish on the ground to one satellite at a time is costly and inefficient. The Ball Aerospace phased-array technology is expected to provide the following benefits:
- Multiple beams and “time multiplexing,” enabling one geodesic dome on the ground to quickly send and receive signals to four or more satellites simultaneously
- Operates at various L- and S-Band frequencies, polarizations, and waveforms allowing shared antenna use by numerous DoD and US Civil Agency satellite programs
- Electronic pointing, eliminating the need for mechanical dish repositioning. This enables Air Force Space Command’s (AFSPC) satellite communications to be more reliable and efficient
- Software programmable for flexible, automated operations that reduce turnaround times between satellite passes, increase throughput and add capacity
- Ground-breaking advances in antenna development and electronics, making maintenance on the GDPAA possible while the antenna is still operating
- “Lights out” operation, resulting in a decrease in the operations and maintenance costs for each dome
Ball Aerospace is the prime supplier to the government on the ATD, and is utilizing its successful heritage to provide a high-performing system.
- Using similar technology to the GDPAA system, Ball Aerospace successfully delivered a 72-panel, three-beam S-Band array to the U.S. Navy in 2003.
- In 2004, Ball Aerospace successfully demonstrated a prototype full duplex antenna as part of the Air Force Space Battlelab Initiative that assembled a 6-panel Phased Array for Telemetry, Tracking and Commanding (PAT) and successfully supported 99 DoD and NASA "live" satellite contacts.
- In 2006, Ball Aerospace was involved in the instruments used to achieve tactical control of a U.S. Army satellite as part of the Multi-Use Ground Station (MUGS) Phased Array Antenna program using the PAT system on loan from the Air Force. The resulting fast data downlink capabilities can improve the way our nation’s defense agencies communicate.
By taking parts that are commercially available and using them to build defense systems, Ball Aerospace has reduced the per-element cost of each subarray for its customers.
Ball Aerospace encompasses a team of expert technologists, design engineers, production specialists and test engineers who’ve developed dozens of antennas over more than two decades. The ATD is an opportunity to show how Ball Aerospace has successfully evolved its phased array antenna technology development to an operational system.