Satellites Leap toward Reconfigurability
2021-07-31 | 5 min read
From famous people taking space rides through launchings of thousands of small satellites, the space and satellite industry is overflowing with new activity. Enabling this expansion are technologies ranging from software and antenna developments through three-dimensional (3D) printing/additive manufacturing. These advances are combining to enable satellites to provide new services and capabilities – even a path toward reconfigurability. At the same time, development timelines and launch schedules continue to shrink. A new surge of cutting-edge developments are needed to allow satellites to be produced more quickly, efficiently, and precisely.
The just-launched EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite provides an inspired example of many of these innovations. According to an article from 3D Printing Media Network, “The EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite is a revolutionary step forward for commercial satellites, offering very high customization and flexibility. It will supply services with unprecedented in-orbit reconfigurability in coverage, frequency and power, allowing complete mission rehaul, at any orbital position.” The key is the satellite’s software-based design, enabling it to be reprogrammed to continuously adapt to demands and requirements.
The satellite boasts an electronically steerable antenna. Airbus states that its ELSA+ (ELectronically Steerable Antenna+) works in the Ku-band with eight independent reconfigurable beams. According to the company, “This inherent flexibility enables the operator to reconfigure the radio frequency beams over the coverage zone. In addition, these capabilities can be implemented on each beam either independently or simultaneously including hop up to several tens of predefined different configurations per beam (beam hopping). Another new feature is the capability of the antenna to mitigate possible interference, intended or not, thanks to its ability to GEO locate any interference and null them. This new antenna technology complements new generation fully digital payloads where the operator can thus change the orbit position, frequencies, and the power of their spacecraft.”
This satellite also spotlights additive manufacturing advances. 3D Printing Media Network notes, “The EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite features titanium 64 solar panel supports, developed and fabricated by CATEC (Fundación Andaluza para el Desarrollo Aeroespacial (FADA-CATEC)) using additive manufacturing technology.” By 3D printing components, designers usually benefit in both cost and weight. They also gain advantages in automation because additive manufacturing relies on computer-aided-design (CAD) software.
These cutting-edge developments are just some examples of the innovations driving space and satellite technology forward. To help ensure mission success, it also is essential to prioritize reliability in your manufacturing processes. After satellite deployment, physically repairing aerospace and satellite devices in orbit is expensive and difficult. Therefore, it is critical to maintain the highest level of quality throughout the production process, especially as production volume scales. Keysight provides confidence in measurement results through dependable custom test solutions that offer exceptional test speed and data fidelity.
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