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Inflatable antenna for cubesats: Motivation for development and antenna design

Babuscia, Alessandra and Corbin, Benjamin and Knapp, Mary and Jensen-Clem, Rebecca and Van de Loo, Mark and Seager, Sara (2013) Inflatable antenna for cubesats: Motivation for development and antenna design. Acta Astronautica, 91 . pp. 322-332. ISSN 0094-5765.

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CubeSats and small satellites have potential to provide means to explore space and to perform science in a more affordable way. As the goals for these spacecraft become more ambitious in space exploration, moving from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) or further, the communication systems currently implemented will not be able to support those missions. One of the bottlenecks in small spacecraft communication systems is represented by antennas' size, due to the close relation between antenna gain and dimensions. Current antennas for CubeSats are mostly dipole or patch antennas with limited gain. Deployable (not inflatable) antennas for CubeSats are currently being investigated, but these solutions are affected by the challenge of packaging the whole deployable structure in a small spacecraft. The work that we propose represents the first attempt to develop an inflatable antenna for CubeSats. Inflatable structures and antennas can be packaged efficiently occupying a small amount of space, and they can provide, once deployed, large dish dimension and correspondent gain. Inflatable antennas have been previously tested in space (Inflatable Antenna Experiment, STS-77). However they have never been developed for small spacecraft such as CubeSats, where the packaging efficiency, the deployment, and the inflation represent a challenge. Our study explores for the first time the possibility of developing such antenna in a way compatible with CubeSat dimensions and constraints. The research provides answers on the possible dimensions for an inflatable antenna for small satellites, on the gain and resolution that can be achieved, and on the deployment and inflation mechanism compatible with CubeSat. Future work in the development of the antenna will include the test of the antenna in flight during a specific technical demonstration mission. The article is structured as follows: context and motivation for Cubesat inflatable antenna are described; then a study to design the antenna which achieves the required performance metrics, while respecting the constraints imposed by CubeSat structure, is presented.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Jensen-Clem, Rebecca0000-0003-0054-2953
Seager, Sara0000-0002-6892-6948
Additional Information:© 2013 IAA. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Received 14 November 2012. Received in revised form 28 May 2013. Accepted 5 June 2013. Available online 19 June 2013.
Subject Keywords: CubeSat; Inflatable; Antenna; Communication systems
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130930-152007512
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Official Citation:Alessandra Babuscia, Benjamin Corbin, Mary Knapp, Rebecca Jensen-Clem, Mark Van de Loo, Sara Seager, Inflatable antenna for cubesats: Motivation for development and antenna design, Acta Astronautica, Volume 91, October–November 2013, Pages 322-332, ISSN 0094-5765, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:41567
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:30 Sep 2013 23:03
Last Modified:28 Oct 2019 23:39

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