Microwave Journal

Satellite of Love

March 26, 2013

The 32nd annual SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition took place last week (March 18-21) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. Organizers were projecting that 12,000 satellite communications professionals from 70 countries would attend this year's event featuring a world-class conference program led by 300 satellite communications power players and more than 16 hours of networking opportunities over the four day gathering. The conference which serves multiple vertical markets including military/government, commercial, broadcast, maritime, mobility, and telecommunications shaping today's satellite-enabled communications landscape drew a large eco-system of delegates and exhibiting vendors: from single RF/microwave component manufacturers to full-platform providers.

With greater demand for global access to high-def content and recent improvements in launcher technology and the resulting decrease in cost (launching a given payload is one-third the cost during the 1980’s), there has been considerable activity and innovation in this market. As a result, space qualified hardware manufacturers see a number of opportunities thanks to the lower cost of putting hardware into orbit and promising technologies such as High Throughput Satellites (HTS)  leading to competition between systems operating at various frequency bands (Ka and Ku), each vying for the hearts and minds of component and platform manufacturers alike.

Over 350 exhibiting companies were on hand to showcase their latest and greatest emerging technologies in the satellite-enabled communications marketplace. With Washington mired in sequestration, a few exhibitors voiced concern over a notable decline in attendance from the highly-prized visitors from the DoD, NSA, CIA, etc that usually attend this event in relative droves (not drones). And yet by the second day of the exhibition, uniformed members of the armed services were increasingly more visible and the mood seemed to improve with the quality of the engagements between exhibitors and tire-kickers. Understandably, this is the premier event for the global satellite communications market, which is only expanding. While the budget concerns of any one country may slow down the rate of this growth, the overall market is robust and continues to expand.  As a result, the appropriate microwave component companies participating in this yearly event are mostly able to justify attending.

This is the kind of event that draws a broader audience and exhibitor base from big system platform manufacturers such as Boeing and Hughes, to sub-primes such as Harris, L-3 and Cobham to individual component manufacturers (see below). While the component manufacturer may share the exhibition space with its client companies, the personnel they need to talk to (i.e. engineers) may not necessarily be manning those booths. Still, it is impressive to see how microwave hardware is integrated into SATCOM systems and making a trip to this annual event a worthwhile venture for techies as well as business folk.

 Most of the RF/Microwave products on display include passive waveguide components, timing sources, SSPAs and BUCs, Cables/connectors, and test solutions. Vendors in who offer products in this “space”, are able to tout reliability, space qualification (although not necessarily if the customer is willing to foot the bill for testing), lightweight and compact, performance and having a solution for the band of interest.

 Ever-changing demand, new applications and degrees of profitability will determine future business opportunities, however the international interest in satellite communication and navigation bode well for the continued growth of this industry. While the path to becoming a microwave hardware vendor of space qualified components may be long and challenging, the outlook for the extended SATCOM market is favorable for those who boldly look toward the future.

Exhibitor Wrap-up

COM DEV offers a number of products and subsystems sold to major satellite builders, from Telemetry, Tracking and Command Transceivers to a variety of passive microwave products including the 90 GHz ferrite switch used in RF front-ends. This device took our award for smallest in show (about the size and shape of a mouse pellet) and is used in Satellite systems that our doing cloud profiling for advanced weather tracking. www.comdevintl.com/

 Bliley Technologies was featuring their ultra low-noise Oven controlled crystal oscillators. Operating from 30 to 130 MHz, the new Zeus series has an optional phase noise setting of -178 dBc/Hz at 100 MHz offset, 10 dBm (min) to 15 dBm (max.) sinewave output, Harmonics: -30 dBc max, spurious output -80 dBc max. www.bliley.com

Trak Microwave was showing off their truly impressive Ka Power Brick SSPA. Based on all pick and place solid-state technology, this ultra-low profile 10-12 Watt 28-31 GHz SSPA was the smallest of its kind at the show. The unit targets in-flight business jet entertainment systems such as the ultra-long range Bombardier Global Express. www.trak.com

Belcom is an Israeli company that was featuring their medium power BUCs including a 25 watt Ku-band unit with Ethernet cabling and a 50 watt C-band unit that has been on the market for about one year. www.belcommicrowaves.com

ETG Canadais a privately owned Canadian Company that some may have seen last year at the IMS event in Montreal. The company’s products include microwave and millimeter wave filters, diplexers, terminations, rotary joints, adapters, couplers, circulators, isolators and waveguide assemblies. The company was featuring their line of PCB mounted Ka-band filters offering low cost and very small footprint in addition to an L-band rotary joints. www.etgcanada.com

Diamond Antenna & Microwave Corporationalso specializes in waveguide rotary joints and were featuring a number of products including an 80 watt Ku-band unit and a 2-channel 200 watt Ka-band unit. The company is currently developing a rotary joint that is reported to be the first to be deployed in space. www.diamondantenna.com

Dover Companies –Dow-Key, K&L andBSC Filters were exhibiting in adjacent spaces, showing off their combined capabilities and products. Dow-Key offers a 40 year plus heritage of delivering space qualified parts. The company is a leading supplier of space-qualified coaxial and waveguide switches and switch block assemblies for communication and navigation satellites. The company has two clean rooms and a full environmental testing capability including multipaction, PIM, vibration, thermal shock and thermal vacuum.     www.dowkey.com

K&L Microwavewas demonstrating their ability to meet customer needs with a sample UHF diplexer utilizing high-Q cavities for low-loss. The company offers a full line of RF and microwave filters, duplexers, and subassemblies for military and commercial applications, including ceramic, lumped element, cavity, waveguide and tunable filters, as well as switched filter banks. www.KLmicrowave.com

BSC Filterssupports the Global commercial and Defence SATCOM industry with ITAR FREE filter based products and quick turn technology solutions from 10MHz to 90GHz, including transition, linear and parabolic gain equalizers, switched filter banks, waveguide assemblies, diplexers, multiplexers, couplers, splitters & combiners. www.bscfilters.com.

Speaking of switches, Advanced Switch Technology from Canada were showcasing a number of their specialized waveguide switches with special optional features such as weather proof connections, lockable, side connector and miniature driver head.  www.astswitch.com

Logus Microwave Corporation has been providing high=preformance microwave switches including SPDT, DPDT, SP3T and DP4T stacked and ganged waveguide switches to the SATCOM market since 1961. At Satellite 2013, the company was highlighting space qualified switches for the WR-51 and WR-28 frequency bands. www.logus.com

JFW was attracting visitors with their line of manually variable rotary attenuators and matrix switches. www.jfwindustries.com

Planar Monolithics Industries (PMI) – offers hybrid MIC/MMIC technology and was at Satellite 2013 to show off their product lines of low-noise amplifiers, switches and switch filter banks. The company’s solid-state technology is available up to 40 GHz.  www.pmi-rf.com

Times Microwave had a cable assembly demo station set-up within their exhibition space and were able to show attendees how quick and easy it is to create a coax cable to exact length specifications with a variety of terminating connectors and coax transitions (male/female straight terminations, tees and elbows , etc.) www.timesmicrowave.com

EMC/Florida RF Labs offers RF Passive Components for space flight missions for over 30 years with capabilities from design concept through launch include design reviews, qualification testing, documentation, serialized data and custom packaging. The company was featuring their new line of high performance test cables, the Lab-flex 200 series which targets performance and reliability at a competitive price. www.emc-rflabs.com

For over 60 years,MDL has been a leader in waveguide components, providing waveguide bends and twists, directional couplers and monopulse comparators, rotary joints, microwave filters, rotary switches and waveguide shutters, waveguide pressure windows and other components to the Satellite market. www.mdllabs.com

Rogers Corporation had a number of PCB materials with features especially well-suited to the Satellite market and space applications. The company’s 5880LZ high-frequency laminate has a low dielectric constant for lower insertion loss and the filler is hollow in order to reduce weight (reducing payload weight for minimizing launch expenses) while offering 3 times the thermal conductivity for improved heatsinking.


Product Features:

  • Lowest electrical loss of any reinforced PTFE material
  • Low moisture absorption
  • Isotropic
  • Uniform electrical properties over frequency
  • Excellent chemical resistance, including solvents and reagents used in printing and plating
  • Ease of fabrication – cutting, shearing, machining
  • RoHS compliant, environment friendly


Isola, manufacturer of copper-clad laminates and prepreg materials used to fabricate mulit-layer printed circuit boards used in RF, Microwave , High Speed Digital and High Reliability applications was showcasing their I-Tera and I-speed products. Representing the company’s next generation of low loss products, these products are thermally robust and have a low cost of ownership according to company representatives. www.isola-group.com

Wireless Telecom Group was wowing visitors and editors with their new real-time processing series 5 USB wideband peak power sensor. This measurement equipment provider has long been the leader in peak power measurement technology, and this week they upped the ante with a super fast sensor based on the latest FPGA technology from Xilinx, resulting in the following performance metrics:

  • Ultra-fast rise time: 5ns*
  • Time resolution: 100 ps
  • Continuous Sample rate: 100 Msamples / sec
  • Effective Sample Rate: 10 Gsamples / sec
  • Class leading Video Bandwidth: 70 MHz*
  • Statistical Measurements 100 Mpoints / sec
  • Trace acquisition speed: 40 k sweeps / sec
  • Real-Time Power Processing™: No latency due to buffer processing by host PC
  • Internal RF or External TTL trigger, Master/Slave in/out connector
  • Synchronized multi-channel measurements
  • Removable, locking USB cable

 The company was also featuring Noisecom's CNG-EbNo and demonstrating how it can be used to verify the integrity of a satellite communications link and Noisecom's JV9000 Adjustable Vcc Noise Generator for PSRR Analysis.

Anritsu was featuring the company’s MS2830A Signal Analyzer with options that extend its frequency range to 26.5 GHz and 43 GHz, respectively, for accurate evaluation of wideband communication systems. With the increased frequency coverage, the MS2830A signal analyzers can measure Tx characteristics of mobile backhaul signals used in the microwave band, second order harmonics in digital terrestrial and satellite broadcasting systems up to 36 GHz. www.anritsu.com

Mini-circuits had a large presence at Satellite 2013, displaying hardware and the company’s growing line of ATE test equipment including their SSG-4000HP USB Synthesized Signal Generator. This high output power (+20 dBm max.) source with 70 dB output power range is controlled by USB HID device (include controller software and API DLL object compatible with 32/64 Bit OS) and is adjustable in .25 dB steps. The Sign gen is ideal for custom ATE systems and at $1995, it is both portable and affordable. www.minicircuits.com