CesiumAstro Awarded a Contract by U.S. Air Force to Demonstrate SATCOM Terminal on MQ-9A Aircraft

CesiumAstro Awarded a Contract by U.S. Air Force to Demonstrate SATCOM Terminal on MQ-9A Aircraft

CesiumAstro, an industry leader in active phased array communications technology for space and airborne systems, announced that it has been awarded a contract led by AFWERX, the innovation arm of the U.S. Air Force (USAF), through the Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) program. 

CesiumAstro will build, integrate, and demonstrate its satellite communications (SATCOM) terminal aboard an MQ-9A Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). The $3.6M award directly supports the Department of Defense’s need for enhanced, higher throughput connectivity aboard airborne vehicles.

The news comes shortly after the company unveiled its industry-first multi-beam active electronically steered array (AESA) for both commercial and defense in-flight connectivity applications supporting multiple orbits. CesiumAstro’s low-profile SATCOM antenna provides make-before-break handover with no moving parts, enabling ultra-reliable communications.

“AESA technology offers advantages for both commercial and military applications,” said Shey Sabripour, founder and CEO of CesiumAstro. “We are honored to support the U.S. Air Force in realizing the tactical advantages of AESAs on the MQ-9A Reaper platform.”

Under this contract, CesiumAstro will scale its SATCOM terminal to fit the size, weight, and power requirements of a Group 5 unmanned aerial system (UAS). The terminal will be integrated into a General Atomics MQ-9A capital asset to demonstrate connectivity benefits with a commercial satellite network.

“Satellite communications are essential to ensure the warfighter remains connected in future operating environments,” said Wayne Phelps, retired Marine Corps UAS pilot and Director of Business Development at CesiumAstro. “We’re thrilled to continue working with our U.S. Air Force partners to demonstrate this critical communications solution.”

CesiumAstro’s AESA is offered in multiple form factors, supporting commercial aircraft to small drones. The thin, tile-based approach allows the rapid scaling of the array to meet the needs of unique mission sets.

“We are excited to demonstrate the advantages that active phased array satellite communications systems will bring to our family of UAS. This technology is imperative for maintaining a tactical advantage,” said Douglas Hardison, Sector Vice President for Navy and Marine Corps Strategic Development at General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems, Inc.  

In March 2023, CesiumAstro announced plans to fly its in-flight connectivity SATCOM terminal on an Airbus commercial aircraft later this year. This contract with the USAF will demonstrate complementary capabilities, showcasing both the scalability and dual-use nature of CesiumAstro’s AESA SATCOM terminal.

Click here to learn more about Ka-Band SATCOM Terminal.

Publisher: SatNow

GNSS Constellations - A list of all GNSS satellites by constellations


Satellite NameOrbit Date
BeiDou-3 G4Geostationary Orbit (GEO)17 May, 2023
BeiDou-3 G2Geostationary Orbit (GEO)09 Mar, 2020
Compass-IGSO7Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)09 Feb, 2020
BeiDou-3 M19Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M20Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M21Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M22Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 I3Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M23Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019
BeiDou-3 M24Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019


Satellite NameOrbit Date
GSAT0223MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0224MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0219MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0220MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0221MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0222MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0215MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0216MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0217MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0218MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Kosmos 2569--07 Aug, 2023
Kosmos 2564--28 Nov, 2022
Kosmos 2559--10 Oct, 2022
Kosmos 2557--07 Jul, 2022
Kosmos 2547--25 Oct, 2020
Kosmos 2545--16 Mar, 2020
Kosmos 2544--11 Dec, 2019
Kosmos 2534--27 May, 2019
Kosmos 2529--03 Nov, 2018
Kosmos 2527--16 Jun, 2018


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Navstar 82Medium Earth Orbit19 Jan, 2023
Navstar 81Medium Earth Orbit17 Jun, 2021
Navstar 78Medium Earth Orbit22 Aug, 2019
Navstar 77Medium Earth Orbit23 Dec, 2018
Navstar 76Medium Earth Orbit05 Feb, 2016
Navstar 75Medium Earth Orbit31 Oct, 2015
Navstar 74Medium Earth Orbit15 Jul, 2015
Navstar 73Medium Earth Orbit25 Mar, 2015
Navstar 72Medium Earth Orbit29 Oct, 2014
Navstar 71Medium Earth Orbit02 Aug, 2014


Satellite NameOrbit Date
NVS-01Geostationary Orbit (GEO)29 May, 2023
IRNSS-1IInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)12 Apr, 2018
IRNSS-1HSub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO)31 Aug, 2017
IRNSS-1GGeostationary Orbit (GEO)28 Apr, 2016
IRNSS-1FGeostationary Orbit (GEO)10 Mar, 2016
IRNSS-1EGeosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)20 Jan, 2016
IRNSS-1DInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)28 Mar, 2015
IRNSS-1CGeostationary Orbit (GEO)16 Oct, 2014
IRNSS-1BInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Apr, 2014
IRNSS-1AInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)01 Jul, 2013