This Ka-band ASM is a small, lightweight antenna which provides moderate gain without the use of mechanical steering or power-hungry phase shifters. This technology provides a high data rate communications solution for small satellites which, when paired with sensors, would provide NASA with the ability to transfer high volumes of sensor data from LEO satellites directly to the Earth via the Near Earth Network. In addition, because the frequency range of this antenna supports communication with NASA's Tracking Data Relay Satellite (TDRS), it could allow transfer of data from LEO satellites to other satellites in LEO or GEO orbits as defined in the Space Network User Guide. This technology is generally not expected to form the basis of the primary science activity on a satellite, but its ability to support the transfer of large amounts of data for relatively little size, weight, power, and cost means that it has the ability to enhance or enable a variety of NASA programs, ranging from earth observation activities to science experiments.
This antenna is appropriate for a variety of applications that require high data rate communications but do not have the funding or the weight budget to allow a phased array antenna, including university CubeSat teams, commercial companies, and government entities. This antenna is an especially good fit for entities that have low weight and power requirements, as these are areas where it performs exceptionally well compared to traditional mechanically-steered antennas as well as phased-array antennas. A variety of space-based ventures or early demonstrations that are expected to require high data rate communications have been announced recently, including Earth observation projects where the satellite itself captures large amounts of data that needs to be transferred back to the ground quickly and efficiently for analysis, as well as communications projects where a satellite acts as a node in a larger communications system and needs to be in a position to receive and transmit large amounts of data for as much of its orbit as possible.