X-Band Transponders for Nanosatellite

AeroAstro, a small satellite technology company, has been awarded a contract of $1.6 million to build miniaturised X-band transponders for NASA’s Space Technology (ST5) Nanosatellite Constellation Trailblazer mission.

A part of the New Millennium Program, ST5 will fly three identical nanosatellites in formation in elliptical Earth orbit as a pathfinder for nanosatellite missions involving dozens or hundreds of spacecraft. The miniaturised transponders are one of a number of advanced technologies to be demonstrated on the mission.

Each new transponder, the size of an inkjet printer cartridge (2′ x 2′ x 3′), will be twelve times lighter and nine times smaller than previous communications systems, and require only one-fourth the voltage and half as much power. They will communicate directly with ground stations on Earth, and weighing less than 300 grams, their size and 750 kilobit-per-second capability is a key enabler of future miniature satellite missions.

AeroAstro designed this space communication system by leveraging commercial technology from cell phones, Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) and Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) television.

Dr. Rick Fleeter, President and CEO of AeroAstro, said, ‘Leveraging commercial technology with a very high level of integration affords reliability and capability that was previously achieved through customised, large, redundant systems. We are offering our X-band transponders as a commercial product with several customisation options, as yet another step on the road towards the next generation of miniature satellite applications.’

AeroAstro was named to the ST5 team one year ago after a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract laid the foundation for its miniature X-band transponder work. The three spacecraft of ST5 are due for launch in 2003.

Doug McLennan, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s ST5 Project Manager, said, ‘The ST5 mission is a pathfinder for future nano-sat constellation missions and the miniature transponder being developed by AeroAstro is a critical piece of that future.’

AeroAstro is now paving the way to a new age of space communications with flexible tools that enable users to benefit from unprecedented access to space systems. AeroAstro has designed, constructed, tested and supported the launch of several small satellites. It has created numerous design programs and manufactures low-cost communications systems for ground and inter-satellite applications. NASA, the Air Force, and commercial and university customers have all employed AeroAstro throughout its 12-year history.

AeroAstro are on the web at http://www.aeroastro.com