Date of Award

Winter 1-1-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy In Engineering Degree

Department

Electrical Engineering And Computer Science

First Advisor

Yu, Chansu

Second Advisor

Dr. Lili Dong

Third Advisor

Dr. Nigamanth Sridhar

Abstract

Inflatable aperture antennas are an emerging technology that is being investigated for potential use in science and exploration missions. In particular, for missions to Mars and beyond, large deployable aperture antennas can provide the antenna gain required for high data rate communications, where the necessary antenna diameter exceeds the available volume of typical launch vehicle platforms. As inflatable aperture antennas have not been proven fully qualified for space missions, the author’s Master’s Thesis assessed the Ruze equation in characterizing this antenna technology. Inflatable aperture antennas do not follow a parabolic shape, and so the Ruze equation is not applicable due to the macroscopic shape errors of this technology. Therefore, geometric evaluations of the surface profile cannot simply correlate antenna gain degradation with the root-meansquare shape error with a parabolic surface. Consequently, the focus of this work was to derive an accurate mathematical model of an inflatable aperture antenna in order to characterize its Radio Frequency (RF) performance. Calculus of Variations methodologies were used to derive the surface profile shape of the inflatable aperture antenna. Physical Optics techniques were used to generate the antenna pattern profile. Validation testing of the predicted inflatable antenna shape model was performed through use of Laser Radar metrology measurements on an inflatable test article. Assessments of the RF performance of the inflatable aperture antenna, compared with nominally shaped solid paraboloidal antennas, were obtained through simulations of both technologies using a common diameter, depth, and arc v length. Assessments of the RF performance of the inflatable aperture antenna was also performed against itself for changes in distance of the antenna feed location in the axial direction. Whereas the Ruze equation is limited to assessing gain reduction, this effort will also assess beam spreading and first side lobe angle and magnitude. The ability to characterize the RF response of this antenna will provide for an improved understanding of this technology. The accurate representation of the shape of this type of antenna technology will help to identify the most appropriate ways in which this technology could be utilized in planning future communication architectures for NASA missions to Mars and beyond.

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