Using Inflatable Antennas for Portable Satellite-Based Personal Communications Systems
Satellite-based personal communications systems (SPCS) use the satellite network to connect mobile personnel on the ground via a central support network in both military and disaster management situations. To maintain portability these systems require lightweight equipment that is quickly and easily deployed and operated in a variety of environments. Parabolic dish antennas provide the high gain required for direct satellite communication but their size and weight severely limit portability. The parabolic reflector contributes the greatest percentage of the weight and size of high gain antennas and as such the aim is to replace the reflector dish and feed system with a lightweight, stowable alternative without sacrificing performance.
The use of inflatable structures in the space environment has been successful in reducing weight by at least 50% and stowed volume by up to 75%. For inflatable structures to be applied to portable land-based communication it must be demonstrated that the required shape and surface accuracy can be maintained whilst under terrestrial conditions. This is achieved through material selection, structural design and internal pressure. The end objective is an antenna suitable for portable, re-usable, low-cost, land-based direct satellite communication. The inflatable antenna proposed can be manufactured in various sizes to operate at a range of frequencies making it suitable for multiple applications such as mobile military communication, emergency response communication, tele-education, telemedicine, and media broadcasting in remote areas. The possibility of transferring this technology to the lunar surface will also be discussed.
KeywordsAntenna Inflatable Gossamer Portable
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