Space business is booming. Recently, a startup founded in 2013, Oxford Space Systems, announced that they are developing a giant, expandable antenna and innovative structures that meet the challenges of the new space age.
Oxford Space Systems rely on ‘agile development and validation’ approach, and ‘fast and lean’ strategy combined with unique proprietary materials to provide solutions at faster pace and lower cost. The company distinguishes themselves from others by decreasing mass, complexity and lead times.
Although most of their projects are developed under confidentiality agreements, we have picked some of their major developments in public domains.
1. Unfurlable Reflector Antennas
Oxford Space Systems (OSS) is currently working on Unfurlable mesh reflector antennas to meet current demand of increased bandwidth through Ka band. It’s a lightweight, compact and high-capacity satellite that can create small spot beams to maximize frequency reuse.
It features novel reflector surface, triple redundant actuation, less complex and high-scalable architecture (2 to 15 meters). It has a carbon fiber reinforced silicone reflecting surface composed of two materials – room temperature cure silicone elastomer S690 and triaxially woven carbon fiber fabric. And yes, it will be free of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
It offers unmatched performance for broadcast systems and satellite communications that need high antenna gain for user missions. These low-cost antennas have a broad range of applications, including Earth observation, data relay systems (DRS) and telecoms.
OSS is working on this project in collaboration with 2 major organizations under UK funding from the National Aerospace Technology Programme.
2. AstroTube Boom
AstroTube is less expensive and highly flexible boom developed to support different cubesat and microsat applications. It is fully retractable and can be scaled from 0.3 to 3 meters. It has a deployment accuracy of 1 millimeter and stowage efficiency of less than 0.5U.
Booms can be used in antenna systems, payload deployment and retraction, solar sails, de-orbit objects, and more.
Although the involvement of OSS in the European Space Agency’s NEOSAT progamme has ended, work accomplished under this project helped underpin the AISat-Nano boom development. In November 2016, AstroTube validated on orbit (AISat-Nano 3U cubesat program).
3. AstroTube Max Telescopic Boom
OSS has developed a telescopic boom, which is scalable up to 15 meters for medium to high mass payload deployments. The AstroTube Max has already completed qualification testing of a 2.5 meter long boom under the Harwell Launchpad initiative.
The boom element has highly configurable bending, low density and torsional stiffness characteristics. The overall weight of the boom combined with mechanism arrangement is nearly 300 grams. The retractable boom can be extended up to 2 meters from less than half of 1U of stowage volume.
Because of its low mass, high stowage efficiency and versatility, AstroTube Max can be used for electric propulsion placement, LDA and high mass deployment, and much more.
OSS is currently working with Thales Alenia Space (United Kingdom) and Airbus Defence & Space to further improve its boom designs.
4. Astrohinge Scalable Panel Array
OSS is also working on a synchronized, scalable panel array. Currently a steerable version is under development for Low Earth Orbits microsat applications.
The aim is to build conventional and motorized spring deployment systems, which is less complex, mass efficient and cost competitive. It could be used as patch antenna arrays, thermal radiators, SAR, solar arrays, and more.