Inflatable radome antenna system
The inflatable antenna system from GATR Technologies® is benefiting from an ongoing technology transfer relationship with NASA’s Glenn Research Center and leading to faster on-the-ground communications support for disaster relief efforts and military operations. The technology can provide emergency Internet access, cell coverage, and phone lines over satellite networks via a compact package that can be inflated and deployed in less than an hour (a 2.4m satellite antenna system packed in as few as two airline checkable cases). Technology developed through a 1998 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract served as the basis for the technology, and the inflatable antenna was further developed through a license agreement between GATR and the SBIR contract holder. Additional refinements, characterization, and tests on the technology were made possible by a 2006 Space Act Agreement (SAA) that enabled GATR to collaborate with Glenn researchers, tapping into Glenn’s antenna expertise and test facilities. This resulted in the first-ever Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-certified inflatable antenna.
Prototypes of the technology were used by GATR to assist with communications following Hurricane Katrina and helped support the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) efforts during Hurricane Ike. The technology also has been used to help law enforcement with missing person rescue missions, and has provided communications support to the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force. Outside the U.S. the antenna has been deployed in Afghanistan, South Africa, South America, Haiti, and South Korea. Most recently, the company deployed a system at a United Nations search and rescue site in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in response to the earthquake there and a second unit at a special operations unit at the Port-au-Prince Airfield. Two additional units were also deployed at a makeshift hospital in the Dominican Republic.
Back at NASA, the technology transfer efforts increased the technology readiness to a level suitable for consideration for potential future missions and for NASA’s next-generation Space Communication Architecture.