3619. Inflatable Antenna For CubeSat: Design, Fabrication, Deployment And Tests


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A. Babuscia: 3619. Inflatable Antenna For CubeSat: Design, Fabrication, Deployment And Tests. 2014.



CubeSats and small satellites have potential to provide means to explore space and to perform science in a more affordable way. As the goals for these spacecraft become more ambitious in space exploration, moving from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) or further, the communication systems currently implemented will not be able to support those missions. One of the bottlenecks is the antennas’ size, due to the close relation between antenna gain and dimensions. Current antennas for CubeSats are mostly dipole or patch antennas with limited gain. Deployable (not inflatable) antennas for CubeSats are currently being investigated, but these solutions are affected by the challenge of packaging the whole deployable structure in a small spacecraft.
The work that we propose represents the first attempt to develop an inflatable antenna for CubeSats. Inflatable structures and antennas can be packaged efficiently, occupying a small amount of space, and they can provide, once deployed, large dish dimension and correspondent gain. Inflatable antennas have been previously tested in space (Inflatable Antenna Experiment, STS-77). However they have never been developed for small spacecraft such as CubeSats, where the packaging efficiency, the deployment, and the inflation represent a challenge.
The article covers the design and radiation model for the antenna. Details of the antenna’s fabrication and related issues are illustrated as well as the mechanism to fold and deploy the antenna in space. The results of the experimental tests are described. The extension of simulation to cover the X-Band is also discussed. Future work in the development of the antenna will include the improvement of the fabrication process and the design of a 3U CubeSat mission to be proposed as a technical demonstration.


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