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First large European space antenna is tested at INEGI

10 March 2021
Tests have already started in Portugal of the first large space antenna produced in Europe, one of the most critical technologies for the satellites of the future. It is a prototype of the model to be embarked on one of the Copernicus program satellites, conducted by the European Union and the European Space Agency, which has the first takeoffs scheduled for 2027, with the mission of observing the Earth.

INEGI hosts the tests of the articulated arm of an antenna, to test its functionality, rigidity and repeatability, which are crucial to ensure the correct opening of the antenna in space.

"In the last three years we have been developing various equipment to test systems embedded in satellites, within the scope of this project. We are focused on technologies that validate the performance and technical requirements of systems on the ground, in order to characterize their operation in orbit, before launching into space, particularly articulated and reflective arms”, explains Ricardo Lopes, responsible for the project at INEGI.

After having developed the equipment to test the reflector and the antenna arm, at Airbus, in Germany, and at INTA - National Institute of Aerospace Technique, in Spain, INEGI now has the responsibility to carry out new tests in Portugal.

Increasing European independence in space technology is crucial

The development of a large space antenna in Europe arises from the need to reduce the dependence on non-European sources for this type of essential technologies. A challenge that has been worked on within the scope of the LEA - Large European Antenna project, with the purpose of fulfilling strategic missions, such as Earth observation, telecommunications and scientific missions.

Recently, INEGI also stood out as one of the five Portuguese entities selected by the European Space Agency to develop equipment for the space mission of the Copernicus program (CIMR - Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer), which will monitor terrestrial factors, such as the surface temperature of oceans, ice concentration and sea salinity.

The contract, worth 1.5 million euros, will focus on the creation of equipment for testing space satellites, which will be based on work developed in the LEA project, led by the German company HPS - High Performance Space Structure Systems, counting with LSS - Large Space Structures, FHP - Frezite High Performance and RUAG Space Germany in the base team, and with 11 more small and medium-sized companies and European innovation, research and development institutes.