Affiliations: Center for Wireless Telecommunications, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061‐0111, USA Tel.: +1 540 231 5096; Fax: +1 540 231 3004; E‐mail: [email protected] | The MITRE Corporation, 202 Burlington Road, Bedford, MA 01730, USA Tel.: +1 781 271 6249; Fax: +1 781 271 6995; E‐mail: [email protected] | Consultant, Telecommunications and Satellite Technology, 72 Sherbrook Drive, Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922, USA Tel.: +1 908 464 6769; E‐mail: [email protected]; URL: worldnet.att.net | Consultant, 5137 Klingle St NW, Washington, DC 20016, USA Tel.: +1 202 362 0735; Fax: +1 202 237 0887; E‐mail: [email protected] | Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mail Stop 238‐540, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109‐8099, USA Tel.: +1 818 354 7525; Fax: +1 818 393 6686; E‐mail: [email protected]
Abstract: This paper is based on material extracted from the WTEC Panel Report Global Satellite Communications Technology and Systems, December 1998. It presents an overview of key technology trends in communications satellites in the last few years. After the introduction which deals with such issues as the transformation of the one‐at‐a‐time approach for building satellites to a production‐oriented one, there follows a discussion of critical technologies for large geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites with power systems growing to 20 kW and more. Satellite antenna technology, one of the most critical areas in measuring progress, is next reviewed, including large reflector antennas, phased arrays and optical beam formers. This is followed by a discussion of onboard processing (analog and digital), progress in satellite traveling wave tubes, solid state power amplifiers and optical satellite technologies including intersatellite links (ISLs). Last some pertinent satellite bus issues (electric propulsion, thermal control and attitude control) are reviewed. Small and mini‐satellites are discussed, but not treated in great detail as much of their technology is derived from that of GEO satellites.