Evolution of Satellite Networks and Antenna Markets
The VSAT (very small aperture terminal) was first developed for commercial use by Hughes Network Systems in the mid-1980s and implemented on the first commercial satellite network for Wal-Mart, operating over a GEO (geostationary) Ku-band satellite. In over 30 years since, there have been dramatic advances in satellite, networking and ground system technologies, solutions, and services, the scope of which go well beyond what can be addressed in this Handbook. The modest objective of this chapter is to provide key insights into the evolution of satellite networks and associated ground systems that today serve all global market sectors. It identifies applications for which the transformative potential of electronically steerable phased arrays (described in Electronic Beam Scanning Technology for Small Satellite Communication Systems and their Future Development) is poised to displace mechanically steered parabolic antennas as large-scale, small satellite constellations are launched. The net result will be an expansion of global satellite markets and diversification of ground systems, as VSATs and flat panel, phased array solutions supplement each other to fuel the expansion.
The world of small satellite constellations in LEO and MEO orbits will extend the reach of satellite communications, particularly in underserved portions of the world. By eliminating mechanical steering, flat panel antennas with electronic tracking will open up new addressable mobility markets through lower cost and compact packaging, whether for airborne, maritime, train, or land vehicle applications. This is not a matter of ground satellite systems being replaced, but supplemented in a very significant way.
KeywordsVSAT (very small aperture terminal) Satellite networks Ground systems Global market sectors Geostationary (GEO) satellites Low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations Medium Earth orbit (MEO) constellations Mechanically steered parabolic antennas Phased array antennas Flat panel antennas
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