Wrapped Rib Antenna Trial A Next Step for SAR

16th May 2023
Wrapped Rib Antenna Trial A Next Step for SAR

Oxford Space Systems, the UK’s manufacturer of deployable antennas for space, has announced that it will launch a trial version of their innovative deployment system. The In-Orbit Demonstration mission will show off their Wrapped Rib antenna deployed on a CarbSAR satellite by Surrey Satellites.

Oxford Space Systems (OSS) has been operating for a decade now, building their deployable antenna and software from their base in the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

Sending the Wrapped Rib Antenna into space

This news will see a Wrapped Rib antenna sent into orbit mounted to a CarbSAR satellite. The antenna is described as a “deployable Cassegrain, centre-fed antenna that aims to be the go-to antenna for low Earth orbit (LEO), X-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) applications.”

The work has been partially funded by National Security Strategic Investment Fund and Airbus Defence, as well as the MoD. But why so much interest in this specific technology?

A Potentially Groundbreaking Concept

The Wrapped Rib antenna enables high-resolution imaging even in adverse weather conditions, and can be used to push boundaries with X-band SAR applications such as monitoring weather and natural disasters.

This small radar satellite has a reflector antenna which is much smaller than many previous designs, meaning it is stowable and lightweight, and can allow radar to be implemented on smaller craft.

The demand for the technology also extends to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, which is one of the reasons the MoD are involved in the project.

There are many big data applications for this sort of technology and with it a growing demand for small radar satellites such as this one. The antennas work by deploying carbon-fibre ribs from a central hub, creating a parabolic dish that supports a high-performing metal mesh reflector. It has been tested thoroughly on land and is ready to take the step into orbit.

Sean Sutcliffe, the CEO of Oxford Space Systems, spoke about the demo mission:

“This In Orbit Demonstration mission will allow us to build on our relationship with SSTL and accelerate our product development and industrialisation programme for the game changing Wrapped Rib SAR antenna. The support of NSSIF is a huge vote of confidence in the technology and the capability of Oxford Space Systems to support future UK requirements. I am delighted that the antenna for the IOD mission is being built in our newly commissioned facilities that will establish our production capability for future export sales ”

The Wrapped Rib antenna for SAR is one of many potentially exciting UK-based developments in the space and satellite industries. We eagerly await further news of the demo launch.

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