NASA's Glenn Research Center invites companies to license a new concept design for terrestrial satellite dishes and communications systems. The Cellular Reflectarray Antenna (CRA) has been developed and tested for use with next-generation Ka-band satellites, although it can be used with all bands of satellite communication. The design's flat, planar configuration all but eliminates the wind-loading problems associated with larger parabolic reflectors for dish systems. The technology also offers unique features that provide ease of installation and improved signal reception, while deterring piracy and theft of subscription satellite services.
The CRA is a unique design alternative to conventional parabolic reflectors. The word cellular in the title of the design refers to a geographic cell of operation. Specifically, the CRA is designed to receive satellite signals for next-generation satellite television and communications services within a specified geographic area, or cell. Each cell comprises approximately 1,500 square miles. The CRA for any given cell operates by being aligned with its index pointing to magnetic north while the surface of the CRA is level to the ground. The CRA's flat configuration makes this orientation streamlined and simple. The cellular nature of the CRA offers inherent security because it will not operate beyond its designated cell space, helping to deter piracy of subscription satellite services.
In the example of a subscription satellite television service, a CRA would be provided to a subscriber in a kit that also contains a simple compass for alignment purposes. The subscriber requires knowledge only of magnetic north from the operation location, which can easily be ascertained using the compass. Once positioned, a collimated antenna beam in the direction of a geostationary satellite is formed using a circular polarization method unique to Glenn's design. In addition, the CRA aperture can operate at two distinct frequencies due to the choice of substrate thickness and materials, enabling both reception and transmission of signals. The materials used enable interlacing of high and low bands while maintaining only one main antenna beam for strong signal.
This technology can be used in broadband satellite communications such as residential and business entertainment; first-responder applications and emergency communications for disaster response and recovery situations, including military; and backup communications for large events, concerts, conventions, and sporting events.