Design for a low-cost k-band communication satellite constellation
The feasibility of using a low-cost K-band communication satellite constellation in low-Earth orbit to provide continuous global coverage to ground terminal restricted aerospace vehicles was investigated. A phased array K-band transceiver pointing nadir, steerable ±45° in azimuth and elevation, and laser communication units for satellite-to-satellite cross link capability, were assumed for the payload. The figure of merit was the average percent coverage of the entire surface of the globe and the space surrounding the globe, up to 1000 km, with a goal of achieving 100% coverage, continuously. The results indicate that continuous global coverage is not feasible with a heritage phased array K-band transceiver with a range of 2000 km and 72 satellites; however, a hypothetical phased array K-band transceiver with a range of 2975 km was able to provide continuous global communication. The low-cost goal was not realized. The estimated cost of the constellation with the hypothetical transceiver is $4.861 B due to the large command and data handling and power requirements associated with the K-band transceiver. With the enormous costs associated with this project, despite using commercially available products, further analysis of the proposed satellite constellation is not recommended.