Antenna maker GATR Technologies has created an innovative flexible parabolic dish that is mounted inside an inflatable sphere. This design reduces the weight and packaged volume by up to 80 percent, which improves the agility of military and disaster response personnel. The U.S. military has awarded the company a $440 million contract for the technology.
The Inflatable Satellite Antennas (ISAs) have a lightweight design that costs less than conventional deployable SATCOM antenna systems, which dramatically reduces transportation costs. The larger size of the dish allows the military to use satellite bandwidth capacity more effectively, which increases bandwidth for users and allows more people to communicate at the same time.
GATR is currently making dishes that are 1.2, 1.8, and 2.4 meters in diameter. The antennas perform as well as rigid deployable antennas of the same size, but with significantly smaller size and weight.
In December, seven ISA systems were deployed in the Philippines to assist in the recovery from Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the country in November. They provided high-bandwidth communications that were essential to coordinate the recovery effort, since the communications infrastructure had been destroyed by the storm. These were the first high-bandwidth satellite communications terminals used in key areas.
The U.S. Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical awarded the five-year contract to provide integrated communications solutions. The U.S. and Allied militaries have used 300 ISA terminals since 2008. This allows conventional forces to benefit from the same cost savings, lighter weight, and smaller size as other branches of the military, including Special Operations and Marine Corps Expeditionary Units.