Mechanical Engineering Department
BS in Mechanical Engineering
CubeSats are an appealing platform for space exploration due to their low build and launch costs. Due to their small size, communication rates are often severely limited, preventing missions beyond low earth orbit. A low cost, high gain, high frequency antenna is needed to extend the capabilities of CubeSats.
The goal of the project was to design and build an axisymmetric parabolic antenna that could be deployed from a 10cm x 10cm x 15cm (1.5U) volume and operate at Ka band frequencies. The design selected consisted of an expanding perimeter truss supporting a tensioned mesh reflector. The perimeter truss was a nine sided polygon, or nonagon, with spring loaded scissor expanding sides.
The original scope of the project spanned the entirety of a functioning antenna. This included a feed horn, mast, reflector, full stowage and deployment hardware. Through the length of the project it became clear that it was too large an undertaking for such a short length of time, and the project was focused on the deployable perimeter truss.
The finished design met size and weight requirements and deployed successfully. Significant work is still left to produce a functioning reflector, and verify performance across all environmental conditions. Overall however, the drum tensioned reflector is a promising design for high gain CubeSat antennas and should be developed further.