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Phased Arrays - Beyond Radio Astronomy (1)

Submitter: Michael Garrett
Description: Phased array antenna technology has the enormous potential to transform radio astronomy - telescopes like LOFAR and the MWA are demonstrating this already. In addition, demonstrators such as EMBRACE are beginning to give us a glimpse of the enormous impact this technology can also have at higher (GHz) frequencies.

While some traditional radio astronomers still consider aperture array technology experimental and difficult to embrace, the number of other disciplines that have adopted this kind of advanced approach continues to grow, and in many respects radio astronomy is lagging behind the curve. Indeed phased arrays are now implemented as key features of a diverse range of civilian, space and military applications that have in some cases been operational for many years.

In a series of Daily Images, we plan to present some of the applications Phased Array technology now has in many different walks of life, in addition to astronomy.

In the image above, you will see NASA's Messenger Spacecraft - as I'm sure many of you are aware, Messenger has been orbiting the planet Mercury since March 2011. What you might not know is that the main active high gain communication system, comprises a phased array system operating at 8.4 GHz. This is the first use of phased array technology in a deep space mission and it provides many advantages over conventional gimbaled dish systems - particularly in terms of reliability in the harsh solar environment, flexibility, and weight. In the artist's impression presented above, the Messenger spacecraft is depicted with Mercury in the background. The phased array antenna, scanning +/- 45 degress can be seen attached to the back of the sun shield. Another system, providing more sky coverage is placed on the opposite side. For more information on the system, please consult: "Phased-array antenna system for the MESSENGER deep space mission" (Wallis et al.) and "A Decade of Advancements in Spacecraft Communications Technology at APL" (R.S. Bokulic)
Copyright: ASTRON
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