SATELLITE 2012 proved it is the center of the satellite communications universe with a record 11,000 attendees from more than 70 countries. With about 350 exhibitors, this is a nice ratio of attendees to companies (compare this to IMS/MTT-S that only has about 9,000 attendees with over 550 companies exhibiting so there are far less customers at the show).  There were various sessions that cover topics of importance to the industry in addition to panels, roundtables and user discussions.  The application areas include military/government, commercial, broadcast, mobility, telecommunications and others.

SATELLITE 2012 kicked off with the opening of the Exhibit Hall and Pre-Conference program featuring 6 tracked forums last Monday. The Conference began the next day starting with The Big Four: At the Center of the Satellite Universe where chief executives from the world’s four largest satellite operators will discuss the future of the satellite marketplace.  Interference and capacity issues are always much talked about topics and discussed extensively.  Among the component manufacturers, there was much talk about GaN replacing GaAs for more efficient, lighter and smaller units.  While there will always be a battle between technologies, TWTs are still alive as I saw a couple of compact 700 W Ka-band amplifiers where GaN has not yet ventured much.

My first meeting was with Martin Coleman who leads the Satellite Interference Mitigation Group which addresses the problem of RF Interference that affects all satellite operators.  Technology such as auto deploy and the decreasing size of antennas are contributing to the problem along with streamlined operations, installation and the lack of training are just some of the areas where interference is caused. He said the about 96% of the problems are due to us interfering with each other and only about 4% is actually people purposely jamming signals.  So the problem needs to be owned by the industry which needs better training and quality equipment.  He is proposing that everyone adapt a carrier ID so that interfering signals can by quickly identified and the problems fixed to reduce the costs of problem investigation and down time.  We hope to get an article on the subject for our August Satellite and mmWave themed issue.

See our photo Gallery of Satellite 2012 here.

We visited the show floor and here are some highlights from the companies we visited:

The most interesting product I saw was the Harris Reconn system which combines a spectrum analyzer, power meter, multimeter, compass, inclinometer, GPS receiver, magnetic declination map and a laptop into a box that is about 12 X 7 X 5” in size (less than 8 lbs).  This small box is all that is needed to setup and maintain a satellite communications terminal.  It features an intuitive touch screen interface, integrated trouble shooting workflow, spectrum analyzer with DVR capability, remote monitor, power meter, multimeter, LNB tester and wireless operation.  Here is a video demonstration of the unit:

Spectrum AnalyzerAvcomwas displaying their compact spectrum analyzers which measure 5" x 7" so that it can easily be integrated into another piece of equipment, inside a small satellite terminal, or as an integral part of the satellite antenna itself. The single board design requires only external +15-24 VDC/9 W and a wideband input signal (950 to 2150 MHz) and is available with USB, Ethernet, and Serial communication ports (see photo).

Advance Microwave Components showed off their portfolio of waveguide products including double ridge waveguide components, rigid waveguide, custom waveguide assemblies, power samplers, W/G quick dis-connects, rotary joints, cross couplers, pressure windows, dummy loads, coax adapters and more.

Advantech was showing off pt to pt microwave radios, solid state PAs/transceivers/BUCs, GaN Ku- and X-band BUCs, frequency converters, antennas and controllers, DVB-RCS VSAT hubs and VSAT terminals.  They were making several presentations on their technologies so I attended their one on the next generation GaN power amplifiers.  For SATCOM, GaN offers twice the power per area of current GaAs technology and up to 70% less energy consumption.  They have up to 36” packages that have 1400-2400 W output power at C- and X-band with 600-1000 W at Ku-band.  They have not addressed Ka-band products yet but expect to rapidly replace their existing GaAs SSPAs with GaN to realize the benefits for their customers.

Anaren was at the show for the first time and featured many of their custom products for satellite applications.  Their advanced thick film process supports a complete range of passive integrated technologies.  It performs to 80 GHz with a wide range of material choices, design options, processes and manufacturing techniques.

Handheld Spectrum AnalyzerAnritsu was featuring their 43 GHz handheld spectrum analyzers with features such as frequency coverage from 9 kHz to 43 GHz, broadband preamplifiers over the whole frequency range for increased sensitivity around 20 dB, three sweep modes – with improved sweep speed, resolution bandwidths from 1 Hz to 10 MHz, triggering choices including hysteresis, hold-off, and delay and more zero-span capabilities including 10 MHz RBW & VBW (see photo - top unit).

AtlanTecRF says that it’s new ALR series of Satellite Loop Test Translators (LTT) introduces, for the first time, the concept of synthesized Local Oscillator (LO) frequency control to provide the user with a compact, versatile and comprehensive approach to satellite communications equipment alignment and quality monitoring in both the Ka-band and Ku-bands. The ability to select the LO frequency over a very wide range allows direct conversion from any spread of uplink frequencies to either any chosen downlink band or to L-Band, according to the model chosen.

Bliley Technologies was showing off their Zeus Series OCVCXO which offers customer specified output frequencies between 30 and 130 MHz with phase noise performance down to -178 dBc/Hz at 100 kHz offset.  The Zeus family of OCVCXOs is designed for phase-locked microwave signal sources such as DRO’s, low noise test equipment, synthesizers, microwave communication systems and radar applications. Hi-rel versions are available. This series offers optional frequency stability versus temperature from +/- 500 ppb down to +/- 50 ppb and long term aging is typically +/- 1.50 ppm after 20 years.

Cobham had one of the main front displays showing everything from components to systems.  They were showing off their wide variety of space qualified products which include isolators/circulators, waveguides, waveguide adapters/couplers/combiners/loads, passive devices, filters, modules and sub-systems.

Codan/Locus was featuring a Ku-band GaN 40 W mini BUC and 80 W RBUC.  By using GaN, the units have higher power, less volume and are more efficient that their GaAs alternatives.  The higher output units are 40 W from 320 W AC power and 80 W from 700 W AC power.  The 40 W unit is a 4 kg LAN mini BUC and the 80 W unit is a 6.5 kg compact RBUC.

CPI was featuring a 700 W Ka-band power amplifier for satellite communications.  Mounting the amplifier at the antenna improves performance through minimized cable losses and saves cost in system design with this unit.  It employs a coupled cavity TWT, efficiently providing 250 W of linear power at the flange.

Crane Aerospace & Electronics announced its Interpoint® MFPTMPoint of Load. They are the first point of loads to be certified on an SMD to an RHA of 100 kRads. They will also were featuring their 1 - 2 GHz Switch Matrix system is designed to be utilized in a satellite communications ground station application. This system sits between the up/down converters and the system modems in order to route the signals to their required paths. The system is designed to be expandable from a base configuration of 12 converters by 48 modems to a maximum configuration of 24 converters to 192 modems.  We plan on having a product feature on this in our August issue.

dBm was featuring their Satellite emulator.  The SLE900 replaces the SLE700 and provides wider bandwidth, improved noise floor, and also adds optional AWGN and multipath fading with up to 6 taps per channel. The instrument can be configured with 1 to 4 channels.  There are three RF bandwidths currently available: 20, 72, and 125 MHz. The standard center frequency is 140 MHz, and 70 MHz is also available.

Elcom Technologies was there showing off their microwave wideband DSP receivers which operate from .5 to 26.5 GHz.  Features include advanced graphical spectral display, high dynamic range (in-band IIP3 greater and 0 dBm, NF less than 15 dB), DSP based AM, FM video demodulation, fast switching synthesizer with 10 Hz tuning resolution, sweep and scan functions up to 512 channels per sec, excellent phase noise performance (less than .5 deg rms), 500 MHz BW and 70 MHz IF output with selectable BW from .5 to 80 MHz.

EM Research was featuring their broad line of miniature frequency synthesizers.  The ESP-11000 operates at 11 GHz with a 200 MHz external reference.  The output power is 3 dBm with harmonics less than -40 dBc and spurs less than -80 dBc.  The KB-39500 operates at 39.5 GHz with an external 10 MHz reference.  The output power is 18 dBm with harmonics less than -20 dBc and spurs less than -50 dBc.

Florida RF Labs ASR Series are high performance VNA test cables with stainless steel armor for long-lasting performance in the lab or production test environment.  They are available up to 50 GHz, phase stable over temperature, have high mating cycles and low loss.  They are available in matched sets also.

Isola was featuring 2 new materials for high speed applications.  The I-Terra material is the highest performance product supporting typical data rates of 20 Gb/sec and I-Speed is the next in line supporting typical data rates of 16 Gb/sec.  Look for more information to come on these new materials

Jersey Microwave was showing their Ka-band dual frequency block upconverters for military and commercial use.  Using high performance integrated phase locked oscillators and dual-band block converters, the unit can cover multiple Ka-bands and switch from military to commercial bands.  Standard units have phase noise 10-20 dB better than MIL-STD-188-164A and are phase locked to 10 MHz with 20 dB of gain and 15 dBm of output power (P1dB).

JFW Industries was offers a variety of switches, attenuators, testing systems and more.  They were showing off switches from 1P2T to 1P16T, variable attenuators, dividers and other communications testing accessories.

The Kratos booth was very busy with all the divisions having various displays.  RT Logic was demonstrating their Data Defender which shows the effect of the product’s ability to maintain a continuous, deterministic, low latency data stream across a network with sub-optimal performance characteristics.  The Data Defender performance is compared with the performance of standard TCP/IP and UDP/IP under identical operating conditions.

L-3 Telemetry-West announced that it has signed a contract with Iridium Communications Inc. to upgrade the Satellite Control Segment (SCS) for the Iridium NEXT program using its InControlsoftware suite. Iridium NEXT, a comprehensive commercial space program currently under way, is a next-generation satellite network scheduled to launch in 2015.  L-3 was also granted FCC license for vehicle-mounted Earth station equipment with includes a low profile Ku-band antenna and IP modem for VSAT.

Logus offers a variety of switch products and was showing off their WR75 Series waveguide switches.  They operate from 10-15 GHz with VSWR maximum of 1.1:1, insertion loss of .05 dB max, isolation of 75 dB min and power handling of 3.5 kW CW/100 kW peak.  Their WR137 operating from 5.85-8.2 GHz and WR229 operating from 3.3-4.9 GHz were also being shown along with others.

M2 Global had a nice handout on Guidelines for Choosing RF and Microwave Filter including lumped element, stripline & microstrip, ceramic, cavity, SAW, crystal and helical filters.  The piece gives a nice summary of each type and their features including a table of the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

MESL Microwave was showing off many products including their Ka-band SP2T latching junction switch formed with 3-port circulator junctions in a modular construction.  Power handling is 50 W average and 5 kW peak with insertion loss of .5 dB, return loss of 20 dB and isolation of 40 dB min.  They also were featuring a Ka-band SP4T toroidal switch with power handling of 150 W average, 3 kW peak, insertion loss of 1.5 dB, return loss of 20 dB and isolation of 30 dB.

Probably the only software company there, Mician was showing off their WiComm Tools which consist of a combline filter synthesis wizard for narrow and broadband filters and a generalized Chebyshev bandpass and bandstop filter synthesis wizards.  The tools were being demonstrated and attracted a lot of attention from the attendees.

Micronetics is a diverse company that was showing off everything from their components to assemblies to test solutions.  Their CNG instruments are designed to automatically add noise to a signal to a precise settable power ratio for testing BER and other parameters. The instruments are designed to very accurately set a signal to noise power ratio over a wide dynamic range of noise and signal powers while offering long term stability and repeatability. This is accomplished by using high quality RF components, built-in calibration routines, a complex signal power measurement system and software algorithms to pull it all together.

Miteq/MCL was featuring a new 700 W Ka-band TWTA with the smallest size in the industry according to the company.  It has 325 W of MIL spec defined linear power, 230 W of NPR-19 dB linear power in the size of lower power units (9.6 X 11.8 X 20.5”).

Newtec is introduced new SATCOM technologies improving efficiency (Clean Channel Technology™, Cross-Layer-Optimization™, New High Speed Ku/Ka band modem, and more) and contributing to the industry's progress with Extensions to DVB-S2 and Carrier ID.

Vcc Noise SourceNoisecom was featuring their new adjustable Vcc noise generator.  The generator is specifically designed to inject noise and deterministic jitter signals into Vcc lines to analyze how the devices will perform at various levels.  Included are pictures of the Vcc signal with and without the injected noise as an example (see photo).  Bob Muro is always the innovator.

Rogers featured two of their leading laminates; RT/duroid 6035HTC which is a ceramic-filled, PTFE composite material designed especially for high-frequency, high-power applications, such as antenna beam-forming networks and power amplifiers for wireless cellular communications networks plus RT/duroid 5880LZ laminate materials which feature the industry’s lowest available dielectric constant of 1.96 in the z-axis at 10 GHz with a TC Dk of +22ppm/ºC.  I really liked that they had made up business card sized pieces of their materials that had gold metal patterns with text writing describing the material and its specs.

Spinner was present showing off various components, cables and connectors.  One item they were featuring was their fiber optic rotary joint.  It is very compact and was begin shown with a demo of LED lights operating through the rotary joint.

Teledyne was featuring products from many divisions including Teledyne Coax Switches, Teledyne Cougar, Teledyne MEC, Teledyne Microelectronics, Teledyne Microwave, Teledyne Microwave Solutions, Teledyne Paradise Datacom, Teledyne Relays and Teledyne Technologies.  That is a whole lot of divisions in one booth.

Thales had a variety of products on display featuring many of their TWT products.  An example is a Ka-band TWT with typical gain of more than 50 dB with average output power up to 140 and designed for 250 W of high linearity performance.  Another example in the DBS band offers 50 dB of typical gain from 17.3-18.4 GHz and delivers output power up to 750 W.

Times Microwave Systems was showing off a variety of cables and cable prep tools.  Their Silverline-LP (low PIM) is the first test cable specifically designed for field and production PIM testing.  It is steel armored and has a massive, solid metal back shell to protect the cable to connector interface.  Their prep tools making cable and connector installations easy.

TRM Microwave was showing off their portfolio of dividers from 3 to 16 way and frequencies up to 20 GHz.  Their Airstrip is an innovative transmission line technology that supports Hi-Rel Space Qualified packaging.  Airstrip is a form of microstrip transmission line technique which, when combined with a metal top cover, can be used to design and fabricate components and integrated assemblies in self-contained, low-profile packages.

WORK Microwave introduced the new-generation DVB-S/S2 modulator with multi-stream technology and showcased the enhanced IP modem, now featuring a new powerful user interface and additional power supply for BUCs. Also on display was the company's array of fourth-generation frequency converters.