FILIPIX explores the future of satellites

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Wireless communication, television, Internet and many more. The communication satellite market is in excellent shape, boosted by the emergence of new services and the need to repeat the existing satellite fleet. But a satellite's lifetime, which is generally 15 to 20 years, has trouble keeping up with the increasingly quick fluctuations in market requirements. This is why telecom carriers and service providers have the urgent need for more flexibility.

"Today, telecom carriers want to be able to reconfigure a satellite's payload by remote", explains Hervé Leblond, who is in charge of the Filipix (*) project for Thales Alenia Space. "For example, they want to be able to reallocate frequencies, adjust power levels or change the coverage area for a satellite in flight".

Stereolithography

Miniaturization and flexibility for the filtering function are the main goals of the Filipix projet

The Filipix project concentrates on one function which is vital to all radio telecommunications equipment: signal filtering, which allows frequency band selection and interference elimination. "We are working in two areas", continues Hervé Leblond, "miniaturization and flexibility for the filtering function. We have selected different innovative technologies which are possible responses to the issues we have and we are analyzing each of them, notably by producing demonstrators".

"Some of these technologies are shaping up to be very promising. This is the case for stereolithography in particular. It enables us to create three dimensional ceramic structures in any form. This technique has been around for several years as it was developed for other industrial requirements. We use it now to optimize the filtering function's performances by varying forms".

"Some of the solutions we have studied will be operational in the short term, even if there is still much to be done when it comes to industrialization. Others won't be mature for another 10 or 15 years. Our objective is to provide a prospective vision to system engineers who are designing the payloads for future telecommunications satellites".

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(*) The Filipix project is funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR)

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