WASHINGTON — A new prototype antenna for the U.S. Space Force has passed a milestone test, the contractors involved announced Aug. 31.

The new multi-band, multimission antenna is under development to address a serious problem: As the military puts an ever-increasing number of satellites on orbit, where will the services put all of the antennas needed to connect to them?

The single-phased array antenna can connect simultaneously with multiple satellites at once over multiple frequencies, even if they are in different orbits. The prototype could significantly reduce the terrestrial footprint needed to leverage the Defense Department’s growing portfolio of space-based systems.

On Aug. 31, Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace announced they successfully completed a phased array transmit test for the MBMM antenna, a technology milestone on the path to a full end-to-end satellite communication demonstration. A successful receive test took place in February.

“We are excited to partner with the Space Force on this phased array technology demonstration. This is a collaborative team with proven leadership in fielding large-scale L- and S-band communication phased arrays,” said Maria Demaree, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Mission Solutions. “Our experience integrating antennas into C2 systems is unparalleled.”

“Ball Aerospace has targeted investment in the core phased array technologies required to allow MBMM to address the Space Force’s mission needs while providing an affordable full system solution,” said Jake Sauer, vice president and general manager of tactical solutions at Ball Aerospace. “With the successful completion of the transmit test, we are looking forward to the full end-to-end mission demonstration of the phased array capability.”

The Pentagon’s Silicon Valley hub, Defense Innovation Unit, awarded a $7.2 million contract to Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace and Kratos Technologies for the prototype in April 2019. At the same time, Harris Corporation — now L3Harris Technologies — was awarded a $6.3 million contract to build its own prototype.

If successful, MBMM will be incorporated into the Air Force Satellite Control Network, the system used to operate and maintain Defense Department satellites.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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