The SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition attracted satellite end-users representing the entire ecosystem of the satellite community including broadcast, military and government, enterprise, telecommunications, mobility, maritime, commercial and more. The event had 60 sessions in the conference, hundreds of booths on the show floor and a variety of networking opportunities. Pre-show estimates were projected to be more than 13,000 attendees from more than 100 countries for SATELLITE 2016.

Some of the overall satellite market trends are the move toward higher frequencies for more bandwidth (Ka-band), Internet services for remote areas, and small/nano satellites that greatly reduce costs. These trends flow down requirements to RF and microwave companies for more compact, lighter and lower power components and sub-systems. It also affects the design of components such as antennas that need to be smaller in size without losing gain, filters that need to address co-site interference and power amplifiers that need to be more efficient.

We made our way around the exhibition floor and visited the RF/microwave companies displaying products at SATELLITE 2016. Here is a summary of what we found:

ANSYS was featuring several simulation software platforms including EMIT that provides a multi-fidelity approach for predicting RF cosite interference to provide rapid identification and “root-cause” analysis of EMI issues in complex RF environments. EMIT provides a software framework for managing RF system performance data, simulating the impact of EMI on system performance, and mitigating EMI issues. This results in a complete model of the RF environment maintainable over the life of a system.

AtlanTecRF launched a ruggedized version of its Portable Loop Test Translator. Their LRU series of Loop Test Translators now come in high visibility ruggedized housing and are designed specifically for antenna site, range and other field applications. With models covering Ka- and Ku-Band for Tx-Rx, Tx-L and L-Rx testing and monitoring, the LTTs are connected to appropriate system ports and controlled either locally with convenient frequency and attenuation up/down touch buttons with clear LCD readout or remotely via GUI. Battery power on these units is designed for up to 24 hours continuous operation and the battery charge is integral, requiring 100-240 V, 50/60 Hz ports for charging. Frequency steps are 25 MHz as standard with options down to 1 kHz and there is a choice of alternative ranges from 0-30 dB to 0-6 dB in either 0.25 or 1.0 dB steps. All units can be operated with a choice of either an internal high stability OCXO or an external 10 MHz system reference.

Berkeley Nucleonics was showing off their real time spectrum analyzers (100 MHz RTBW) that operate to 8, 18 and 27 GHz starting under $4000. They also had on hand their phase noise test systems that measure down to -185 dBc/Hz with offset ranges from .01 Hz to 50 MHz. These are all-in-one compact, PC driven measurement systems with one-click measurement.

Custom Microwave was a new company to me that makes various waveguide products including antenna feeds. They started off as just a machine shop making waveguide products to print but have evolved into an engineering and precision manufacturing company.

Crane featured their space-qualified Interpoint DC-DC converters and EMI filters; Merrimac Ku-Band Iso-Dividers™, which combine power divider (or combiner) and ferrite isolator functions in a single package; and new configurations of the 2-way K-Band Iso-Divider for space applications. They also featured their Multi-Mix® Microtechnology, which allows the fusion of microwave multilayer integrated circuits (MMIC) and micro-multifunction modules (MMFM®) into self-contained modules that are a fraction of the size of conventional hybrid units.

EM Research has significantly expanded its offerings over the last year well beyond oscillators to cover multipliers, synthesizers, up- and down-converters and channelized up- and down-converters. They had their new catalog out covering all of these products that show their lineup of standard and custom products that cover frequencies from 5 MHz to 40 GHz.

HUBER+SUHNER showcased its latest technologies designed specifically for the rigors of space such as their Ground Test and Space Flight hardware addressing both the traditional Space market as well as the needs of the evolving “NewSpace” segment. They showed off their high-capacity 16-Channel Multi-Coax Interconnect options for both Chassis and SMT PCB Mount options.  These modular, high-density designs utilize SMPM and MXP connector interfaces combined with flight-proven microbend™ cable providing solderless bend to the end technology. All materials are MIL qualified and flight approved. Also on display will be High-Performance Sucoflex 200 and 300 series cable assemblies offering up to 40 GHz performance and providing excellent phase vs. temperature stability combined with low loss in a mechanically robust lightweight construction. 

JFW Industries featured their broad range of components including programmable, manually variable and fixed attenuators; terminations; switches; power dividers and combiners; and test accessories.

Keysight was showing a nice demonstration where they were generating representative satellite signals at 5 different frequencies using different modulation schemes and putting them through their signal generator and upconverted to represent the high frequency signals. Then they use these new UXA signal analyzer with 1 GHz of BW up to 50 GHz to analyze all of the signals at one time. Here is the demo:

Kymeta Corporationand Intelsat S.A. announced earlier this year that they will combine Intelsat’s leadership in space-based communication with Kymeta’s innovative antenna technology to bring high speed connectivity to cars on a global basis. This will enable the creation of new services on every continent, support software over-the-air applications, advance the potential for autonomous driving, and pave the way for the future of the connected car.

They recently completed an 8,000 mile demonstration across the United States using the Kymeta satellite-enabled test car. Over the course of the journey, the mTenna™ technology, embedded into the roof of the automobile, automatically acquired and tracked Intelsat Ku-band satellite signals while on the move. The future of automotive connectivity could be revolutionized by high throughput satellite connectivity, combined with advancements in software-enabled, metamaterials-based electronic beamforming antenna technology. These technologies allow for connected car solutions that address critical requirements including reliable and consistent service availability, economic multicast distribution, and global ubiquity of service levels within a secure environment. Kymeta displayed the car and even had a boat docked in National Harbor showing off the technology – definitely a company to watch.

LPKF Laser & Electronics provides in-house rapid PCB prototyping systems for a variety of applications and will demonstrated their ProtoLaser U3. The ProtoLaser U3 is an ultraviolet laser system for processing printed circuit boards. Winner of a SMT Vision Award, the ProtoLaser U3 can etch circuitry, drill holes, and depanel PCBs all in a single step. In-house PCB prototyping provides several benefits outsourced prototyping does not, including the ability to rapidly fabricate PCB design iterations. It also allows the user to maintain complete control over design data.

MDL was showing off their line of waveguide products ranging from waveguide and adapters to switches and attenuators. They were discussing the various manufacturing processes from traditional casting to 3D metal printing. The were highlighting there family of broadband high frequency coaxial rotary joints covering frequencies from DC to 40 GHz in both single and dual channel models. Watch their video here highlighting some of their products and capabilities.

Metamagnetics is a new company to me that has some very interesting technology. They develop advanced ferrite-based solutions to enhance the performance and effectiveness of security, surveillance and communications systems. They design circuits on magnetic substrates that allow them to reduce the size and weight of traditional ferrite devices. Their products include filters, circulators/isolators and phase shifters.

MiCIAN was featuring their µWave Wizard design tool that uses the fast and accurate Mode Matching Technique. This method is suitable for the simulation and optimization of passive microwave systems and components, including antennas. Additionally, a 3D-FEM mesher and solver are part of the full version to achieve full flexibility in the modeling of structures.

Noisecom/Booton (WTG) had a great demo that answered the question, “Poor BER… is it Eb/No or signal compression?” with their test setup. It allows companies to test the Satcom’s immunity to noise and interference using a Boonton USB Peak Power Sensor and Noisecom UFX7000A & CNG-EbNo Series Signal to Noise Generator. It showed how to add noise to desired signal to generate BER vs. Eb/No. Noise can act as a jammer and interferer and overload the receiver. The peak power sensor can indicate and measure signal compression due to signal or noise overload.  This application targets Satcom engineers testing impact of broadband noise generated by various sources that interferes with the operation of the system. RF-over-fiber system and field engineers testing and troubleshooting the cause of system performance degradation due to signal and noise overload. 

The Noisecom UFX7000A series broadband noise generators create AWGN broadband noise signals (to 40 GHz) for advanced test systems. The architecture allows control of multiple precision attenuators, switches, and filter banks to provide high output power broadband noise with superior flatness. Noise output level is adjustable in 0.1 dB optional steps with an optional input signal combiner followed by an attenuator that allows control of the noise & signal paths independently to vary SNR for BER vs. Eb/No testing.

Mini-Circuits was featuring many products including their absorptive/reflectionless filters from range in frequencies from DC to 21 GHz. These filters eliminate standing waves out-of-band so are perfect for pairing with mixers, multipliers, signal sources and other components. They are amplitude and phase stable with stopbands up to 35 GHz. They also featured their test solutions that include modular built to order test systems, USB/Ethernet programmable attenuators and true RMS power sensors and rack mounted amplifiers. See their video below for a tour of their booth.

Morion was featuring their ultra precision OXCO MV360 with standard 10 MHz frequency in a 50.8 mm square package.  The unique feature of this device is its high stability versus temperature with up to +/- 1 x 10E-11 at any 20 degree C window. Long term stability is up to +/- 1 x 10E-8/year. It operates with a 12 V power supply and is RoHS compliant.  It is well suited for 5G, telecommunications and T&M applications.

Orban Microwave designs a wide range of custom RF/microwave subsystems and antenna ranging in frequency from 0.1 to 25 GHz. They manufacture a wide range of antenna topologies such as patch, choke rings, quadrifilar, helicals and arrays. Their subassemblies include converters, IQ mod/demods, PAs, DC/DC converters, LNAs, synthesizers, transponders, repeaters, radar, couplers, switches and more.

Rakon designs and manufactures frequency control solutions for space, defense and industrial applications that require high performance products. They have developed products for ESA and CNES. Their space grade oscillators are designed to meet TID of 100 kRad, low dose rate as per ESCC22900 and latch-up free up to LET of 60 MeV/mg/cm2. The are developing ultra stable OXCOs for space with frequency stability vs temperature of 0.1 ppb (-20 to +50 deg C) and short-term stability (Allan variance) of 5E-13 from 1 to 100 sec.

R&S was showing off a couple of test solutions and featured the R&S®FSW signal analyzer's excellent dynamic range for phase noise measurements. At 10 kHz offset from the carrier, the R&S®FSW achieves phase noise of –137 dBc (1 Hz) for a 1 GHz carrier and –128 dBc (1 Hz) for a 10 GHz carrier. At 100 Hz offset from the carrier, values of –110 dBc (1 Hz) and –90 dBc (1 Hz) are attained. Featuring a low displayed average noise level (DANL) of typ. –159 dBm (1 Hz) at 2 GHz and –150 dBm (1 Hz) at 25 GHz without using a preamplifier, the R&S®FSW measures spurious emissions quickly and reliably over a wide frequency range. DANL can be further improved by up to 13 dB by means of the analyzer's switch-selected noise cancellation. Users can thus identify even the smallest of spurious emissions that were previously hidden in the noise floor, and effectively optimize transmit systems.

Sector Microwave Industries provides waveguide and coaxial switches for standard and custom applications. This includes a complete line of electromechanical switches in SPDT, DPDT and transfer configurations as well as relay switches, dual waveguide and coax switches, and switch assemblies using their patented technology. They are targeted for the satellite, military and commercial ground station markets.

SWISSto12 announced that they were awarded funding from the European Space Agency’s ARTES program to develop and test additive manufactured satellite user antennas (i.e. user terminal front ends). Cobham Antenna Systems has also joined the project to explore how additive manufactured antennas could fit into its future product portfolio. The use of additive manufacturing for satellite user antennas is of particular interest for emerging high data throughput satellite telecommunication services in Ku- and Ka-bands where traditional user antennas are currently complex and costly to produce. This collaborative project aims at showing significant weight and cost reduction for Ku or Ka-band satellite user antennas.

Teledyne had several divisions on site including the Microwave Solutions, Paradise DataCom and Labtech microwave PCB/assemblies groups. Paradise DataCom designs and manufactures a full spectrum of innovative satellite modem and RF products to satisfy commercial and defense applications worldwide while TMS has a successful space heritage stretching back to the early days of space applications. One of the first companies receiving MIL-PRF-38534 Class K certification, TMS has a comprehensive line of space-qualified products. TMS' quality certifications include MIL-PRF-38534, Classes H & K (TRB Option), ISO 9001 and AS9100. TMS' space grade components and integrations cover frequencies from 5 MHz to Ka-band. The Labtech group out of the UK provides various custom PCB solutions such as metal backed PCBs, multilayer PCBs and large format non-standard solutions.

Times Microwave was showing their SilverLine®-XF cables that were designed for testing delicate components such as exposed RF circuits with edge launch connectors. Thin, lightweight and flexible, this coax makes handling PC boards easy yet does not compromise RF stability and isolation. Using Times’ proprietary TF-4 dielectric SilverLine®-XF goes one step further, exhibiting linear phase change from 0º to +30ºC which is not typical of Teflon based dielectrics.