Reconfigurable reflector antennas
The never-ending desire to make the satellite payload more flexible.
In the 1990’ies, demand grows for new type of services requiring flexible communications satellite payloads. Ideally, the satellite service provides want antennas that can change their antenna beams in orbit. Several antenna concepts are investigated world-wide and TICRA is engaged in numerous studies on reconfigurable shaped reflector throughout the decade.
A particular reconfigurable reflector antenna gets the highest attention in TICRA. The reflector surface consists of an RF net made by thin interwoven piano wires. This net provides the necessary reflectivity at Ku-band frequencies. The RF net is very soft, and it is therefore supported by a thicker net of the same construction. The reflector is shaped by means of a number of actuators across the surface.
Such a surface remains smooth everywhere, also at the control points, and it does not generate singularities and wrinkles. In other word, when the actuator push or pull the net to change the shape of the reflecting surface, there is no pillowing effect, i.e. no unwanted effect of the actuators.
Several scaled models of the reconfigurable surface were built in-house to demonstrate the concept. But in the end other technologies were pursued for reconfigurable payload antennas.