In an effort to make military equipment more durable, the Pentagon sees the future of communications in giant inflatable balls. A five-year, $440 million contract has been granted to the Army and Marine Corps, among others, in order to use an inflatable satellite antenna (ISA), which resembles a large balloon.
Don’t let the appearance of the satellite fool you, though. The ISA is only currently available to Special Ops.
Alabama company GATR designed the inflatable sphere, which has a parabolic dish mounted inside of it and successfully cut 80% of the weight and packaging volume of rigid antennas.
GATR’s ball-like satellite is available in three diameters, 2.4, 1.8 and 1.2 meters, all designed for use in remote areas where communication can be sustained through the ISA maneuvering all over the ground.
The larger the satellite, the bigger the dish can be installed inside of the satellite, enabling higher bandwidth for communication. The smaller, lightweight rig from GATR is the easiest for members of the military to transport because it costs less to transport, can fit inside of a backpack and only weighs 70 pounds, whereas the largest antenna itself weighs upwards of 100 pounds.