Robust multi-material direct print additive-manufacturing and custom nanocomposite materials will be demonstrated for the fabrication of conformal and structurally-integrated wireless RF sensors, antennas, feeds, and transmission lines made directly into functional structural elements. The multi-functional devices will be shown to enable new avionic architectures and capabilities that expand mission performance while decreasing the size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) and cost of the resulting spacecraft. After developing mission-oriented performance specifications and operational requirements, design trade studies will be conducted using existing design and optimization tools. Structurally integrated sensors and antennas will be shown to have performance at or above that of conventional antennas. Proof of concept additive manufactured multi-functional devices will be fabricated and characterized.
Mass and volume reduction are the main drivers for wireless avionics due to the weight of traditional wired infrastructure. Cables are at least 10% of most aircraft's mass. Wireless sensors can be deployed where wires are impossible; external mounted sensors can be used for mobile applications such as bio-monitors for astronauts or live specimens; equipment monitoring, added avionic redundancy, easy integration of smart sensors, and non-invasive monitoring of spacecraft payloads and systems while waiting for launch.
Applications include wireless communications in telecommunications, defense, and healthcare. There is growth in antennas for base station transmission, smartphones, and satellites due to new wireless standards such as 5G cellular. Other key industries include consumer electronics, autonomous automobile navigation, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.