Satellite 2009

Satellite 2009 took place March 24-27 in Washington, DC and was dubbed Solutions Start Here. It lived up to its billing of offering a glimpse into the future of the satellite-enabled communications market and the solutions new technology will provide. The conference sessions covered enterprise, military, commercial, broadcast, government, and others. The panel sessions covered many topics like Satellite broadband, WiMAX, IP networking, SatCom, hybrid networks, financial impacts, military applications, HD, Mobile TV, backhaul, etc.

There were several interesting panel discussions and keynote session. One very applicable to RF/microwave was the “Capacity Crunch” which debated the different frequency bands as C-band seems to be slowing, Ku-band is growing and Ka-band is on the horizon. I was not able to make this one but made the one on the WiMAX and Satellite broadband debate - are they direct competition or complementary. The panel was moderated by Claude Rousseau (NSR) and made up of Drew Caplan (SkyTerra), Amiee Chan (Norsat), Gary Hale (Cisco Systems), Laurent Thomasson (EADS) and Greg Wyler (O3b).

They had done polling of the industry and 59% thought WiMAX was a long term solution with only 11% thinking WiMAX was a direct threat to Satellite Broadband (but 69% thought is was an opportunity and threat). WiMAX seems to be a good solution for places that have no infrastructure for wireless backhaul and may not necessarily be a good mobile solution at this point. It seems like WiMAX and Satellite broadband hybrid systems that utilize the best one for each situation might be the answer in the long term. One interesting comment was that if 2% of the US internet traffic went mobile today, we would immediately be out of capacity (think iPhone and other smart phone market penetration).

I was impressed with the new RF/microwave technologies on display at the exhibition. Many companies were offering very high power, light weight amplifier and upconverter solutions from TWTs to SSPA. The filtering technology was just as impressive as the airways are getting more and more crowded with signals that need to be blocked out. And we cannot forget the antennas, feeds and motion controls at the end of the communication link that are also critical for optimal performance.

Most exhibitors I talked with agreed that the military business was still steady but the commercial side was way down. The exhibition was fairly well attended and we visited most of the RF/microwave companies at the show. Below is a summary of the products each company we saw was displaying or featuring in their booth.

Actox Corporation was showing off their 8 and 25 W Ku-band block up converters and 40 W C-band block up converter. The Ku-band units are amongst the lightest and smallest units available and designed to be mounted on the feed horn. They are ideal for portable and mobile applications.

Aeroflex introduced its new 5200 Satellite Payload Test Environment that is a complete synthetic test environment including hardware, software, processes and support. The SMART^E 5200 is a member of the SMART^E 5000 Series that are successfully deployed in a variety of high performance test applications including Satellite Payload test, Advanced Satellite Payload test, high speed T/R Module testing and military ATE.

A.R.A. had its integrated antenna systems in the booth designed for autonomous acquisition of SatCom Ku-band signals. These GPS based systems can be used to acquire signals at any location on any flat or moderately inclined surface. It has a 3-axis positioner and provision for a 4th polarization axis.

Bliley Technologies introduced a customizable line of satellite and space qualified crystal oscillators spanning its OCXOs, TCXOs, VCXOs, XOs with its Z-swept technology. With frequency ranges from 10 to 130 MHz and based on proven designs supplied to military and space customers, Bliley is now manufacturing these devices for multiple customer programs.

Cobham had one of the main booths in the front with many of their Atlantic Microwave antenna systems including the SAT Series Ka/Ku-band transportable SatCom Antenna system that uses a 1 meter multi-piece lightweight dual reflector. It can acquire and track a Ka or Ku-band satellite and pass the data signal from the satellite to an external data receiver.

Desarrollos Tecnologicos Argentina had some impressive technology from their Aerospace IPCore Division. They tailor design IP Cores to improve performance with less power and weight with optimum ratio cost/performance. They have done custom work for Aeroflex, Actel, Xilinx, and Altera FPGAs.

dBm had their satellite link emulator on display that provides a cost effective, time saving and repeatable total solution for satellite to ground station RF link testing. It features precision test models, multiple orbit models and two operation modes (static and dynamic). Also in the booth was their UDC RF converter series that perform broadband frequency translation with low distortion, high dynamic range and low phase noise.

Diamond Antenna and Microwave Corporation had a wide variety of rotary joints on display including an ATC Radar rotary joint for airport surveillance radar with an additional channel for Kazakhstan. It features 9 channels (S-band, L-band, 740 MHz), waveguide (WR-284), coaxial (2 S-band, 3 mode-S L-band, 3 740 MHz), 19 channel roll-ring and dual encoder provisions.

EMC and Florida RF Labs (Smiths companies) were there featuring a couple of EMC attenuators including a wide band temperature variable attenuator design kit (DC to 20 GHz) and new high frequency ultra broadband attenuator kit (K-band). The wide band temperature variable attenuators utilize EMC’s Thermopad technology offering a solution for challenging broadband and thermal requirements.

FilTel Microwave was featuring an S-band harmonic reject filter designed using a waffle-iron approach. It operates with less than .3 dB of insertion loss handling more than 3 KW of power over an operating temperature of -40 to +85 degrees Celsius. FilTel has many other designs at other frequency bands.

Greenray Industries was featuring a TCXO operating from 10 to 50 MHz with G-sensitivity of less than 5 x 10-11 /g (total gamma). Phase noise at 10 Hz offset is -95 dBc/Hz and -125 dBc/Hz at 100 Hz. Look for a good technical article written by Greenray on TCXO acceleration sensitivity in our April issue.

IF Engineering Corporation was showing off their new modular approach L-band up/down link with GPS reference oscillator. It consists of an up-link module, down-link module and splitter module that connects to the GPS with reference oscillator. The modules can be customized to meet different needs and provide very good isolation (greater than 70 dB for up-link in to down-link out as an example).

Locus Microwave was offering a broad range of amplifiers, LNBs and LNAs. They were showing off their 100 W Ku-band SSPA with a minimum of 57 dB gain and better than 1.5 dB gain flatness in a lightweight package of 7 lbs. Locus was also showing off their switch and combiner families.

Micronetics had their Ku-band high power transceivers on display which are available with transmit powers of 10, 16, 20 and 40 W. They are designed to be used in bi-directional broadband, worldwide communications links on commercial aircraft.

Miteq and MCL had a large presence as usual with Miteq featuring their SSPA systems including X-band configurations with P1dB ouput power up to 70 W for satellite uplink applications that come in outdoor antenna mount and rack mount systems. MCL was showing its antenna mount TWT low power amplifier with 175 or 200 W at X-band.

M2 global announced the release of their new high frequency coax isolator, for satellite uplinks operating from 27.5 to 31.0 GHz. This device maintains 18 dB isolation, less than 0.85 dB insertion loss, and better than 1.40 VSWR over the temperature range -40 to +65 deg C. The power ratings are 5 W forward and 0.5 W reverse.

NEC was showing off a 500 W Ka-band peak high power TWT featuring low power consumption, lightweight construction, low distortion, conduction cooled and highly reliable. They have a broad family of TWTs with various power levels for different frequency bands.

Noisecom was demonstrating its modem receiver test system that includes its precision SNR generator. They showed how to generate SNR versus BER curves with the system setup. We hope to work with them to create and noise application note or tutorial in the future.

Rogers Corporation introduced it new RT/duroid 5880LZ Laminate with a new filler system that results in a low density (1.37 gm/cm3), lightweight material for high performance, weight sensitive applications. The 1.96 dielectric constant of RT/duroid 5880LZ laminates is among the lowest available for any microwave PCB material. The dielectric constant is uniform from panel to panel and constant over a wide frequency range. Its low dissipation factor extends the usefulness of RT/duroid 5880LZ to Ku-band and above. Rogers had their first ever press conference to promote this new material system.

Thales had on display a new line of TWTs (Periodic Permanent Magnet focused) that provide 750 W for DBS applications and is widely used in ground uplink systems. They have already logged over 1 million hours of operation. They have families of TWTs covering C- through EHF bands.

TECOM (a Smiths Company) was showing off for the first time their “Ku Stream” broadband antenna system. The airborne broadband antenna system for in-flight connectivity is a 3 LRU solution that includes the Satellite Antenna Assembly, Antenna control unit and high power transceiver. The Satellite Antenna Assembly has a horn array aperture with integrated feeding network, 2 orthogonal linear polarizations (integrated diplexer architecture) and 2-axis pedestal.

Teledyne Microwave was featuring a Ka-band high performance LNB with a typical noise figure of 1.5 dB. The block converter has an input of 20.2 to 21.2 GHz and translates the signal to L-band in the 1 to 2 GHz range.