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Testing of the first large European space antenna began with equipment developed by INEGI

18 November 2020

Three years after the European Union, together with the European Space Agency, decided to invest in the development of one of the most critical technologies for the satellites of the future - the first large antenna - the testing phase begins.

This is a decisive moment for the contribution of INEGI and Portugal to the project, as the equipment that allows these tests to be carried out has been developed by the Institute. They have the mission to validate on land the behavior of the reflector with five meters in diameter, and to characterize its operation in orbit, before launching into space.

Taking place at Airbus facilities in Germany, these tests will "measure the precision of the surface of the antenna reflector, characterizing its performance with radio frequencies between the C and Ka bands, in zero gravity”, explains Filipe Lopes, responsible for the project at INEGI.

In the next stage of the project, in addition to the reflector, the folding arm of the space antenna will also be tested at INTA - National Institute of Aerospace Technique, in Spain, using the equipment that INEGI has developed to test compliance with vibration requirements and thermal variation in vacuum. For 2021, tests are scheduled in Portugal, at INEGI’s facilities, focused on the opening, repeatability and thermal-elastic distortion of the antenna arm, before the completion of the flight model prototype, scheduled for March 2021.

Technologies for space today serve a wide range of economic sectors, which directly benefit from their diverse potential. The antenna that is being developed within the scope of the LEA - Large European Antenna project serves to fulfill technical requirements that are decisive for its strategic missions, such as Earth observation, telecommunications and scientific missions. The new large-size reflector has the particularity of allowing greater sensitivity and resolution in communication and data collection.

Reducing the dependence on non-European sources for this type of essential technologies is also another major objective of the WeLEA consortium, which aims to be in line with the needs identified as priorities by the European Commission.

The LEA - Large European Antenna project is led by the German company HPS - High Performance Space Structure Systems, with LSS - Large Space Structures, FHP - Frezite High Performance and RUAG Space Germany in the base team, and 11 more small and medium-sized companies, and European innovation, research and development institutes. It falls within the scope of the Horizon 2020 program, project number 776294 - The first Large European Antenna with a diameter larger than 5 meters - LEA.