The Wrapped-Rib antenna from Oxford Space Systems is a deployable, center-fed Cassegrain antenna with the goal of becoming the standard for X-band SAR (synthetic aperture radar) applications in low Earth orbit (LEO). The Wrapped-Rib has a metal-mesh reflector surface and is adjustable from 3 to 5 meters in diameter. The antenna consists of a central hub, deployable composite secondary reflector, and mast, as well as lenticular “ribs” made of carbon fiber to support the reflector surface.
The community is currently investigating the viability of missions using active instrumentation on small spacecraft as small satellites find growing applications in a variety of space missions. Synthetic aperture radars in particular are of interest since they show to be flexible tools for Earth Observation objectives.
Small synthetic aperture radar satellites now have a deployable Wrapped Rib antenna thanks to work by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. and Oxford Space Systems in the United Kingdom. The 3-meter parabolic reflector was made by OSS to travel in a small package. The radio frequency electronics and high bandwidth radar sensors were provided by SSTL. The firms have tested the antenna, which might be used for orbital demonstrations as early as 2023, with financing for the project provided by the National Space Technology Programme of the U.K. Space Agency.
The CarbSAR platform from SSTL is compatible with the Wrapped Rib antenna. CarbSAR is a 140-kilogram X-band SAR technology demonstration satellite that will highlight radar uses for infrastructure, maritime, disaster response, defense and security, and environmental and environmental protection clients. According to OSS Chief Executive Officer Sean Sutcliffe, “we are already seeing considerable worldwide customer demand for this product.”
The SAR electronics were integrated into the main avionics by SSTL to streamline the antenna architecture, according to the company’s chief technology officer, Andrew Haslehurst, in a statement. Haslehurst continued, “This feature, along with the outstanding stowage volume of the Wrapped Rib, has enabled SSTL to produce a very capable CarbSAR product delivering high-resolution X-band SAR imaging prowess day, night, and whatever the weather.” According to Paul Bate, chief executive of the U.K. Space Agency, money from the agency is given to businesses like OSS and SSTL “to develop new space capabilities which will assist us to handle challenges, like disaster monitoring, urban planning, and transport management.”
OSS collaborated with QuadSAT to evaluate the deployable reflector. According to QuadSAT’s chief commercial officer, Carlo Rizzo, the drone-based measurement technology eliminates “the complexity generally associated with testing huge space deployable antennas that are vulnerable to gravitational influences.”