Tubular antenna system for satellite applications
ESA Contract No. 4000109505/13/NL/CBi

The main technical objective of the project is to develop an original type of tubular boom deployment mechanism that can be widely used as a basic solution for compact electrical antennas, booms transporting small sensors, ultra-light planetary manipulators and wherever there is a need to mitigate the spring drive’s dynamic nature, which introduces dangerous vibrations and induces severe local stress of the structure (i.e. in hinges with a latching system, in solar panel systems, etc.). The project consists of two parallel developments:

  • Fully functional miniature antenna with associated electronics, employing innovative escapement-based mechanism,
  • Technology development and production of appropriate tubular booms, unavailable in Europe (pending development by GUTRONIC - ASTRONIKA’s Polish subcontractor).

The idea originates from the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences (CBK PAN) which as part of the BRITE mission developed the prototype of a tubular boom antenna called MAB, as shown in photos. While not a functional antenna, MAB is a technology demonstrator aimed at showing correctness of the deployment mechanism idea. It uses a miniature Ø6mm tubular boom that does not cover applications on small and medium satellites, representing a large number of present-day projects. The paid licence authorises ASTRONIKA to further develop the idea and create a new generation of electrical antennas. The device ASTRONIKA is developing is significantly improved in comparison to MAB – it will be a fully functional 2,5 m long antenna designed on the basis of the new type of Ø10 mm tubular booms available for broad use on space missions.

The main distinguishing features of the new antenna type:

  • Miniature size and low weight: 150 x 80 x 50 mm, 250 g in total,
  • Antenna length: 2,500 mm (boom mass: 50 g),
  • Escapement-based development mechanism providing dual complementary action (damper & motion generator),
  • Electromagnetic drive individually optimized to requirements (without electric motors),
  • Smooth and regular deployment at max. speed of ~10 cm/s (without rapid and dynamic action there is no risk of satellite stability loss),
  • Relatively low power consumption: 4 W for 10 s (for lock & release mechanism based on Dyneema string melting), 1,25 W for 30 s (for electromagnet, when needed),
  • Once deployed, the antenna cannot be retracted.

Project is carried out under ESA Contract No. 4000109505/13/NL/CBi. Completion date: February 2016.