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Space Technology Research Grants

Development of Reconfigurable Ka-Band Antenna Array

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

NASA requires small and lightweight communication and remote sensing systems to accomplish its missions. Often performance drives engineering designs, but for NASA, there is an inherent tradeoff between performance and weight. As would be expected, weight and size limitations impact system functionality and performance. Also, in many recent NASA missions, there is a need for communication system reconfiguration after launch. These limitations have prompted a desire for multibeam and wideband antennas that can realize reconfigurable functionality. Reflector and lens antennas are typically used for satellites. However, phased arrays offer many advantages over reflectors and lenses. They provide higher aperture efficiency and power amplification at the element level. Also, they have no spillover loss, no aperture blockage, and better reliability. However, they have not been adapted as much due to their limited bandwidth and technology costs for reconfiguration. Recent developments in wave slow down techniques using metamaterials have now allowed for very thin conformal antenna apertures that are concurrently broadband (as much as 10:1). This overcomes the ensuing conundrum of narrowband printed antenna technologies. Also, low cost multibeam approaches and software reconfigurable feeds are now possible to enable low cost conformal Ka band arrays. Here, I am proposing a novel wideband metamaterial technology that relies on our group's experience and recent developments on wideband small arrays and multibeam technologies. The proposed metamaterial array technology is based on the novel concept of emulating in-plane anisotropy to introduce many more design degrees of freedom to achieve significant wave slow down and wide bandwidth. As part of this fellowship, I will adapt these new metamaterial concepts to develop wideband (>4:1 bandwidth) Ka-band arrays. The array will also include low cost software-defined RF electronics for beam synthesis and reconfiguration. More »

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