Opterus addresses the small spacecraft reflector challenge with its patent pending Spiral Wrapped Antenna Technology (SWATH). SWATH is a fully continuous, solid surface deployable parabolic reflector architecture. The continuous solid surface enables higher frequency operation than mesh systems at lower costs. SWATH leverages Opterus’ high strain composite (HSC) material technologies as the primary structural element, this material innovation provides material stiffness within the reflector shell while accommodating high bending strains to stow extremely compactly, readily conforming to CubeSat and SmallSat form factors. Further, SWATH leverages a mold-based manufacturing process for low-cost, rapid manufacturability.
NASA has outlined a need for deployable high frequency antenna apertures for V-band (65GHz - 70GHz) for space-based air pressure sensing on earth. Such technologies would address gaps in weather forecasting abilities as a result of inabilities to accurately measure atmospheric pressure from long ranges, such as over oceans. A proliferated constellation of CubeSats or SmallSats performing sensing operations in the oxygen band would improve weather forecasting capabilities by increasing understanding of current conditions over a larger area to inform predictive models.
The most cost-effective solution for a proliferated space-based sensing constellation requires small or cube satellites. Currently there are no high frequency deployable antenna solutions with spaceflight heritage. Typical high frequency antenna reflectors are rigid structures that do not conform to SmallSat or CubeSat form factors. Current state of the art deployable antennas for small spacecraft are typically mesh-based deployable antennas, these systems are limited in operating frequency to approximately 50 GHz due to mesh leakage and mesh shaping constraints. Mesh antennas also demand extensive touch labor and part counts which causes high costs and long lead times compared to SWATH.
SWATH enables earth science missions and improves weather forecasting capabilities through enabling space-based remote sensing such as Oxygen Band Radar systems, Differential Absorption Radars. NASA applications extend beyond the subject space-based sensing applications. SWATH benefits the NASA Artemis program by enabling power distribution, communication, and ISRU infrastructures. All lunar surface and deep space operations will require large aperture high gain antennas to conduct direct to earth or spacecraft network communications.
The DoD and NGA have a stated goal of increasing resiliency to support current mission sets by leveraging constellations of small satellites and acquiring needed data from commercial providers of satellite observations. SWATH enables small satellites and entities using small satellite platforms to meet mission requirements for communications, weather forecasting, and remote sensing.