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29. November 2021

Satellite technology: GKD supports textile deployment in orbit

Whether for earth observation or telecommunication and navigation services, the requirements of textile reflector antennas for satellites in orbit continue to skyrocket. By producing a material that meets the needs for this technology, GKD has been instrumental in the deployment of textiles in space.

As part of the “Ultralight Reflector Mesh Material for Very Large Reflector Antennas” project, sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA), the Institute for Textile Technology (ITA) at RWTH Aachen University is developing and producing high-grade metal-composites for the next generation of satellite reflector antennas. These space antennas are used for earth observation to provide data for weather forecasts, as well as climate change or natural disasters. The satellites are also indispensable for the fast and complex data transfer associated with modern telecommunication and navigation technology. Their parabolic-shaped reflectors focus the electromagnetic waves that carry data between the earth and satellites in orbit. Ever larger satellite antennas are required to handle the increasing complexity and volume of this data.
With the Space Reflector project, the researchers from the ITA are developing the textile structure for a new communication satellite system. This reflector can measure up to 30 meters in diameter. Its shape and size can be adapted to the regional circumstances of the target area and the volume of data being transferred. The centerpiece of the system is the mesh structure of the reflector surface, for which the ITA developed an innovative design and new production techniques. To make transport of the space antenna possible and also cost-effective, the reflector is foldable and produced from a weave of high-performance materials such as gold-plated tungsten, PEEK and aramid. This gives the textile reflector the high degree of elasticity, flexibility, and electrical conductivity that are needed for its highly reflective surface. In GKD, the ITA found an experienced partner that was willing to take on warping of the molybdenum threads wrapped in plastic. Despite the complexity of working with this innovative material, GKD was even able to adapt its cone warping machine to the ITA’s warp beams. With its comprehensive draping and forming expertise, the experts from GKD also supported the ITA in forming the mesh structure for the reflector surface of the new communication satellite system.

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