SpaceSpace and Communication 

Emerging Trends in Space-Based RF and Microwave Technology

The global space economy has been growing at a rapid pace, owing to the increasing requirement of satellite launch vehicle services across different end users, such as defense, academic, commercial, government, and non-profit organizations.

According to the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), the space industry and the satellite industry were valued at approximately $366 billion and $271 billion respectively in 2019, consisting of satellite manufacturing, launches, associated services, and ground equipment.

The government and space organizations globally are constantly increasing their funding in the space industry to develop efficient and cost-effective satellite solutions. In the coming years, funding and space agencies’ budgets are anticipated to be driven by varied applications such as communication, surveillance, navigation, and many more.

The space industry is also expected to be driven by the demand for better connectivity for smart devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), increased use of data analytics, and migration to streaming broadband.

With the RF technology approaching its peak of technological advancement, researchers and organizations are engaged in finding an alternate source of communication that can provide a much faster data transfer rate.

Presently, maximum communication currently is done through ultra-high frequency (UHF) and super-high frequency (SHF), whereas the organizations are engaged in using extremely high frequency (EHF) so that they can access a greater bandwidth. However, it is only a matter of time that the EHF frequency will also fall short due to the rising market demand.

Emerging Trends in the Space-Based RF and Microwave Technology

  • Adoption of New Manufacturing Technologies: The onset of various additive manufacturing processes along with the development of compatible materials define the future production methodologies. Additive manufacturing techniques provide freedom of design and size, allowing manufacturers to develop novel components that are not possible otherwise. The major challenge faced by using these methods is that the materials from which they are made should match the stimulated performance and harsh environment of space. There are two major approaches to printing processes: Direct Write (DW) and Additive Manufacturing (AM).
  • Software-Defined Reconfigurable RF Components: There has been a gradual increase in the number of years a satellite is designated to operate in space, and with increasing deep space mars and lunar missions, the reconfigurable RF components have become the need of the hour. Integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and the onset of ASIC have improved the scope of application as software-defined components. These components are also extensively used in LEO satellites that are designated for multiple communication channels. These components can be reconfigured for multiple applications while they are in orbit, hence reducing the relaunching and reconfiguration of satellites.
  • Increasing High-Frequency Operations: The ever-increasing demand for communication via satellites has allowed the operators to engage in higher bands to gain more bandwidth. The satellites for communication that used to operate on X and Ku bands are now operating on Ka and V bands, allowing them to access bandwidth up to 3.5GHz, which is four times more than the commonly used bands. There will be a notable change in the data transfer rates through the integration of new bands as the upgraded signal-to-noise ratio, encoding, and modulation schemes will allow the user to send more information within the given time.

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