Light Weight High Gain High Data Rate Launch Vehicle Antenna

Period of Performance: 08/21/2014 - 11/22/2016


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

First RF Corp.
5340 Airport Blvd. Array
Boulder, CO 80301
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT: The United States Air Force (USAF) has a need to upgrade communications systems on board Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV s). Video monitoring of Launch Vehicles (LV s) during all stages of orbit insertion provides invaluable information about the health and status of a launch platform. A modernization effort to enable improved monitoring of a LV through all stages of orbit insertion requires more capable antenna systems supporting 10-20 Mbps data rates. Potential SATCOM data links supporting the required data rates have been identified during previous studies conducted by the United States Government. FIRST RF is partnering with an industry leader in system integration onto launch vehicles to first, perform a thorough requirements/link/systems analysis and second, complete a design of an active antenna solution which offers the required EIRP and beam agility to close the link. The proposed architecture leverages array antenna modules which have been designed for closing SATCOM links in high dynamic environments. The Phase II program will be focused on the fabrication of a prototype phased array antennas and the demonstration of these antennas. FIRST RF will collaborate with United Launch Alliance to perform testing and demonstration at their facility in Denver CO. BENEFIT: The proposed effort to investigate potential SATCOM data link options and develop an antenna system to support enhanced telemetry and live video downlink connection from launch to end-of-mission for the nation s EELV fleet will provide the following direct benefits: 1) Selection of data link options providing the highest value in terms of availability and performance. 2) A new antenna architecture utilizing the selected data link and meeting physical, environmental and electrical requirements. 3) An order of magnitude increase in communications bandwidth for significantly improved telemetry and video monitoring of EELV health and status. The proposed effort will also provide the following indirect benefits: 1) Reduced launch cost due to simplified CONcept of OPerations (CONOPS) 2) Increase lift mass (The enhanced communications capabilities will enable simplified flight trajectories. [no need to fly over current ground stations to maintain communications link] These simplified flight trajectories means the EELV can carry less fuel and more payload. 3) Reduced down range ground asset dependency. 4) Elimination of $100 s of millions of dollars O&M costs to support ground tracking stations which are currently necessary. 5) Renewed public interest through real time HD video of launch mission operations. This technology may also apply to commercial launch vehicles in the future.