ESA Tests 3D-Printed Antenna for Satellites

antennaThe European Space Agency (ESA) recently tested a 3D-printed dual-reflector antenna that could be used in satellites. The engineer who designed the antenna explained, “Incorporating a corrugated feedhorn and two reflectors, it has been printed all-in-one in a polymer, then plated with copper to meet its radio-frequency performance requirements.”

Swiss company SWISSto12 built the antenna using a special copper-plating technique to coat its complex shapes. Then it was at an anechoic chamber located withing a testing center in the Netherlands. Test engineer Luis Rolos said that antenna performed even better than expected. “By using this same model to 3D print it in a single piece, any source of assembly misalignments and errors are removed, enabling such excellent results,” he said. The antenna was designed to be used in large satellite constellations, but further development will be required before it is ready for space. Still, engineers are pleased with the RF performance, especially considering the low cost of 3D printing.

As a next step, we aim at more complex geometries and target higher frequencies. And eventually we want to build space-qualified RF components for Earth observation and science instruments.

Maarten van der Vorst, ESA’s Electromagnetics & Space Environment Division.

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