Northrop Grumman was able to demonstrate a high-functioning satellite communications normally used in space onboard a manned aircraft during a test flight, the aerospace and defense manufacturer said Thursday, Dec. 12.
Northrop Grumman's Firebird demonstrator aircraft. Photo, courtesy of Northrop Grumman.
The demonstration was completed using the company's optionally manned demonstrator aircraft designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, the Firebird, during a test flight out of a Mojave, Calif.-based airport. Northrop was not able to comment on the specifics or their goal in performing the test flight, but the demonstration proves that a small communications system can be used onboard aircraft to send sensor data to a satellite and back to a ground station at a high rate of transfer.
Brett Amidon, director of technology development for Northrop Grumman's aerospace systems unit, said the system provided full-motion video surveillance to the ground station. The system uses Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology to allow for high communications output using the least amount of physical space possible.
"It's a game changer for those that need high-quality, real-time data, but don't want to — or can't — have a large, heavy communications system onboard," said Amidon.