A multidisciplinary workforce developed a small, light-weight and cheap deployable antenna for nano and microsatellite communication – ScienceDaily

Modern telecommunication systems rely on satellites to forward signals quickly and reliably worldwide. This allows users to instantly send messages around the world, watch live television, or, more recently, hold conference calls with global partners right from the kitchen table!

Communication satellites use high frequency radio waves to transmit data, with antennas acting as a bi-directional interface, converting the electrical current provided by the transmitter into radio waves and vice versa when coupled to a receiver. Antennas are therefore important pieces of equipment without which satellites and ground receivers would be practically useless. Despite advances in modern satellite design and performance, antenna technology remains a limiting factor in next-generation telecommunications like 6G. Engineers struggle to miniaturize antennas for nanosatellites without compromising on cost or performance. For example, nanosatellites like CubeSats can be as small as a 10cc cube, but making a communications antenna small enough to be stored in it during take-off and flight is expensive and technologically challenging. “Many of the high-performance antennas reported for CubeSat systems are deployable, foldable or inflatable.” explains Dr. Sangkil Kim from Pusan ​​National University in South Korea.

Recently, Dr. Kim and his colleagues at Pusan ​​National University and the University of Alabama, USA, developed a new deployable antenna for CubeSats that is used in near-earth orbit (LEO). Interestingly, their design was inspired by the mathematics of “origamis,” the Japanese art of paper folding – specifically a field called spatial mapping – which enabled them to determine the best geometry for a foldable, deployable antenna. With the design on paper, they set out to manufacture and test the antenna.

With remarkable dimensions of 32.5 mm3 when folded and a weight of only 5 grams, the prototype antenna fits exactly into a CubeSat. Using an inexpensive material to make the majority of the antenna, the researchers folded the square boards into a cube using special joints that can be easily stored during takeoff and flight. In orbit, the antenna can be used outside the CubeSat to receive and send data.

Prof. Kim and his team went one step further and set up different operational modes, depending on whether satellites had to communicate with each other or with the earth. “The volume, the radiation pattern and the polarizations of the antenna can be reconfigured according to the required operating mode,” explains Dr. Kim. This configuration allowed researchers to optimize the antenna’s performance for any type of communication.

With such promising results, the scientists hope that their design will inspire usable designs for nanosatellite antenna technology in the future and pave the way for next-generation communications systems like 6G. Their prototype will not only lower the cost of future nanosatellites and improve their overall performance, but it can also be scaled to larger satellites in geostationary orbit and other communication platforms on Earth.

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Materials provided by Pusan ​​National University. Note: the content can be edited by style and length.

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