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INEGI develops equipment to test the first Large European Antenna in space

12 February 2020

Responding to a need identified by the European Commission and supported by the European Space Agency, INEGI is developing the equipment that will test and validate the operation in space of one of the most essential and critical technologies for the satellites of the future: the first European foldable antenna of large dimensions.

With a scalable architecture from 5 to 20 meters in diameter, this antenna includes a reflector and a folding arm, which are being developed and tested by a group of 15 partners, from six European countries, which form the WeLEA consortium. INEGI is responsible for producing the equipment that will validate its behaviour on the ground and characterize its operation in orbit, before launching into space.

"We are going to develop five test equipment, of which two are already ready. The first was for Airbus, in Germany, with the objective of measuring the precision of the reflector surface and testing Radio Frequency in zero gravity. The second was integrated last week, at Large Space Structures, in Germany, and will serve to validate the functionality of the various reflector systems”, explains Filipe Lopes, responsible for the project at INEGI.

During this year, the production and assembly of the three missing equipment will be completed. "We are going to send two to the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), in Spain, to carry out tests in a vacuum and vibration chamber. The third will be used at INEGIs facilities to carry out the opening, repeatability and thermal-elastic distortion tests of the antenna arm”, adds Filipe Lopes.

Today, technologies for space 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 fulfil technical requirements that are decisive for its strategic missions, such as Earth observation, telecommunications and scientific missions. The new large-size reflector also has the particularity of allowing more 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 being developed under the Horizon 2020 program, project number 776294 - The first Large European Antenna with a diameter larger than 5 meters - LEA.