European Space Agency

A Competitive Horn Antenna Family


The objectives of the study were to decrease the NRE cost for new or modified products in our horn antenna family. This was done by introducing a new process for the design work.

To define this process, we needed to:

  • Define a modular concept for the antenna family,

  • Define standardised interfaces between the modules,

  • Define a scaling method going from rf to mechanical design to manufacturing,

  • Define a standardised and flexible (pointing) concept for the interface to the S/C,

  • Establish cost-effective production methods for the modules,

  • Make generic designs for each module,

  • Evaluate the process.
The first part of this study was concentrated on defining a modular/scaling concept for the antenna family, standardising the interfaces between the modules and establishing cost-effective production methods.

A few conceptual designs, covering different modules and frequency bands were selected.

In the second part the detailed electrical and mechanical/thermal design was performed in a generic way in a 3D CAD system, so that documentation work for new versions is minimised. The process was evaluated on a suitable breadboard antenna design.


The key issues addressed in the project were:

  • Definition of a modularization concept,

  • Define scaling and data transformation guidelines,

  • Designing the different components needed to form a complete horn antenna family,

  • Prove the concept by breadboarding,

  • Evaluate the efficiency of the process to design and produce horn antennas.


One distinct marketing strategy is to further strengthen our positions at Alcatel and BSS regarding horn antennas for commercial, military and institutional satellites.

Also, as a second priority, we plan for approaching one or two additional Prime/s to become a strategic supplier within the niche of wide coverage antennas and especially horn antennas.

With our existing product line and the existing partnership relation we have with Alcatel and BSS we see good opportunities to maintain and expand this niche and the business relation.

One very important condition, to be able to keep the position as a preferred supplier, is to perform the necessary process development ahead, in due time, to be able to respond efficiently to customer needs.

The existing designs of horns, together with the proposed efforts, will lead to very flexible and efficient designs, yet with relevant heritage. This would give us very competitive products from performance and pricing perspectives that can attract our different customers and maintain us as a reliable supplier with proven technology products.

The calculations made by SE and our market knowledge show that our RE costs would be competitive in those projects, but that the NRE cost must be decreased.

This proposed ARTES project will significantly improve the possibilities to carry out the NRE activities in a cost-effective way and to win future programmes.


To form a complete and flexible horn antenna family a modularization concept has been established. The modularization concept is based on the idea that a number of modules form a complete horn antenna. The different modules shall have standardized internal interfaces, both mechanical and RF.

The horn antenna family includes different frequency bands, this means that the designs will have to be scalable from X-band up to Ka-band.

When all modules are designed, a suitable antenna for different applications can easily be found by combining different modules.

The following modules are intended to create a complete family:

  • Horn

    • Global (earth coverage)

    • Semi global (high gain)

    • Fill in (medium gain, earth coverage)

  • Feeding components

    • OMT

    • Septum polarizer

    • Coax to waveguide transition

  • Miscellaneous

    • Interface structure (feet)

    • Thermal equipment (SLI)

    • Alignment equipment (mirror)

    • EGSE (test cap)
The interfaces between the different components and towards the spacecraft have been defined and tabulated as a guideline for the design engineer. Parameters like hole patterns, screw dimensions and flange sizes have been defined.

The restrictions put on the design from a manufacturing point of view have been defined.


The tasks performed were:

  • Establish a realm of requirements, covering the known needs for TTC horn antennas,

  • Make conceptual designs to cover the requirements from the task above,

  • Define a modularization concept for the family,

  • Define a cost-effective approach to introduce scaling from rf scaling to mechanical scaling to manufacturing documents,

  • Define the production methods for the different concepts,

  • Make a selection of concepts,

  • Detailed electrical/mechanical/thermal design of the selected concepts,

  • Evaluate the electrical/mechanical performance of the concepts,

  • Evaluation of thermal and structural compliance to the requirements,

  • Document the designs in a generic way in a 3D CAD system according to the process definition above,

  • Select a suitable design to perform breadboarding upon,

  • Manufacture the breadboard antenna,

  • Verify the breadboard antenna,

  • Evaluate the efficiency of the process to design and produce horn antennas,

  • Make any necessary update of the process,

  • Report the work.

Current status

The project is finalized.

Requirements covering the known needs for TTC horn antennas have been established.

Conceptual designs covering these requirements have been made. These conceptual designs have been used to create a modularization concept and the different modules defined forms a complete horn antenna family. The modularization concept is described in a document with the purpose of being a rulebook for design engineers.

Guidelines for cost effective scaling have been defined. These guidelines are also introduced in the above mentioned rulebook.

Production methods and their restrictions on the design work have been defined and are also described in the rulebook.

An elegant breadboard (EBB) toolbox including one circular corrugated horn, two potter horns, one OMT, one septum polarizer, mounting brackets, sunshield, mirror cube and a testcap have been designed, manufactured and tested. The EBB toolbox is used to prove compliance to the requirements and also to evaluate the modularization and scaling concept.

The design process evaluation is showing that the modularization concept, the data transformation and the scaling is saving a lot of man hours.

The main reasons for the reduction in used man hours when using the new design and scaling process are:

  • Needed modules defined,

  • Defined interfaces between modules,

  • Data transformation from Rf to mechanical CAD,

  • Scalable modules designed,

  • Scaling rules defined,

  • Broadband modules designed.

Status date

Thursday, December 3, 2009 - 10:17