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Development of fast and accurate horn design software

The availability at TICRA of a very accurate program to analyze corrugated, multi-mode horns and the substantial expertise in advanced optimization algorithms paved the way for winning a contract with ESA to develop a program for telecommunication and tracking multi-mode horn design optimization. TICRA had the pleasure of engaging Thales Alenia Space, France, as sub-contractor, thereby benefitting from their enormous expertise in practical hardware developments for space applications.

With the new broadband telecommunications services, the satellites will generate very narrow, multiple spot beams, with stringent requirements imposed on the pointing accuracy. This is typically obtained using a reflector antenna where the feed horns in addition to the primary telecommunications signal also have so-called tracking capabilities. The developed software tool enables the design of these high-efficient multi-mode feed horns, simultaneously optimizing telecommunication and tracking performances.

Optimized profile of the corrugated horn shown in photo above

The innovations have focused on the combination of fast and accurate feed horn analysis with a very powerful optimization framework where the feed geometry can be optimized in an hierarchical way, starting from a high-level model using very few parameters, and ranging to a fine-grained model with a large number of degrees of freedom. In order to validate the software tool, a feed horn was first designed using the new software tool, then manufactured, and finally high-accuracy RF-measurements were performed.

 

The blue curve shows efficiency of a well-designed horn; the red curve is after CHAMP optimization

The developments were instrumental in bringing the commercial code CHAMP to the level of probably one of the fastest and most accurate horn design programs available on the market.