Flann Microwave led Trio of Cornish Companies to Develop W-Band Components for SATCOM

Three companies based out of Cornwall, England, have secured £148,000 in funding to develop a technology that enables faster and more accurate communication with satellites. The Cornish companies, Flann MicrowaveTeddington Systems and Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd will be working together to create miniaturized components for the next generation of tiny communications satellites, known as nanosatellites and CubeSats. Bristol-based Thales Alenia Space will support the project with advice on end-user acceptance aspects and environmental aspects.

The project is expected to create 14 new jobs in Cornwall and enable them to develop space sector manufacturing, servicing and launch capabilities. Awarded by the West of England Aerospace Forum (WEAF), the R&D grant is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by AeroSpace Cornwall.

The increasing demand from individuals and business for more high-speed data services is driving a revolution in satellite technology. Traditional large satellites weighing several tonnes and orbiting 22,236 miles above the equator are set to make way for nanosatellites and CubeSats deployed in constellations just 300 miles above the Earth's surface. Maximizing the data capacity and bandwidth, offered by these systems requires much higher frequency microwave switches to transmit data to ground antennas. These ‘W-band' switches don't currently exist – and this is where the new partnership comes into play.

With its precision manufacturing skills and experience in space flight hardware, including for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Flann Microwave is well placed to lead the project. Completing the partnership, Goonhilly will offer advice around control specifications, while Teddington will design and manufacture the electrical components, and Thales Alenia Space will provide end-user and environmental consultancy.

According to Flann Microwave, nanosatellites and CubeSats as small as 10cm cubed and weighing as little as 1.4kg are small enough to be launched as additional payloads on a large mission, in clusters of up to 100 at a time on a single rocket or by the new class of vertical and horizontal space launch systems being developed in Scotland and Cornwall. This approach makes them very cost effective. They have already launched more than 350 of these satellites so far this year.

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