Upgraded Planar Near-Field Test Range
For Large Space Flight Reflector Antennas Testing from L to Ku-Band

Laurent Roux, Frédéric Viguier, Christian Feat
ALCATEL SPACE, Space Antenna Products Line
26 avenue J.-F. Champollion, BP 1187, 31037 Toulouse Cedex 1, France

Daniël Janse van Rensburg
Nearfield Systems Inc
19730 Magellan Drive, Torrance, CA 90502-1104, USA

Abstract

The existing planar near-field antenna test range at Alcatel Space (ASP) in Toulouse has recently been enlarged and the frequency bandwidth increased to 18.5 GHz to allow for the testing of large fully integrated space flight antennas.

This upgraded test range, including a specific reconfigurable reflector antenna support tool, will be described. The range assessment method, carried out with a Ku-band single reflector antenna, will be outlined: error budgets obtained with the NIST 18-term method as well as absolute gain measurement and inter-comparisons with compact antenna test range (CATR) measurements will be presented.

Typical applications for L-Band and C-Band antennas will be presented with error budgets. Comparisons with simulated data will further demonstrate the range performance.

Keywords: Antenna, measurements, near-field, Multi-spot Antenna tuning, Measurement accuracy.

1. Introduction

The upgrade performed on the large (6.7 m x 6.7m) horizontal planar near-field antenna test range at Alcatel Space (originally procured for the Globalstar Project) was aimed at testing of large fully integrated space flight antennas. In this paper we presented an overview of the work performed and describe facility performance.

Range assessment error budgets are presented and the operational methodology to generate them for every antenna being tested to qualify measurement data, is described. The results presented demonstrate the range performance in comparison to an independent compact antenna test range facility.

Three typical application examples presented include:

The results presented also demonstrate the range performance by comparison to simulated data.

 

2. Upgrade Description: Development and Validation

2.1 Development

The existing antenna range has been enlarged and the frequency bandwidth increased to 18.5 GHz to allow the testing of large fully integrated space flight antennas.

The upgrade included the introduction of new dual-linear near-field probes, supplied by SATIMO (France) [1] and calibrated at The Technical University of Denmark (TUD), a new scanner support structure, in order to have a 7 m height below the near-field probe aperture scan plane, a new AUT-positioner supplied by ACC Ingénierie & Maintenance (ACC, France), an upgraded RF system and new software for acquisition and processing supplied by Nearfield Systems Inc (NSI) [2, 3]. NSI was responsible for the overall design and system performance. The AUT-positioner is computer controlled during measurement sequences and allows for fully automated multi-z measurements.

The upgraded test range also includes a unique reconfigurable reflector antenna support structure, supplied by SERMATI (France). This support structure enhances the versatility of the system for antennas of different dimensions. It consists of 3 independently movable z-axes. In the case of a single offset reflector antenna, the z-axis #1 supports the feed, the z-axis #2 supports the reflector and the z-axis #3 can translate both feed and reflector axes together in order to locate the antenna at the dedicated distance from the near-field probe aperture plane. This support structure is thus able to adapt for any dimensions of a reflector antenna (see Figure 3-1 and Figure 4-1). These axes are moved during the antenna set-up and alignment sequences.

An alignment tool is located on the AUT support structure, in order to support the feed. This hexapod was supplied by DELTALAB (France) (see Figure 2-1) and is computer-controlled and allows for 3 rotations and 3 translations in order to accurately locate the feed in front of the reflector during the antenna alignment phase.

Figure 2-1: Hexapod

2.2 Validation
2.2.1 Range Assessment

The antenna used for these tests was a single reflector antenna. The main polarization is slant (6.995° ) linear.

The objectives of these tests was to evaluate the total measurement system, estimate the magnitude of the individual error sources and estimate the combined uncertainty for gain, -33dB cross-polarization level and beam pointing angle. All error budgets were compiled following the NIST 18-term [4] method and were conducted at 11.2 GHz and 14 GHz. Table 2-1 summarizes the Range assessment results at 11.2 GHz.

Boresight pointing uncertainty

0.023 deg

Gain uncertainty

0.20 dB

-33 dB cross-pol. Level uncertainty

0.90 dB

Table 2-1: RSS Error budgets at 11.2 GHz

In order to confirm these uncertainties, absolute gain measurement and inter-comparisons with CATR measurements were performed.

  • Gain measurement of a Standard Gain Horn (SGH)
  • In this test we performed the gain calibration of the RF system with a SGH #1. We then measured the gain of a calibrated SGH #2 and compared these values with independent calibrated values. The data are presented in Table 2-2.

    Table 2-2: Gain measurement of a SGH

    From this table it can be seen that the differences between the measured and independent calibrated gain values are within –0.07/+0.05 dB, which is within the range gain uncertainty. This gain measurement confirms the gain accuracy obtained earlier with the NIST 18-term method.

    2.2.3 Inter-Comparison With CATR Measurements

    The Investigation Antenna used for the Near-Field Antenna Test Range (NFATR) assessment was previously measured at Alcatel Space CATR located in Cannes. A comparison between measured patterns from the CATR and NFATR is presented in Figure 2-2 at 11.2 GHz, vertical polarization.

    Figure 2-2: NFATR - CATR patterns superposition at 11.2 GHz, vertical polarization

    One can observe a very good comparison, particularly for low levels. For higher levels, the flatness of the beam peak accentuates slight discrepancies.

    Based on these results, the upgraded NFATR was declared operational and the test campaigns described below were conducted.

    3. L-Band MTSAT1R SPOT Antenna Final Tuning

    3.1 Introduction

    This antenna is a single offset deployable and steerable Reflector Antenna for multi-spot coverage (see Figure 3-1). Its main characteristics are:

    Figure 3-1: L-Band MTSAT-1R SPOT Antenna within the NFATR

    Due to the complexity of the Feed (i.e. the dimensions (chamfer, diameter) and the orientation of each patch and the interdependence between each patch and its environment (other patches, mockup satellite wall…)), the goal of this test campaign was to validate the antenna performance (VSWR, minimum gain and minimum cross-polarization discrimination (XPD)) by optimizing the feed for the 6 spots and 3 different orbital positions (the relative feed location in front of the reflector is achieved by using the hexapod).

    This requires the testing of many potential configurations, which requires the use of a test range with:

    Since the NFATR described here fits this bill, it was the facility of choice for this activity.

        3.2 Final Tuning Test Description

    As part of this test a total of 44 measurements were performed: 23 feed configurations were tested (for some of them for 3 orbital positions) in order to better assess the feed sensitivity and the impact on antenna performance before deciding on the best solution. For each test configuration, patches were inverted from one cavity to another one or changed in order to investigate the impact of the dimensional changes and slightly rotated around the feed z-axis.

    2 Hours were necessary to perform the acquisition, process and analyze the data for one feed configuration with the following measurement parameters:

    3.3 Measurement Accuracy

    The measurement accuracy determination is performed with the NIST 18-term method and is summarized in the following 3 tables for 1.552 GHz:

    Boresight pointing uncertainty

    0.023 deg

    Table 3-1: Boresight pointing uncertainty

    Co-pol level

    (dB/Max Co-pol)

    Repeatability uncertainty (term 18)

    Total uncertainty (dB)

    0

    0.01

    0.19

    -10

    0.02

    0.22

    -20

    0.06

    0.34

    -30

    0.19

    0.94

    Table 3-2: Co-polar levels, random and total uncertainty

     

    Cross-pol level

    (dB/Max Co-pol)

    Repeatability uncertainty (term 18)

    Total uncertainty (dB)

    -20

    0.04

    0.29

    -25

    0.08

    0.47

    -30

    0.15

    0.98

    Table 3-3: Cross-polar levels, random and total uncertainty

    One can observe that repeatability error between consecutive measurements with the same feed configuration is good.

    3.4 Final Tuning Test Results

    No improvement or deterioration on gain performance was obtained during the final tuning campaign. The preliminary feed tests were sufficient to provide compliant gain performance.

    The required maximum XPD is -20 dB. In Figure 3-2, we present the XPD performance for the initial (left) and final (right) feed configurations, for the same spot and same orbital position. These drawings are 2-D representations that describe the XPD iso-levels versus azimuth and elevation angles. The service area is described by the red polygon. One can observe the non-compliant performance for the initial configuration: XPD levels lower than -20 dB are achieved (up to -18 dB) on a small part of the service area. For the final feed configuration, XPD levels are higher than -20 dB on the whole service area.

     

    Figure 3-2: XPD performance for
    initial (left) and final (right) feed configurations

    After 44 different feed configurations, the antenna performance (VSWR, minimum gain and XPD) were fully compliant:

      4. Antenna Development Assessment (C-Band)

    The Gregorian ASAS Antenna consisted of:

    The measurements were performed with the antenna z-axis vertical, as shown in Figure 4-1. This condition is extremely important due to the sensitivity of the ULR active surface to the gravity vector.

    Figure 4-1: ASAS Antenna within the NFATR

    4.1 Measurement Accuracy

    The measurement accuracy was again performed using the NIST 18-term method and is summarized in the following 2 tables for 3.7 GHz:

    Boresight pointing uncertainty

    0.020 deg

    Table 4-1: Boresight pointing uncertainty

    Co-pol level
    (dB/Max Co-pol)

    Total uncertainty (dB)

    0

    0.22

    -10

    0.29

    -20

    0.60

    -30

    1.44


    Table 4-2: Co-polar levels uncertainty

    4.2 Comparison of Simulation and Tests Results
    4.2.1 Co-polar Contour Plots

    The superposition of the co-polarized iso-levels is shown in Figure 4-2 for 3.7 GHz and in Figure 4-3 for 5.925 GHz. A very good correlation between predicted (dashed lines) and measured data (solid lines can be observed) for boresight pointing as well as iso-levels contour plots.

    Figure -2: Co-polar contour plots at 3.7 GHz

    Figure -3: Co-polar contour plots at 5.925 GHz

    4.2.2 Maximum Gain

    The measured gain was obtained by the comparison gain method. The simulated gain values were derived from simulated directivity values and subtraction of the estimated losses in the feed horn and reflectors

    The comparisons are presented for both bands in Tables 4-3 and 4-4. The comparisons between simulated and measured gain are within –0.04/+0.24 dB, which are within the combined uncertainty budgets.

    Table 4-3: Maximum Gain in Tx band

    Table 4-4: Maximum Gain in Rx band

    The ASAS Antenna test results show a good correlation with predictions for gain and co-polarization patterns, confirming that the reflector manufacturing errors and its behavior under gravity conditions were correctly predicted.

    5. C-Band Flight Model Validation

    The measurement goal is to validate the flight model antenna performance. This antenna is a single offset reflector antenna.

    5.1 Measurement Accuracy

    The measurement accuracy determination is again performed using the NIST 18-term method and is summarized in the following 3 tables for 3.7 GHz:

    Boresight pointing uncertainty

    0.021 deg

    Table 5-1: Boresight pointing uncertainty

    Co-pol level
    (dB/Max Co-pol)

    Total uncertainty (dB)

    0

    0.23

    -10

    0.44

    -20

    0.64

    -30

    1.68

    -35

    1.96

    Table 5-2: Co-polar level uncertainty

    Cross-pol level
    (dB/Max Co-pol)

    Total uncertainty (dB)

    -20

    0.39

    -25

    0.60

    -30

    1.01

    -35

    1.72

    Table 5-3: Cross-polar level uncertainty

    5.2 Comparison of Simulation and Tests Results

    In the superposition contour plots to follow, measurements are presented with blue lines and predicted data with red lines. These figures present the comparison between predictions and measurements for:

    for 3.7 GHz, horizontal polarization. One can observe very good correlation in all plots.

    Figure 5-1: Co-polar data at 3.7 GHz (H-pol.)

    Figure 5-2: XPD data at 3.7 GHz (H-pol.)

    Figure 5-3: Isolation data at 3.7 GHz (H-pol.)

    The comparison between predicted and measured gain values are presented in the following table:

    Table 5-4: Tx band gain

    The differences between predicted and measured gain values are within –0.09/+0.02 dB, which is once again within the measurement uncertainty.

    The good correlation demonstrated between predicted and measured data successfully validated the antenna design, manufacturing and measurement process.

      6. Conclusion

      The existing planar near-field antenna test range at Alcatel Space (ASP) in Toulouse has been enlarged and the frequency bandwidth increased to 18.5 GHz to allow for the testing of large fully integrated space flight antennas. We have presented an overview of the facility performance and also a unique reconfigurable AUT support structure and alignment tool forming part of this test facility.

      Range assessment error budgets were presented to demonstrate the range performance and this type of error budget methodology was adopted not only as a one-time assessment tool, but also as a standard operating principle to qualify measurement data. Three typical application examples were presented to demonstrate the range performance in comparison to simulation data. In all three cases it was shown that agreement between data sets were consistent with the derived uncertainty budgets.

      7. References

      [1] Foged, L.J., L. Duchesne, L. Roux, Ph. Garreau, "Wide-band dual polarized probes for High Precision Nearf-Field Measurements", AMTA Proceedings 2002, Cleveland, OH, Nov 2002.

      [2] NSI 2000 Software Users Manual, Nearfield Systems Inc, Torrance, CA, USA, 2002.

      [3] Alcatel 6.7m x 6.7m Horizontal Scanner Upgrade, Hardware System Manual, Doc# HSM-ASPI-22x22, Nearfield Systems Inc, Torrance, CA, USA, April 2002.

      [4] A C Newell, "Error analysis techniques for planar near-field measurements", IEEE Trans. Antennas & Propagat., Vol. 36, No. 6, June 1988, pp. 754-768.