Programme Element: ARTES 5.1
Reference nr.: 13.1TT.45
Planned Tender Issue: quarter 3, 2013
The objective of this activity is to develop an Advanced SOLar ANTenna (ASOLANT) prototype for M2M service applications, such as BGAN M2M, that combine both the self-powered antenna and the solar panel.
Targeted Improvements: Extend the market for M2M services with a self-powered flat antenna for use in remote areas where power and connectivity options are limited.
Since its first proof-of-concept introduction in 2000, the SOLar ANTenna (SOLANT) has evolved towards advanced designs, which have been further refined, thus leading to a demonstrator successfully flown on a Cosmos payload adapter. The underlying idea in SOLANT was the combination of planar antennas and solar cells in a single structure and therefore an increase in the surface available on a spacecraft for other instruments or components.
As a potential extension of this concept, one could think of using the same technology/idea in designing self-powered flat antennas for M2M service applications. As recently reported, for low-cost and high-bandwidth monitoring and control of M2M sensors/devices in remote locations, fixed VSAT satellite dishes are best. However, they are not optimum when it comes down to outdoor enclosures or severe weather conditions. In these cases, a flat terminal antenna could be a good alternative. One step further would be to integrate the antenna into the solar panel (e.g. ASolant). Direct advantages of using this approach is that the antenna can be made self-powered and thanks to the integrated approach visual pollution of the traditional reflector antennas is hereby minimised.
To operate in an efficient manner the solar cells are mounted in such a way as to face the Sun, which happens to be also the direction the antenna globally has to be pointed to for transmission/reception from a geostationary satellite. As mentioned, normally the antenna pointing is not perfectly aligned with the solar panel sun pointing and therefore an additional electronical/mechanical re-pointing is needed during installation. This issue shall be addressed in this activity and simple, easy and low-cost solutions like phase shift at element or sub array level shall be investigated. Low-loss RF-MEMS phase shifters seem to be becoming available for ground-based applications and are already used in some mobile phones.