Reflectarray antennas: Great ideas and powerful software
Patterning and tailoring the details of the antenna surface alter the antenna performance and doing this in a controlled manner gives the antenna designer the flexibility to propose better designs and new applications within telecommunications, science missions, Earth observation, among many others. Quasi-periodic surfaces, such as reflectarray and frequency selective surface (FSS) antennas, is a family of antennas that TICRA has worked on and contributed substantially to since 2009.
Designing reflectarray and FSS antennas is both about having good ideas based on a fundamental understanding and about having the right simulation tools for scaling the ideas from toy examples to industrially relevant applications. As an example, the potential performance of both reflectarray and FSS antennas relies on the right choice of the unit cell element constituting the tailored surface, but clever choice of the unit cell it not sufficient; a powerful optimisation software is also needed.
In TICRA, with decades of experience from analysis and design of antennas and the powerful QUPES software, both are available.
In 2009, TICRA initiated two projects: An industrial PhD project with DTU Elektro as well as an R&D project with the European Space Agency – ESA, both on the topic of design, analysis, and optimisation of reflectarray antennas. Key outputs from these activities were an accurate and efficient analysis method based on the Periodic Method of Moments and a fast direct optimisation approach for the design of reflectarrays. Today, these methods are a cornerstone of TICRA’s QUPES software and one of the reasons that QUPES remains the only efficient tool on the market for design of quasi-periodic surfaces.
Later followed from 2013 to 2017 several projects on both reflectarray and FSS antenna designs and on further development of the prototype software. In addition to ESA, Thales Alenia Space, MDA, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory were among the project partners that TICRA collaborated with, both on innovative antenna designs and further development of the software.
In 2017, TICRA was, on the back of almost a decade of previous R&D and software development projects, contacted by ESA about the design of a deployable reflectarray antenna for a CubeSat mission. This reflectarray will be part of ESA’s Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer (M-ARGO) mission.
More on smart design of flat reflectarray satellite antennas: https://www.esa.int/Enabling_Support/Space_Engineering_Technology/Smart_design_of_flat_reflectarray_satellite_antennas