Kent Technicians test antenna to be used on space satellite for IOT mission

Antenna measurements

Technicians at Kent’s School of Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA) have measured and tested a satellite antenna which will be launched by SpaceX and deployed into orbit by a Sherpa OTV later this month.

Our Technical Team was contacted by manufacturer Printech Circuit Laboratories Ltd. to test an antenna ordered by Loft Orbital Solutions. The company, which operates microsatellites and flies customer payloads, required the antenna for a Eutelsat test satellite for an IoT mission. The measuring and testing of the antenna by the Kent Technical Team was essential to guarantee a successful launch later this month.

The satellite, called YAM 3 (Yet Another Mission), was due to be launched at the end of 2020, but due to COVID-19 restrictions was postponed until June 2021. YAM 3 will be launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 and will be deployed in orbit from one of Spaceflight’s Sherpa Orbital Transfer Vehicles (OTV). Loft Orbital Solutions required an antenna operating between 865 and 925 MHz that had the ability to be switched from a wide beam operation to a narrow beam.

Printech Circuit Laboratories Ltd. employed an innovative design which uses a suspended parasitic patch to increase the gain and beam pattern of both the single wideband element and the 2 x 2 narrowband array, whilst maintaining the smallest footprint possible. The design also had to be able to withstand the rugged vibration and environmental testing required for exposure to the harsh conditions of space. The feed layer was designed with 2 SMA ports which can be switched in operation in the satellite to provide the best coverage and data rate depending upon elevation. The antenna is a passive design, able to send and receive signals from Earth during the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) mission.

The antenna was measured at the University of Kent in the anechoic chamber in the Jennison Building. The test involved testing both ports and analysing the beam patterns and antenna gain in both the wide and narrow beam operation. The tests undertaken by EDA technicians proved that the antenna performed well and as expected.

With the support and services from technicians at the University of Kent, Printech were able to provide a timely and smart delivery to Loft Orbital and their team.

Andy Brookman (Technical manager (Electronics)) said: ‘It has always been a pleasure working with Nick from Printech. We have had an excellent relationship of mutual benefit for many years now, Nick makes our 1st year student project Printed Circuit Boards (all 100 of them) and in return, we perform antenna characterizing tests for some of the antennas that travel into space!’

Antonio Mendoza Mendoza, our Antennas Technician said: ‘I love working on Nick’s projects, he always sends me something cutting edge to keep me on my toes, and it’s amazing to think that my fingerprints are now in space!’