New Antennas, Installation Options For IFEC Systems

Credit: Satcom Direct

Utilizing Aviation Week’s Marketplace, the BCA Staff has collated recent announcements of newly certified satellite communications antenna systems and a Part 145 repair station certification for inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system components.

Ku-band Tail-Mount Antenna
Satcom Direct (SD) said March 9 that it has started rigorous airborne testing of its advanced technology, purpose-built Ku-band tail mounted antenna system.

The SD Plane Simple series tail-mounted antenna system will support super-midsize to large-cabin business jets and is being developed in partnership with QEST Quantenelektronische Systeme, based in Holzgerlingen, Germany. The antenna is equipped on SD’s Gulfstream testbed aircraft.

Aerial testing follows successful completion of intense drive testing in Melbourne, Florida, where SD is based, using a customized mobile platform. The transition from ground assessment to aerial testing aims to validate the full performance capabilities of the Ku-band terminal. Inflight trials will also confirm the system’s integration with the SD range of hardware, software and supporting ground infrastructure.

“It is our company philosophy to always bring products to market that we have validated internally, and we are in a unique position to have the ability to undertake system testing on our own aircraft which gives us direct performance feedback,” said Jim Jensen, SD founder and CEO. “The aerial validation is the next step in becoming a single source provider of end-to-end connectivity solutions for business and government operators worldwide, which will streamline the connectivity ownership experience and customer support services.” 

The Plane Simple Ku-band antenna is the first in a series of antenna systems SD is developing.  As a Value-Added Manufacturer and service provider for Iridium Certus, SD is also designing and manufacturing a Plane Simple antenna system for compatibility with the new network offering by Iridium.

SD plans to launch a Ka-band variant tail-mount antenna in 2022, followed by an electronically steered, fuselage mounted phased-array antenna which will deliver high-speed connectivity via upcoming LEO constellations.

Credit: Anderson Connectivity
Credit: Anderson Connectivity

Part 145 Repair Station Certificate
Anderson Connectivity, an MRO that serves the inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) sector, has obtained a Part 145 repair station certificate from the FAA focused on servicing and repair of IFEC components.

With the attainment of its own Part 145 certificate, which includes Limited Accessory and Limited Airframe ratings, Apopka, Florida-based Anderson Connectivity said it is now “fully authorized, staffed and capitalized” to add capabilities for the repair and return-to-service of any IFEC components installed on any airframe.

The FAA authorization allows the company to work away from its fixed location, providing flexibility for customers requiring on-wing support in remote locations.

“This key certification underscores Anderson Connectivity’s canonical understanding of the full lifecycle of satellite antenna systems,” says Brian Anderson, Anderson Connectivity founder and president. “Having the Part 145 certification solidifies our three-pillar business model of designing, producing and servicing components in the IFEC and other mobility markets.”

ThinKom antenna
Credit: ThinKom Solutions

Next-Generation Satellite Terminal
ThinKom Solutions is supplying its ThinAir Ka2517 aero satellite antennas to GDC Technics in support of a new GX Aviation terminal announced by satellite communications provider Inmarsat in late 2020.

Inmarsat selected the low-profile Ka-band phased array antenna for the new terminal following 18 months of collaboration and field testing by ThinKom and Fort Worth, Texas-based GDC. It supports inflight connectivity via GX Aviation and GX+ North America, a service offered by Inmarsat and Hughes Network Systems.

The Ka2517 antenna is based on ThinKom’s patented Variable Inclination Continuous Transverse Stub (VICTS) technology, which has accumulated more than 18 million operational hours on 1,550 commercial aircraft, the company says.

The GDC Technics terminal has been certified and is flying on Boeing 737-700s. Additional retrofit and line-fit certifications were in progress, including retrofit options for the Airbus A320/330 families and the Boeing 787 and 777.

ThinKom, based in Hawthorne, California, also announced in January 2021 that it has completed over-the-air tests of a pair of 17-in. active diameter K/Q-band phased-array antennas communicating through an Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite.

The tests verified that the antenna, based on ThinKom’s VICTS architecture, meets or exceeds all performance metrics for operating effectively with the frequency-hopping waveform of the AEHF protected communications satellite network.

The conformal flat-panel VICTS phased-array antennas can be cavity mounted on a variety of aviation, naval and land-mobile platforms.

“This is for government use, not business aviation,” the company said in response to an inquiry. “We believe 17-in. K/Ka VICTS aperture will be applicable to the business aviation market but our primary focus is commercial aviation and special mission government aircraft.”