Lancaster University to develop E-band travelling wave tubes for 5G and 6G data transmission for satellites

Novel technology that enables high 5G and 6G data transmission for satellites are to be developed at Lancaster University following the award of £240,000 from the UK Space Agency.

AdobeStock with elements of this image furnished by NASA

The award is for the development of a high power, compact, low-cost E-band travelling wave tube amplifier in an 18-month project titled “E-band Travelling Wave Tubes (TWT) for High Throughput Satellites”.

In a statement, project leader Professor Paoloni from the School of Engineering said: “It is exciting to contribute to the enhancement of one of the most fascinating enterprises of our age, the deployment of constellations of thousands of satellites for internet coverage all over the world. The novel E-band Travelling Wave Tubes we will produce will enable satellite links with tens of gigabits per second requiring portable terminals with small antennas to offer an unprecedented ubiquitous data rate.”

The growth of satellite constellations at low earth orbit (LEO) for internet distribution such as Starlink or Oneweb has opened the third dimension in 6G coverage.


Presently, satellites use microwave bands, but the demand of higher data rate can only be met by higher frequency and wider bands. The E-band (71 – 86GHz) has been already adopted in the Starlink Gen2 satellites, however, the high link losses and the low transmission power from solid state amplifiers at this frequency require large terrestrial antennas.

This new project will realise a novel compact and high-power travelling wave tube amplifier to enable an unprecedented data rate for satellite links.

Professor Paoloni’s team will design, fabricate and test the new TWT using facilities at the TWT Fab, which is the only academic laboratory in Europe with facilities for full advanced production of sub-THz TWT.

The team includes Rosa Letizia, senior lecturer, Rupa Basu senior research associate, Mohit Joshi, research associate, and two experts in high precision CNC milling fabrication, Jonathan Gates and Vincent Da Costa.

Travelling wave tubes are the first wide band amplifier ever built. Their working mechanism is based on the transfer of energy from a high energy electron beam trading in high vacuum to the radiofrequency signal. This mechanism permits the generation of more than one order of magnitude power at sub-THz frequency than a solid-state amplifier.

This is the first round of investment from the agency’s Enabling Technologies Programme, part of the National Space Innovation Programme dedicated to supporting UK companies breaking ground in technologies to enhance spaceflight capabilities.