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ThinKom and KSAT Explore Radically New Approach to Satellite Ground Stations

New antenna architecture to deliver more reliable connectivity in a smaller footprint, with lower total cost of ownership for leading gateway operator.

38th Space Symposium, Colorado Springs, April 17 2023

Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), a world leading provider of communication services, and ThinKom Solutions, a pioneer in phased-array antenna technology, have partnered to bring ThinKom’s gateway array to market, targeting earth observation, broadband, Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C), and other Ground Station as a Service (GSaaS) applications.

With constellations in non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) growing at an astounding pace, disruptive technology and innovative approaches such as these are needed to deliver dramatic improvements in ground station performance and scalability.

This partnership will combine KSAT’s deep ground station experience with ThinKom’s new gateway arrays built on field-proven, high-efficiency, patented VICTS (Variable Inclination Continuous Transverse Stub) technology. As the global leader in satellite ground stations, KSAT’s ambitious network expansion relies on utilizing cutting-edge technologies and ThinKom’s phased array antenna technology is the key to enabling KSAT to continue to scale at unprecedented levels.

ThinKom’s modular, scalable gateway arrays are engineered to provide a fully customizable, software-defined ground segment solution. The multi-beam, multi-band, multi-orbit system allows gateway providers to keep pace with advancements in satellite networks due to the system flexibility which digitally combines independently controlled antennas into compact, highly efficient arrays. This type of architecture enables rapid deployment, software-defined beamforming, and superior satellite acquisition and tracking.

KSAT CTO John Heskett

– At KSAT, we take pride in being a technology leader and our commitment to continually evolving our ground stations. In our search for better ways to address the high-density constellations, phased array technology emerged as an obvious choice. Finding a commercially viable solution that brings significant benefits over our legacy antennas has been challenging, but ThinKom has a very innovative approach that meets our technology goals, while also meeting our commercial objectives, KSAT Chief Technology Officer John Hesket says. 

This new gateway array architecture will join KSAT’s global footprint of more than 270 parabolic apertures spread across every continent. This new architecture will reduce total cost of ownership through hot-swappable modules, reduced infrastructure, installation, and maintenance costs, more efficient spectrum utilization, low power consumption, and a smaller physical and visual footprint when compared to traditional parabolic dishes.

“The next generation of satellite networks requires a new paradigm in the ground segment. ThinKom has a strong history of delivering extremely reliable, high-performance antennas across a range of frequency bands. We are excited to bring this technology to the commercial ground segment in partnership with KSAT, a technology leader in delivering innovative ground station solutions. By increasing aperture density while reducing total cost of ownership, we can deliver a step change for future-proof gateway connectivity to every orbit and at every frequency, from S-band through Ka-band and beyond.” says Bill Milroy, ThinKom Chairman and Chief Technology Officer.

The array repoints from a setting satellite to a rising one nearly instantly, matching a key advantage of electronically steered antennas. At the same time, the ThinKom solution delivers full-duplex, horizon-to-horizon, make-before-break connectivity for truly uninterrupted communications with NGSO constellations.

With a fully operational system targeted for 2024, this collaboration between KSAT and ThinKom exemplifies the type of future-forward thinking needed to deliver a new paradigm for satellite ground stations.

Image: ThinkKom Solutions