Development and flight qualification of a small satellite X-band spherical membrane antenna

Aman Chandra, Terrance Pat, Juan Carlos Lopez Tonazzi, Christopher K. Walker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


This paper describes the design, development and flight testing of a half-meter spherical membrane reflector antenna built out of reflective and clear Mylar segments. A custom-built line feed optimized for operation at 10.5 GHz is used for spherical correction. The antenna system has been jointly developed by the University of Arizona and FreeFall Aerospace, Inc as primary payload to be demonstrated on-orbit on the University of Arizona's 6U LEO mission CATSAT, nominally scheduled to launch in December 2021. The launch is a part of NASA's CSLI program. The mission has been designed for a low earth sun-synchronous orbit. With the primary objective being the demonstration of high data rate transmission from the inflatable antenna system. A multi-disciplinary design approach towards the development of the system which includes thermo-structural design, RF design and operational testing of the membrane antenna and feed system. Structural design of the spherical membrane and antenna system have been optimized to restrict dynamic modes of the deployed system to within the operational envelope of the on-board 3-axis attitude control system in the expected thermal environment. RF design has been focused on compensating for the expected cyclic variation of inflated shape. A shape photogrammetric shape measurement system has been developed for real-time inflated surface verification. Our design activities lead to a parameterized model of the antenna system to facilitate redesign for varying frequencies and orbits. The model has been used to construct scaling laws to understand performance variation with increasingly large spheres identify sensitive design parameters for more complex feed geometries optimized for higher frequencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2021 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2021
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
ISBN (Electronic)9781728174365
StatePublished - Mar 6 2021
Event2021 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2021 - Big Sky, United States
Duration: Mar 6 2021Mar 13 2021

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Conference2021 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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