Image: Mini-radar chip

December 6, 2017, European Space Agency
Credit: ESA/TNO

A prototype transmit/receive module on a single 6x6 mm chip, intended to deliver miniaturised space radar systems for future missions.

Traditional transmit/receive modules used on Europe's Sentinel-1 and comparable radar missions employ separate circuits for the high-power amplifier, the low-noise amplifier and the switch/isolator.

The aim, developed for ESA by TNO in the Netherlands, UMS in France, and Airbus Defense and Space in Germany, was to integrate all these functions onto a single chip, while delivering increased efficiency and a threefold increase in radio-frequency power.

The added ingredient enabling this was that the chip was made using gallium nitride (GaN) – the most promising semiconductor since silicon. If you have a Blu-ray player than you own a tiny crystal of GaN, used in high-performance blue lasers.

GaN can operate with high radio-frequency output power, low noise or at much higher temperatures than silicon. As a plus, it is also inherently resistant to radiation. ESA has been leading the industrialisation of GaN through the GaN Reliability Enhancement and Technology Transfer Initiative consortium.

This prototype was developed through ESA's Basic Technology Research Programme.

A follow-up project to integrate the into a complete module suitable for a future Sentinel-1 successor is being undertaken through the Agency's follow-up General Support Technology Programme.

Explore further: Fujitsu develops world's first compact, high-output, single-chip 10 GHz transceiver using GaN HEMT

Related Stories

Image: Arralis integrated circuit

February 17, 2016

A close-up glimpse at part of a microchip designed to provide high-frequency radar for future space missions, or else boost the speed of satellite communications.

World record silicon-based millimeter-wave power amplifiers

March 27, 2013

Two teams of DARPA performers have achieved world record power output levels using silicon-based technologies for millimeter-wave power amplifiers. RF power amplifiers are used in communications and sensor systems to boost ...

World's first GaN HEMT T/R module operating in the C-Ku band

June 6, 2011

Fujitsu Laboratories today announced that it has successfully developed the world's first transmitter/receiver (T/R) module using gallium-nitride (GaN)high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) technology that features an output ...

Recommended for you

Ancient meteorite tells tales of Mars topography

May 24, 2018

By looking at an ancient Martian meteorite that landed in the Sahara Desert, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists and collaborators have determined how and when the red planet's crustal topographic and ...

Rosetta unravels formation of sunrise jets

May 23, 2018

The atmosphere of Rosetta's comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is far from homogeneous. In addition to sudden outbursts of gas and dust, daily recurring phenomena at sunrise can be observed. In these, evaporating gas and entrained ...

Drilling success: Curiosity is collecting Mars rocks

May 23, 2018

Engineers working with NASA's Curiosity Mars rover have been hard at work testing a new way for the rover to drill rocks and extract powder from them. This past weekend, that effort produced the first drilled sample on Mars ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.