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Antenna reflectors are key products for telecommunication payloads. The manufacturing time and complexity of reflectors are known to be driven by the need of a temperature-stable or temperature-compensated mould. The conventional approach for reflector manufacturing is to cure the composite sandwich in an autoclave in order to meet the stringent surface accuracy requirements dictated by the frequency of operation. Out-of-auto clave composite manufacturing is an industry standard in the aviation, automotive, marine and leisure sectors. Spin-in of this technology for space applicationis on-going for fuel tanks, launcher fairings and structural elements, leading to a significant reduction of the manufacturing time. This manufacturing method is also a viable candidate for reflectors and a potential time and complexity saving of 40% is expected.
In this activity, a method for manufacturing antenna reflectors without using an autoclave will be developed and validated. The suitability of this technology for manufacturing shaped reflectors shall also be addressed. The reflector materials and the curing methods shall be traded off with respect to criteria such as the obtainable surface accuracy and the complexity of manufacturing technologies. Critical breadboarding shall cover material selectionand validation with respect to ultra-violet exposure, curing condition (infrared) and accuracy/stability. The selected materials and manufacturingtechnologies shall be used in the manufacturing of a Ka-band reflector breadboard.
The breadboard shall be subjected to a testcampaign that shallinclude, as a minimum, surface profile measurement, thermal cycling and thermo-elastic distortion measurement. The potential to reduce the reflectormanufacturing time shall be assessed on the basis of the results and lessons learnt.