What are the Different Types of Antenna Mechanisms?

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Apr 5, 2023

Antenna-pointing mechanisms are used in various applications such as communication with Earth observation satellites, satellite tracking systems, military satellites, and commercial satellites. They are also used in deep space missions, where communication with the spacecraft is necessary. 

Gimbal Mechanism: The gimbal mechanism consists of two orthogonal rotational axes that allow the antenna to be pointed in any direction within a certain range of motion. The power consumption of a gimbal mechanism ranges from a few watts to a few dozen watts. The velocity of a gimbal mechanism can vary depending on the specific system, typically ranging from a few degrees per second to several tens of degrees per second. The step size of a gimbal mechanism is typically on the order of a few arcseconds to a few arcminutes.

Array Antenna: An array antenna is a collection of individual antennas, which are combined to produce a more efficient and powerful output. Each antenna in the array radiates energy in a particular direction, and the collective output of the array produces a more focused and directional beam. This makes array antennas ideal for applications where a high gain and directional radiation pattern are required. Array antennas are widely used in satellite communication systems, where they are used to form multiple beams from a single aperture. By using an array of antennas, each antenna can radiate its energy in a particular direction, which helps in forming multiple beams using a single aperture. This results in better transmission and reception, as well as more efficient use of the available resources. 

  1. Phased Array Antenna: The phased array antenna system uses an array of small, individually controllable antennas to achieve beam steering and pointing. The velocity of a phased array antenna system is typically much higher than that of a gimbal mechanism, with speeds ranging from a few hundred to several thousand degrees per second. The step size of a phased array antenna system is typically much smaller than that of a gimbal mechanism, with increments on the order of a few arcseconds. 

Horn Antenna: Horn antennas, also known as microwave horns, are a type of antenna that has a flared shape, resembling a horn. They are used in a microwave frequency range, which typically operates in the gigahertz range, making them suitable for satellite communications. Horn antennas have an aperture at the end, which spreads the signal in multiple directions. This makes them ideal for satellite communication systems that require coverage over a larger area of the Earth. The horn antenna is an example of an aperture antenna that provides a smooth transition from a waveguide to a larger aperture that couples more effectively into space. Horn antennas are used directly as radiators aboard satellites to illuminate comparatively large areas of the earth, and they are also widely used as primary feeds for reflector-type antennas both in transmitting and receiving modes. 

There are two types of Horn Antennas: 

Conical Horn Antenna: The smooth-walled conical antenna is the simplest horn structure. The horn may be fed from a rectangular waveguide, but this requires a rectangular-to-circular transition at the junction. Feeding from a circular guide is direct and is the preferred method, with the guide operating in the TE11 mode. Conical horn antenna may be used with linear or circular polarization, but to illustrate some of the important features, linear polarization will be assumed. The smooth-walled horn does not produce a symmetrical main beam, even though the horn itself is symmetrical. The radiation patterns are complicated functions of the horn dimensions. This lack of symmetry is a disadvantage where global coverage is required. By operating a conical horn in what is termed a hybrid mode, which is a nonlinear combination of transverse electric (TE) and transverse magnetic (TM) modes, the pattern symmetry is improved, the cross-polarization is reduced, and a more efficient main beam is produced with low sidelobes. 

Pyramidal Horn Antenna: The pyramidal horn antenna is primarily designed for linear polarization. In general, it has a rectangular cross-section and operates in the TE10 waveguide mode. In general, the beam widths for the pyramidal horn differ in the E and H planes, but it is possible to choose the aperture dimensions to make these equal. The pyramidal horn can be operated in horizontally and vertically polarized modes simultaneously, giving rise to dual-linear polarization. 

Parabolic Reflector Antenna: Parabolic reflectors are widely used in satellite communications systems to enhance the gain of antennas. The reflector antenna consists of a parabolic dish, which is made up of a metallic surface, typically made of aluminum or copper, and a feed point located at the focal point of the dish. The circular aperture configuration is referred to as a paraboloidal reflector. The main property of the paraboloidal reflector is the focusing property where parallel rays striking the reflector converge on a single point known as the focus, and rays originating at the focus are reflected as a parallel beam of light. The phase center of the feed is kept at the focus of the reflector and the feed is connected to the high power amplifier (HPA) via an orthogonal mode transducer (OMT) which is a three-port device. When the antenna is in the transmit mode the energy from HPA is given to the feed phase center where the horn antenna is present. The horn antenna then illuminates the reflector by radiating the energy toward it. The reflector then radiates to form a parallel beam of energy. When a reflector antenna is used as a receiver, it reflects all the incoming signals onto the feed point. The feed point consists of a dipole antenna, which converts the received signal into electrical energy and forwards it to the receiver circuit. The high gain of the reflector antenna allows for a strong signal to be received even from weak sources.

The main purpose of a reflector antenna is to increase the gain of the antenna, especially in satellite communication systems, where point-to-point communication with strong signal strength is required.

Shaped Reflector Antenna: The process referred to as reflector shaping, employs computer-aided design methods. With the shaped reflector dimples and/or ripples are created on the surface. The depth of these is no more than a wavelength, which makes them rather difficult to see. Reflections from the uneven surface reinforce radiation in some directions and reduce it in others.

Wire Antenna: Wire antennas, also known as linear antennas, are a type of antenna that consists of a single straight conductor, which is usually made of copper or aluminum. Widely used in communication systems, particularly in telemetry tracking command and monitoring subsystems, due to their ability to operate at high frequencies. Wire antennas are omnidirectional antennas, which means they provide signal coverage in multiple directions. They are suitable for covering a range of access and provide signal strength in several directions. This makes them ideal for communication systems where it is important to have good signal coverage in all directions, such as in mobile phones and wireless networks.

Aperture Antenna: Aperture Antennas are widely used in satellite communication systems to cover a larger area on the Earth. These antennas use horn antennas to operate in the microwave frequency range. A single feed horn can be used for both transmitting and receiving signals. The duplexer is a device that supplies the signal to the antenna. It is a switch used in multiple places like radar systems or satellite communication systems. A single duplexer module can act as both a transmitting and receiving mode.

Remote sensing has been a major tool and it involves the use of sensors placed on satellites that orbit the Earth to gather data about our planet's surface. The data collected is mostly in the form of passive, optical images. SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) is an active form of data collection where the sensor produces its energy and records the amount of energy reflected after interacting with the Earth. The spatial resolution of radar data is directly related to the ratio of the sensor wavelength to the length of the sensor's antenna.

To get a spatial resolution of 10 meters from a satellite in space operating at a wavelength of about 5 cm (C-band radar), you would need a radar antenna about 4,250 meters long, which is not practical for a satellite sensor in space.      

To overcome this problem, a change in the workaround is known as the synthetic aperture. In this concept, a sequence of acquisitions from a shorter antenna is combined to simulate a much larger antenna, thus providing higher-resolution data. While optical imagery is like interpreting a photograph, SAR data requires a different approach. The potential of SAR data for various applications such as land cover mapping, disaster monitoring, and agriculture monitoring is immense, and it is becoming an increasingly important tool for remote sensing.

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Space Missions - A list of all Space Missions


Name Date
Altius 01 May, 2025
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Eutelsat Quantum 30 Jul, 2021
Sentinel 6 21 Nov, 2020
Cheops 18 Dec, 2019
EDRS 06 Aug, 2019
BepiColombo 20 Oct, 2018
Aeolus 22 Aug, 2018
Sentinel 3B 25 Apr, 2018
Sentinel 5 13 Oct, 2017


Name Date
INSAT-3DS 17 Feb, 2024
XPoSat 01 Jan, 2024
Aditya-L1 02 Sep, 2023
DS-SAR 30 Jul, 2023
Chandrayaan-3 14 Jul, 2023
NVS-01 29 May, 2023
TeLEOS-2 22 Apr, 2023
OneWeb India-2 26 Mar, 2023
EOS-07 10 Feb, 2023
EOS-06 26 Nov, 2022


Name Date
XRISM 07 Sep, 2023
SLIM 07 Sep, 2023
ALOS-3 07 Mar, 2023
ISTD-3 07 Oct, 2022
HTV9 21 May, 2020
HTV8 25 Sep, 2019
HTV7 23 Sep, 2018
HTV6 09 Dec, 2016
HTV5 19 Aug, 2015
HTV4 04 Aug, 2013


Name Date
NEO Surveyor 01 Jun, 2028
Libera 01 Dec, 2027
Europa Clipper 10 Oct, 2024
SpaceX CRS-29 09 Nov, 2023
Psyche 13 Oct, 2023
DSOC 13 Oct, 2023
Psyche Asteroid 05 Oct, 2023
Expedition 70 27 Sep, 2023
SpaceX Crew-7 25 Aug, 2023
STARLING 18 Jul, 2023