European Space Agency

RF Product Family for Telecommunications Phase 3

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Objectives

The products developed under this contract are designated for the market of VSAT applications such as communication networks, internet services at remote locations, backbones for rural telephony etc.

A series of booster amplifiers in C- and Ku band and a 10W C band block upconverter are to be developed. 

Based on the expertise gained from earlier ESA programs, a modular design approach was followed in order to enable reuse of certain key functions and components.

By reducing recurring costs and enlarging the production volume of common modules, AAS-A should be able to rival with the major competitors on the market. A rigorous follow up of the costs involved was made during the design phase and when necessary other solutions or components were selected to maintain this objective.

Under ESTEC contract 18778/04/NL/US a BUC and booster product family has been developed which presently includes the following products:


  • A 40W and 60W C-band booster,

  • An 8W and 12W Ku-band booster,

  • A 10W C-band block upconverter.






10 WC Band Block Upconverter



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40 WC Band Booster

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Challenges

The key issues which are addressed in this project are:


  • Cost reduction via increased modularity and component selection,

  • The technical challenge to offer high performance equipment without increasing the hardware,

  • To offer products with a high reliability and MTBF figures following the install-and-forget principle,

  • A product design approach towards niche market positioning and RF station upgradeability.

Benefits

The market for C band products is becoming more and more saturated as there is a tendency to shift to L-band input frequencies and higher power. In this case C-band block upconverters are becoming a mass market product where large players like NJRC and KoSpace are dominating the market with low-price and low-end products.

Positioning of AAS-A's (now TAS-Belgium) C-band Block upconverter will be in the niche market where customers are willing to pay more for reliability under harsh conditions and superior RF performance. These customers are mostly Telecom operators which are using the RF satellite uplink as backbone or Private network operators (accounting, banks, etc.) where availability and link quality dominate set-up costs.

Combined with the 40W or 60W C band booster, the C-band BUC product is even more price-competitive and can challenge offers from major players. The ability of the booster family to act as a stand-alone unit is a major benefit over the competition as it allows the customer to upgrade its existing RF station to a higher power without replacing the RF chain.

The market for Ku band products was located for years around Europe and the North American region as there were no satellites powerful enough to cover other regions. Evolutions in the satellite industry however ensured a shift to more high power transponders which are covering now the Middle-East, Asia and parts of Mid- and South-America in Ku band frequencies.

In order to establish relatively secure two-way communication, and due to the fact that a demand for higher throughput also exists, the power of the VSAT terminal has to be increased above 2W. This opens a market for high power Ku band BUC and booster products.

AAS-A's (TAS-Belgium) product line of Ku band boosters is in-line with this view and benefits from the same advantage as the C band booster family whereby it can be easily integrated in an existing system.

Features

From the on-set of the project, Alcatel Alenia Space Antwerp (now Thales Alenia Space Belgium) wanted to differentiate its products from those commercially available on the market by offering a standard of higher performance and integrating a series of enhanced features at no extra cost for the user.

The main objectives for the 10W C-band block upconverter were:


  • A compact, lightweight design which could be mounted directly at the feed of an antenna,

  • Using a passive cooling principle so that no external fan is required and hence increasing equipments MTBF,

  • Low power consumption so it could be easily powered by solar panels,

  • Offering an extended bandwidth to allow global use,

  • A series of enhanced Monitoring and control functions like:

    • Frequency Settings,

    • Gain / Attenuation settings,

    • Lock Conditions,

    • SSPA ON/OFF Status + Control,

    • Temperature Monitoring,

    • Output Level Detect,

    • Power threshold setting.
For the booster family a different market approach was foreseen whereby the equipment is offered as a stand-alone add-on device for existing stations.

This approach allows a user which already has an existing C- or Ku band station to upgrade to a higher output and hence higher data throughput.

In combination with AAS-A's (TAS-Belgium) C band block upconverters it acts as an intelligent RF chain ready for future VSAT systems.

Main features for the C band boosters (40W and 60W) are:


  • The 40W booster will operate with 10W RF input power, the 60W starts from 5W RF input,

  • Compatibility with products from different manufacturers,

  • Low power consumption,

  • Lightweight and compact design,

  • Cooling is foreseen via an easily accessible external fan,

  • Enhanced M&C in combination with AASA C-BUC?s.
Main features for the Ku band boosters (8W and

Plan






















Milestone NameDate
Kick OffDecember 2004
Design Review 1December 2004
Design Review 2November 2005
Design Review 3April 2006
Design Review 4November 2006
Final Review (FAR)April 2007

Current status

Definition phase of the project was concluded successfully. All planned Design reviews are successfully completed. The final acceptance review was held in April 2007.

Industrialisation of the 10W C-band block upconverters is finalised and an additional order for a batch of 30 pieces was launched to a local subcontractor. Industrialisation and ordering of pre-series of the C- and Ku-band booster family is foreseen after the internal approval cycles.

Status date

Sunday, February 3, 2008 - 17:35