What benefits do the Antenna Test Facilities deliver?
The Antenna Test Facilities provide support to both ESA and external projects, assessing new antenna designs and techniques and qualifying designs for flight.
Projects that received recent support include vegetation monitoring mission Proba-V - checking the performance of the communication antenna and GPS sensor on vegetation-monitoring mission - initial tests on the Snowscat scatterometer – an instrument in early development to measure snow thickness from orbit – and Galileo test satellite GIOVE-A.
The Facilities also serve to investigate novel methods of antenna testing. For example, work there helped develop novel measuring techniques used to verify the Planck telescope/antenna alignment by prime contractor Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France. Planck's telescope/antenna was hugely complex to design and test, being required to collect the radiation of the Cosmic Microwave Background left over from the Big Bang while avoiding any EM spillover from our Sun, Earth or the Moon.
The Facilities research new measurement techniques in anticipation of future needs. Current telecommunication satellite antennas produce a dozen or so separate beams, but next-generation satellites could have as many as a hundred. Work is ongoing to develop faster, cost-effective techniques of verifying such complex antennas.
The Facilities are also performing materials testing to identify for example lightweight alternatives to metal to build reflectors of., with further materials reflectivity testing carried out in support of projects.
Last update: 10 September 2009