Packaged high-power, high-efficiency Ka-band TWT; L-3 Communications Electron Technologies, Inc., Model 999HA. (Photograph courtesy of L-3 Communications Electron Technologies, Inc.; used with permission.)
The NASA Glenn Research Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and L–3 Communications Electron Technologies are pushing the limits on efficiently transmitting more data to the ground for NASA’s space exploration missions. Earlier in 2005, L–3 Communications successfully completed performance testing of a high-power, high-efficiency Ka-band space traveling-wave tube (TWT) at 250 W through a 3-year project within Glenn’s Exploration Systems Division. The completion of this milestone marks the highest power Ka-band space TWT ever manufactured and tested.
TWTs are attractive for deep-space applications because their construction is radiation tolerant and their power and efficiency levels are significantly higher than those of solid-state amplifiers. Although this new high-power TWT weighs only 1.5 kg, it is 7 times more powerful than the previous highest power Ka-band space TWT. Also, it is over 20 times more powerful than the Cassini TWT, which has been orbiting Saturn since July 2004. This increase in power capability directly translates into higher data transmission rates from greater distances, more flexibility, and more channels available for space communications.
This advance in TWT technology will improve the speed and efficiency of data communications, enabling real-time, high-resolution video transmission from space. High-power TWTs align with the President’s vision for space exploration by increasing the science data rate-of-return for exploration missions by a factor of 7, enabling deeper, more sophisticated exploration of the solar system. This work will result in a flight-qualified model that can be used to design spacecraft for future deep-space missions. The TWT team also is developing and testing technology that combines two or more TWT devices to obtain even higher power.
Find out more about exploration systems research at Glenn: http://exploration.grc.nasa.gov
Dr. Jeffrey D. Wilson, 216–433–3513, Jeffrey.D.Wilson@nasa.gov; and Dr. Rainee N. Simons, 216–433–3462, Rainee.N.Simons@nasa.gov
L–3 Communications Electron Technologies, Inc., contact: Neal R. Robbins, 310–517–7548, Neal.Robbins@L-3com.com
Author: Dr. Jeffrey D. Wilson
Headquarters program office: Exploration Systems
Programs/Projects: Nuclear Technology and Demonstration
Last updated: October 16, 2006
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