The Space Industry

A discussion about the opportunities that deployable systems can bring to new missions and services, and the challenges that their development and testing bring.

Show Notes

In this episode we speak with Lucille Baudet from satsearch member Oxford Space Systems (OSS).

Oxford Space Systems is a UK-based manufacturer of deployable antennas for the space industry. In this conversation we discuss the challenges of creating deployable antennas and systems for CubeSat missions, covering:
  • The use of origami processes to stow and deploy antennas
  • How deployable systems perform against fixed alternatives
  • Testing and qualification mechanisms
  • The use of advanced materials in deployable systems and other future innovations
To find out more about Oxford Space Systems please see the company's satsearch supplier hub.

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What is The Space Industry?

The Space Industry by satsearch - sharing stories about the businesses taking us into orbit.

We delve into the opinions and expertise of the people behind the commercial space companies of today, who could become the household names of tomorrow. Find out more about the companies and technologies discussed on this show at

Hywel: Hello everybody. I'm your host Hywel Curtis. And I'd like to welcome you to the space industry by satsearch, where we share stories about the companies taking us into orbit. In this podcast, we delve into the opinions and expertise of the people behind the commercial space organizations of today who could become the household names of tomorrow.

Before we get started with the episode. Remember, you can find out more information about the suppliers, products, and innovations that are mentioned in this discussion on the global marketplace for space at

Hello everyone. And welcome to the episode today. I'm joined by Lucille Baudet from Oxford Space Systems. Oxford Space Systems is a manufacturer based in the UK who provides deployable antennas for space. And today we're going to be discussing a little bit about the challenges of creating deployable antennas and systems for CubeSat missions. Lucille, thank you very much for being with us today. We're very pleased to have you. And is there anything else you'd like to add to that introduction?

Lucille: No, thank you. That's a very good introduction. And thank you for having me today.

Hywel: So let's get into this topic. Now when it comes to the deployable antennas, I think the word origami sometimes comes to mind. Could you provide an overview of how the need for deployable antennas on small spacecraft has emerged over the last few years and what advantages they can bring to legacy solutions that maybe people are more familiar with.

Lucille: As a brief overview, we can say that over the last few years, we have seen the size of satellites decreasing significantly, and this has actually enabled the possibility to get into orbit at a much lower price. And this is particularly true in the LEO environments in Lower Earth Orbits and the thing has given their low cost and launch opportunities CubeSat technologies as open as a possibility to deploy a large number of satellites as part of what we call constellation.

And I guess, you know, if you are familiar with constellations, and if you look at report like Euroconsult, they are predicting that over the next 10 years, commercial constellations will account for 70% of the satellite being launched. However, if any of the satellites tend to get smaller then the need for performance, doesn't get smaller.

So it's still have to reference the same level, like if not high, actually to have higher performance and traditional larger satellites. So then the issue is existing solution is sitting to be quite large, so they won't fit any lines or required size and volume given by CubeSat technology. So then the only possibilities to use deployability

So what we using Oxford Space System is techniques inspired by origami so that you can create antenna, that you can fall in a small and compact volume for the launch phase and as the rockets, right. And then once the satellite is in orbits, it deployed and then create larger structures. So, this is where the need for the deployable antennas came from where did you have this challenge of fitting a small antenna in a small and compatible in given by CubeSat technology.

Hywel: Uh, you ,mentioned there's still a requirement for the high-performance in the missions that use deployable systems - from a performance standpoint, how do deployable antennas compare with legacy systems?

Lucille: Yeah. So there is no straightforward answer to this question, actually. So. because being able to fit a deployable antenna within a 1U volume. And when, I mean 1U is 10 by 10 by 10 centimeters. It does come with challenges. We are using a studio combination and a set of skills between RF, mechanics, and materials to address this challenges.

In that regard, it's quite hard to compare the performance towards current solution. And when I guess you mean legacy solution that means fixed, rigid antenna, right? So it's kind of hard to compare directly because there is always the trade off to be made. Trade between important characteristic, these RF, RF performance must budget, but also the volume available on this spacecraft.

So based on all these parameters and the information that we collect from the customer requirements, we have a technical excellence team who can quickly perform the trade-off analysis. And then that says the level of performance can be achieved using a deployable antenna that I would say can be kind of for a case by case basis right, and because there is all these parameters to be considered is quite hard uh, to compare directly to a legacy solutions. There is no single point of comparison when, when we talk about performance.

Hywel: If we tend to maybe applications then of deployable antennas, what kind of use cases do you see being enabled by the technology and what advantages to a service providers would be brought by, you know, the ability to stow and then deploy different antenna configurations on a, on a small satellite or spacecraft.

Lucille: As I was mentioning at the very beginning, I was mentioning about the emergence of smallsat constellations, which are going to be a major driver of the satellite industry and actually are concentrating a large share of the satellite clients. And the thing is, they’re bringing a new rationale where you launch a large number of satellites at a lower cost, but also with the short lifetime.

So it was then moved to smart constellations - actually enabling new applications on the markets, new applications, such as internet of things (IoT), but also my ratings cereals and tracking. You might have heard about AIS mission, which stands for automatic identification system, which is for basically tracking ships in the sea.

And this type of mission are usually part of commercial constellations and require fast deployment in orbit because we want to generate fast revenues by providing data as a service. So I actually our solution, our CubeSats deployable antennas solution. To offer a very cost effective products to fit this constellation needs and actually optimize also to, for batch production, which is a real added value for our customer who wish to the deliver services as part of the constellation.

Hywel: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to think we've got those applications, interested applications, like maritime tracking, where the need is already exists. The, you know, you don't have to build anything on the ground in order to generate value and, and revenue from the satellites and launch. So, yeah, that's interesting there.

But obviously the systems can only, um, be deemed a commercial success if the reliability is there and if the performance can be not guaranteed, but at least tested and qualified now, deployables are always tricky because a failure to actuate could be a single point of failure for the satellite as a whole.

How do you ensure reliability? Are there any examples, you know, you can provide on deployment process or once the spacecraft is injected based on some of the missions that you've worked on at Oxford Space Systems?

Lucille: This is actually a very good question. And this is usually one of the first questions we are being asked by our customers because reliability is one of the most important criteria as once you send your satellite into orbit.

You know, you're not having a second chance right you cannot send a service engineer to repair and fix your, your issue. So reliability is very important and critical, and if I will need to mention our process. So in term of process, there is kind of a balance to be made between quality, cost and risk appetite.

And because, you know, you have an extensive development and testing campaign. This can drive the cost up. Uh, and the thing is our approach with our antenna that solution and the associated deployment system, I quite being made simple on purpose so that you kind of remove a bit of this risk and we also using flight proven materials and design to really reducing the risk of failure during the deployments and we want to be consistent with the simplicity of the CubeSat technology. So we're kind of following a strict process, uh, with a high level of mechanical and RF design analysis. Design is being followed by a testing campaign so that we can ensure right level of tests and reliability to customer.

And as an example, what we can say is as of today we have flight heritage on a helical antenna, long enough would decline having three of them currently flying 60 fully deployed and supporting the IOT constellation and actually having flight heritage is now providing even more reliability to our customer because it's now flight proven is currently flying into orbits and we have now currently a number of repeat visitors orders in our platform from various customers.

Hywel: So far we’ve discussed aspects of the applications and the trade-offs involved in the technology. I wondered if we could talk a little bit about the, kind of the state of the art or maybe even the features particularly with the materials, because I think deployable systems are antennas and other forms of deployable systems, the materials that are used to create them, uh, a lot of work I'm assuming it goes into the, because you know, these systems need to deploy and need to operate externally to the spacecraft with their own radiation, shielding and everything that goes with that

Where do you see, you know, current progress in, in new materials or other advances in technology that could be applicable to, to the sorts of technologies that you created Oxford Space Systems?

Lucille: Yes, material is quite an important component because I was mentioning, we are using a combination of skills between RF mechanical, but also with material we are using. So exploring new materials is definitely an important component of our solution, but also always part of our research and development roadmap.

As an example, I could say that we are using a metal mesh knitted from a very fine tungsten wire, which is a very lightweight material, providing higher RF performances, high reflectivity properties for this deployable antenna that we are using for antenna architecture and establish the new metal mesh facility with our own knitting machine in our facilities in, in Harwell.

People are always surprised when there is visitor coming, they are always surprised, like to see a knitting machine, you know, it's not something you expect to see in a factory of antennas. Yeah. This is the materials that we use. And it's very important because it just provides the right level of enough performance.

And the first application of is metal mesh produced at Harwell will be for our signature aperture radar antenna which is called the rapid antenna which is targeting for launching late 2022.

Hywel: Brilliant. You're really looking forward to the future with some of the work being done on materials there. So I guess that leads into my next question and final question, just to put you on the spot a little bit, I wonder where you saw the market heading for deployable antennas or deployable systems in general in the next three to five years.

You know, if we look beyond the horizon of missions planned today, are there any specific segments or types of antennas that you see as gaining more traction over competing systems?

Lucille: at the moment, as I was saying before, in term of CubeSat missions, we see a high demands and development for IOT applications.

So internet of things, application and AIS missions. So these are markets that have been growing a lot recently. And again, if look at, uh, Euroconsult reports they will say that there is more than forty projects and potential constellation being announced. This type of market are really growing and having satellites, being a lunch in constellation, actually enables distributed data collection and which has a development of new applications, such as communication, remote sensing, as well as science and exploration.

Then now just moving a bit broader than focusing on CubeSats and going out smallsat solution with satellite a bit more than 50 kilo, we have as much and also in another architecture called offset is that both capable of providing a performance for sanctification for earth observation application and the upsets reflects I can actually be scalable and provide higher frequency suitable for telecommunication.

But we actually exploring potential solution for 5G. And so inter-satellite things, because. The reason behind, we are seeing a number of requests coming for customer for this type of application over the last few months. So this is something that we are currently looking at. And yeah, last point I would like to make as well is we are doing a lot of early-stage R&D work to adapt actually also all the deployable antenna, to terrestrial application as well, there is also actually kind of niche market for the terrestrial application, mine the defense and security application.

So, yeah, in summary, I think the deployable antennas can be really a game changer in many markets, um, and at Oxford Space Systems, we really aim to really keep innovating and be creative to our customer to deliver really exciting new services and, and mission where. staying in the affordable satellite technology.

Hywel: That's a great place to wrap up. I think there's a really wide range of different application areas. There. There's some really exciting and interesting work that you guys are doing. Yeah.

Thanks very much. This has been really interested to learn about the use cases and trade-offs of deployables or testing requirements, advanced materials and so on.

Thank you so much. They're spending time with us today on the space industry podcast.

Lucille: Thank you very much.

Hywel: Great. And for all our listeners out there, remember, you can find out more about Oxford space systems and the whole portfolio of technologies and services discussed in, in today's episode, on the satsearch platform at

And you can also use our free request system to make requests for technical documentations quotes, introductions to the company or whatever else you might need for trade studies, procurement purposes, and anything else required to develop your missions. Thank you for listening to this episode of the space industry by satsearch.

I hope you enjoy today's story about one of the companies taking us into orbit. We'll be back soon with more in-depth behind the scenes insights from private space businesses.

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