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One of the Mylar test antennas

Inflatable Satellite Antenna

CubeSats are certainly in the process of revolutionizing the satellite industry. With that smaller overall size, however, comes smaller onboard antennas. These severely limit CubeSats’ communications range, restricting them to fairly low orbits. That may be about to change, though, as MIT is developing larger, inflatable antennas.

Inflatable satellite antennas have been developed and tested before, although they were designed for regular-sized satellites, and utilized compressed air systems. Given the limited payload capacity of a CubeSat, cramming in heavy, bulky metal tanks and pressure valves just wouldn’t work. There’s also a risk that the compressed air tanks could explode in transit.

Instead, the MIT team turned to benzoic acid. It’s a sublimating powder, which means that it expands into gas form when exposed to low pressure – and in outer space, the pressure is pretty darn low.“With this antenna you could transmit from the moon, and even farther than that,” says Alessandra Babuscia, who led the research. “This antenna is one of the cheapest and most economical solutions to the problem of communications.”

Source: gizmag.comAdded: 8 October 2013