Metal AM GPS Antenna a Pathfinder for Future Satellites
Lockheed Martin has qualified its first complex metal additive manufactured (AM) piece of hardware for spaceflight. The hardware, an omnidirectional antenna for communication relay, has been integrated onto a GPS III satellite.
An omni antenna is a teardrop-shaped piece of hardware that enables a satellite to communicate with ground systems on Earth. The antenna is part of a spacecraft’s telemetry, tracking and command subsystem, which transmits and receives signals.
The new antenna is like its predecessor, but it’s now one solid piece as opposed to being made up of multiple parts that would otherwise need to be hand-soldered together. The new antenna contains unique geometric features that can only be fabricated using AM. Those features contribute to reduced defects associated with plating and soldering operations of the antenna’s predecessor. Lockheed Martin has realized cost savings of approximately 60% by incorporating these digital tools and advanced manufacturing methods.