At first glance, the small white structure perched on a patch of land in Fairbanks, Alaska, looks simple. But for L3Harris, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others trying to keep up with a rapid increase in satellite assets, it's game-changing technology.
Unlike traditional dish antenna technology that can only contact one satellite at a time, our compact Digital Beamforming Phased Array Antenna System (DPAAS) prototype easily scales from one to hundreds of simultaneous satellite contacts – without the need for several separate, costly systems.
Our L3Harris team in Fairbanks recently wrapped up a successful three-month demonstration of the DPAAS prototype technology, showcasing its ability to handle an average of more than 300 satellite contacts per day, including up to eight simultaneous contacts.
The project is part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement we signed with NOAA in early 2023, as the agency seeks partnerships that will help it gather environmental data from an increasing number of satellites.
During the demonstration period, we were able to achieve automated, 24/7 system operation with near-zero downtime – even in the face of Alaska's harsh weather conditions. In addition to managing more than 12,500 total locked satellite downlink contacts during the three-month period, the prototype also performed an uplink integrated with NOAA's operations center and one of its Joint Polar Satellite System satellites.
These capabilities translate to better, faster access to the data NOAA relies on to help protect our nation's environment, security, economy and quality of life.
"We're extremely impressed with the demonstration results," says L3Harris Senior Scientist Brian Haman, who led the project. "We're excited to continue these types of partnerships as NOAA and other customers explore ways to integrate our multiband, multimission phased array capabilities into their enterprise."
This is the second time we've demonstrated our DPAAS prototype's capabilities to our customers. The first was in 2021, as part of a Defense Innovation Unit prototype contract for the U.S. Space Force. Both demonstrations prove how L3Harris is reimagining SATCOM ground antenna technology to help customers – across the civil and national security space sectors – scale to meet urgent mission capacity demands.