Thales MIS Strategy:
New Bands, Efficiency, SSPA
Thales Microwave & Imaging Sub-Systems (MIS) strategy can be summarized as being a major supplier of reliable RF power amplification solutions for space, in partnership with other key electronics suppliers. Proposing wideband amplifiers is a target already fulfilled, and improving efficiency remains the key driver of our road-map whatever the technology and the frequency band.
Thales MIS now offers solutions from 100W to 300W in L-band, 100W to 500W in S-band, 40W to 150W in C-band, 40W to 220W in Ku-band, 40W to 170W in Ka-band, and up to 45W in Q-band. X-band is also proposed. Investing in higher power TWTs is still one of our drivers, both with conduction and radiation cooled devices. Higher power components are foreseen on the market in the following years, in particular in Ku, Ka and Q-band.
The shift to new payload architectures for the HTS satellites and constellations generates new requirements, in particular towards lower power.
TWTs better match the higher power segment and do not propose attractive solutions if the power requirements are less than 20W. Above that value, the tradeoff is less clear, but and SSPA, with the recent availability of Gallium Nitride (GaN) HEMT technologies, will have an increased impact on payload designs. Compared to GaAs pHEMT, GaN HEMT is capable of higher power generation per millimeter of grid width: a factor above 5 is generally agreed. Thanks to this property, fewer transistors must be combined to reach a required level of output power, with an immediate positive impact on the electrical efficiency (between 5 and 10%, depending on the class of operation).
Even if GaN efficiency is still significantly lower than TWT’s, this drawback may be manageable for low power devices, and for this reason, MIS decided to add SSPA to its portfolio.
This strategy is supported by strategic partnerships, including with the European GaN foundry UMS, a JV between Thales and AIRBUS dedicated to III-V component design and foundry.
Of course, the ground segment is also part of the game, and ground-based TWTs are required in complement to the on-board solutions for gateways. Thales MIS already proposes solutions in Ku, DBS and Ka-band, and new products are planned in V-band in the near future, with the same target of proposing both high power and wideband devices.
In a changing market with an increased portfolio of technologies (TWT and SSPA), the objective of Thales MIS remains offering to the market competitive solutions with very attractive performances, in particular at bandwidth, linearity and efficiency levels.