ASTRIUM (DE) has had a notable success with its Ku-band Tx/Rx High Power Feed Chain, which was co-funded under ESA's ARTES Programme. We asked Christian Hartwanger, ASTRIUM's Head of Antenna Proposals & Projects Germany, to tell us about its trajectory from the research lab into space.
Why did ASTRIUM decide to develop its own Ku-band feed chain rather than simply purchase the unit from another supplier?
We developed our own Ku-band feed chain for two reasons. As analogue communications began to be replaced by digital communications in the early 2000s, we anticipated that the number of channels and hence the RF Tx power for the important Ku-band telecom market would grow considerably. A Ku-band high-power feed chain was considered to be a core element for the corresponding antennas.
Also, at the time, there were no combined Tx/Rx feed chains with power-handling capabilities of the expected order (specifically with regard to multipaction threshold and PIM) on the market. The number of antennas being installed on satellites was steadily increasing and the wide-band combined FSS/BSS feed chain was critical to accommodating FSS and BSS services in a single antenna.
As such, we determined that ASTRIUM being dependent on an external supplier for the strategically important Ku-band antennas was not desirable.
Flight units sold during the last decade
What did your business case look like?
The return on investment (internal plus ESA support) was achieved with the sales of fifteen feed chains. We anticipated selling some thirty. However, that number will eventually pass sixty, considerably exceeding our original expectations.
How crucial was ARTES funding and ESA technical support?
The ARTES funding considerable reduced the risk for ASTRIUM. The growth of the market for telecom satellites was not at all certain following the crisis in this market segment in the early 2000s.
With the additional support of ARTES, we recently started working on the next-generation high-power feed chain.