A team of Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace, and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has received a contract to develop a multi-band, multi-mission (MBMM) prototype phased array.

The $7.2m prototype contract was awarded by the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Innovation Unit.

The agreement is part of the DoD’s efforts to modernise the existing US Air Force’s (USAF) Satellite Control Network, which is responsible for providing command, control, and communications for space vehicles.

MBMM will provide the capability to contact multiple satellites simultaneously across frequency bands, as opposed to traditional parabolic dishes that offer only one contact at a time.

In addition, the prototype will bring flexibility and reduce per beam cost.

Lockheed Martin Mission Solutions vice-president and general manager Maria Demaree said: “MBMM is a smarter way to quickly and affordably scale satellite transmission while lowering long-term maintenance costs for the airforce.

“Today, when a parabolic antenna goes down, it can take days to repair. With MBMM, it will take hours and won’t take the entire site offline. That’s a tremendous advantage.”

Lockheed Martin and partners will build prototype transmit and receive electronically steerable arrays (ESA).

Ball Aerospace will contribute its advanced phased array technologies. Each array will support L and S-band frequencies initially.

Kratos will provide its digital intermediate frequency (IF) technology and Cloud-enabled quantum radio to enable signal processing.

“When a parabolic antenna goes down, it can take days to repair. With MBMM, it will take hours and won’t take the entire site offline.”

Ball Aerospace Tactical Solutions vice-president and general manager Rob Freedman said: “One electronically steered antenna can replace multiple dishes, enabling better performance, connectivity and affordability.”

Lockheed Martin noted that phased arrays are an effective solution as they remove the mechanical maintenance and keyhole effects of parabolic antennas.

The MBMM systems are expected to lower long-term sustainment costs for the USAF.

It will be able to simultaneously undertake a range of missions, including command and control (C2), launch pad and ascent operations, radar and mission data transmission.

In May, the government awarded a contract to Harris to build and demonstrate a prototype ground antenna system to help expand the airforce’s space tracking abilities.