Improving connection: MAI scientist creates a new scheme for space antenna

14 April 2021

Improving connection: MAI scientist creates a new scheme for space antenna
Researchers at MAI are working on a large, umbrella-type space antenna that produces a smooth, reflective surface with a diameter of more than 10 metres on Earth's orbit. It is launched into space in a folded compact state. The author of the idea and head of the project is an associate professor of Department 602 "Design and strength of aircraft, rocket and space products" of MAI, a senior researcher at the Institute of Applied Mechanics of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergei Russkikh.

MAI proposed a new scheme for space umbrella-type antenna. Currently, such systems have several types of applications. They are needed for telecommunications satellites that provide mobile and stationary communications on Earth, access to the Internet and retransmission of TV and radio programmes. They are also responsible for specialised types of communications - military communications, rescue systems and communications between different spacecraft. Finally, the antennas are needed for remote sensing of the Earth, both for military and scientific purposes.

The new antenna consists of radial rods supported in position by cable elements. It is planned to be patented in the near future. Sergey Russkikh developed mathematical models and made calculations, and published 10 research papers in leading journals as co-authors. Several companies are already interested in the development.

The task of deployment and shaping

In contrast to previously known structures of this type, the antenna will not only be deployed in space from a folded compact state to the preoperational state but also undergo a process of shaping by necessary deformations of radial rods.

"Our scheme suggests using a cyclically symmetric umbrella antenna whose framework consists of flexible, non-stretchable radial rods connected along parallels by tensile cables. The number of rods can be anything - the more of them, the smoother the surface of the mesh is," says the MAI scientist. "In the initial state of transport, the multi-link rods are stacked in compact packages, which are held together by certainties. When this bond is removed, the rods are set in motion and the problem of deployment is solved. At the same time, a hydraulic damper is set in motion by pre-compressed springs, which ensures smooth movement of the antenna rod. At a certain rod position, when the root element of the radial rod has reached the stop and all rods are in a straight line position, the process of their deformation begins with simultaneous tensioning of the cable elements. In this way, a slow and smooth movement of all antenna components is ensured and the antenna is brought into working position, without any significant response from the spacecraft."

In spite of the fact that today there are more than 50 patents on deployed antenna structures in space only in the Russian Federation, all of them either have no calculations, or their calculations were made on the computer, using applied software commercial complexes. Sergey Vladimirovich has created the general model of the aerial and universal calculation programs on the definition of its parameters in one of the languages of computer algebra. Moreover, he built two fundamentally different mathematical models for a different number of radial rods and the number of their constituent links - for the gently sloping antenna and for the case of a strong bend. All algorithms and models have been verified and tested for convergence and stability of calculations, and the accuracy of the resulting surface has been evaluated.

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