Hybrid Inflatable Antenna
hybrid inflatable dish antenna combines a fixed parabolic antenna and feed with an inflatable annulus to greatly increase the dish surface area on orbit. This provides a simple, more reliable, and low cost method for large dish deployment. The fixed portion of the dish also provides modest high gain capability in the event of a deployment failure. Applications for this invention are in the fields of Spacecraft Communication, Radar Systems, Ground-based Mobile Communication, Aircraft/Balloon Communication and Radar Systems.
This patented technology provides a greatly increase dish surface area once a satellite is in orbit. The inflatable antenna system combines a fixed aperture with an inflatable aperture that greatly increases the reflector size of the antenna system. The fixed portion provides a "risk buffer" in that a moderate gain capability is retained in the event of an inflation failure. In a parabolic dish embodiment, an inflatable annulus is stowed compactly under a fixed dish to fit a variety of spacecraft and launch vehicle envelopes. Moderate gas pressure deploys the inflatable portion, which forms a larger reflector surface. After inflation, the materials that form the inflated reflector surface can be made rigid. A fixed feed system for the smaller fixed dish assures operation of the smaller fixed dish throughout the mission. Moreover, the smaller fixed antenna can receive signals that can be used to derive pointing information used to point the larger inflated antenna in a particular direction thus providing a dual-use capability. An optional sub-reflector feed system can be used to correct for surface shape deformations of the inflatable antenna. Several advantages are possible compared to existing large antenna deployment designs. Very few mechanisms and moving parts are necessary for the inflation deployment. Greater reliability can be achieved over motor driven deployments. If a deployment problem does occur, moderate high-gain antenna capability exists from the fixed portion of the dish. There is also a potential significant cost advantage with inflatable technology.
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