Recently, a 3D printed antenna prototype was placed in the European Aviation Agency's (ESA) small antenna test equipment, a shielded room dedicated to antenna and RF testing.

“This is the first 3D printed double-reflector antenna from the European Space Agency.” Engineer Maarten van der Vorst explained that he designed the 3D printed antenna. “This antenna incorporates a corrugated horn antenna and two reflective surfaces that are integrally printed using a polymer material and then plated with copper to meet its radio frequency (RF) performance requirements.”

The first integrated 3D printed space antenna tested by the European Space Agency

"This 3D printed antenna is designed for future mega-constellation small satellite platforms, but it requires further testing to be used in real space missions. But at this stage, we are the most Of interest is also the performance of the antenna made by this low-cost 3D printing process."

"Although its surface is rougher than traditionally made antennas, we are very satisfied with its performance," said antenna test engineer Luis Rolo. “We have a good balance between measurement size and simulation. We are a simulation object based on a complete 3D model based on the antenna, resulting in a significant increase in accuracy.”

The first integrated 3D printed space antenna tested by the European Space Agency

“Integrally 3D printing using the same model completely eliminates the possibility of assembly errors and errors, resulting in excellent results.”

These two different antennas are manufactured by the Swiss company SWISSto12, which uses special electroplated copper technology in its complex shape.

The first integrated 3D printed space antenna tested by the European Space Agency

“Next, our goal is more complex geometries and higher frequencies,” adds Maarten, a member of the ESA Electromagnetics and Space Environment. “Ultimately we hope to create a space-compliant RF component for use on Earth observation and scientific instruments.”

It is understood that this test was conducted at the ESA ESTEC Technology Center in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. The external electromagnetic radiation is isolated in the test space, and the internal walls are covered with "anechoic" foam to absorb radio signals to simulate infinite space.

This test space is actually part of the ESA's complete set of antenna testing facilities, primarily for testing smaller antennas and subsystems, with larger antennas and entire satellites being tested in larger Hertz chambers.

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