2014.B.1.4 Ultra-Compact Ka-Band Parabolic Deployable Antenna for CubeSats


Jonathan Sauder (1)
Nacer Chahat (1)
Mark Thomson (1)
Richard Hodges (2)
Yahya Rahmat-Samii (3)

  2. University of California Los Angles




Deployable, Parabolic Antenna, Data Rate


Over the past several years, technology and launch opportunities for Cubesats have exploded, enabling a wide variety of missions. However, as instruments become more complex and Cubesats travel deeper into space, data communication rates become an issue. A Ka-band high gain antenna would provide a 100x increase of data communications rates over the state-of the-art.

Unfortunately such technology does not yet exist. While a handful of parabolic deployable antennas (PDA) concepts for CubeSats have been developed, they all operate at a lower S-band data rate. JPL has initiated a research and technology development effort to design a 0.5 meter Ka-band parabolic deployable antenna (KaPDA) which would stow in 1.5U (10 x 10 x 15 cm3) and provide 42dB of gain (50% efficiency).

To design KaPDA, JPL first collaborated with USC/ISI to understand the ANEAS antenna as it is the only Cubesat PDA to have flown. For the KaPDA design, it was decided to use the similar folding rib architecture, but otherwise the antenna was entirely redesigned. A dual reflector Cassegrainian design was selected as it best balances RF gain and stowed size. To hold the surface accuracy required by Ka-band, the antenna was designed with deep ribs and precision hinges. The ribs would be deployed by cables actuated by a slowly inflating bladder, and would then be latched into place. Using a bladder would reduce the whiplash which occurs in many other antenna designs where strain energy or springs are used for deployment. The sub reflector would be supported by a composite structure which telescopes along the horn during a spring powered deployment. The basic structural and RF geometry have been developed. RF simulations show that after losses, the antenna would have about 42 dB gain, at 50% efficiency. Further detailed mechanism design, FEA analysis of the structure and mesh, and spacecraft interfaces are underway.

KaPDA would create opportunities for a host of new Cubesat missions by allowing high data rate communication which would enable using high fidelity instruments or venturing further into deep space, including potential interplanetary missions. Additionally KaPDA would provide a solution for other small antenna needs and the opportunity to obtain Earth science data. This presentation and paper discusses the design challenges encountered, the architecture of the solution, and the antennas expected performance capabilities. 


  • Download slides in PDF format here (2MB)


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