Image: Vance Walstra

Low Earth orbit satellite constellations promise a significant boost in capacity and drop in communications latency. We’re still 3–5 years from viable networks of those satellites in the sky but Global Eagle is working to ensure its current generation of connectivity hardware will be ready. The company will begin testing its Ka-band solution on its Albatross flying test bed with Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite in October.

With only one LEO satellite in orbit today, the company will be evaluating satellite handoff performance between the LEO Telesat Phase 1 and the geostationary (GEO) Anik F3 in orbit. This handoff LEO-GEO profile is as important as the transition between LEO satellites, given the current orbiting satellite infrastructure. Global Eagle is not giving up on the GEO investment it has today, said vice-president, Aviation Sales, Mike Moeller, adding that the mix is about getting “the right data on the right pipe.” GEO still delivers an efficient means to move large volumes of data, such as live video streams, for multiple aircraft.

And, while Global Eagle expects newer antenna technology will evolve for future installations, current gimbaled antennae must be compatible with the new LEO constellation. The company expects the antennae will support that need, with retrace times between satellites below 1.5 seconds on average and tightly integrated engineering efforts with the satellite provider.