Communications & Sensing Research Group receives further European Space Agency funding

The new project to develop hardware for ground segment network equipment for satellite communication systems is endorsed by the UK Space Agency.

A conceptual image of the EDRS circling Earth.

The European Data Relay System (EDRS) is a public-private partnership between ESA and Airbus Defence and Space. It uses advanced laser technology to relay information collected by lower orbiting satellites to the Earth via geostationary nodes.

Led by the Emerging Device Technology (EDT) Research Lab in the Communications & Sensing Research Group, this project will develop integrated Q/V/W-band passive RF hardware for ground segment network equipment for satellite communication systems. 

This builds on the seminal work from the EDT Lab, led by Professor Yi Wang, on the pioneering application of high-precision 3D printing techniques to the fabrication of millimetre-wave and sub-terahertz waveguide devices, operating from 30 GHz to 1000 GHz. An EPSRC grant funded this foundational work on “Towards a 3D printed terahertz circuit technology” between 2019 and 2023.

The new round of funding comes from the Core Competitiveness Programme of Advanced Technology in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) and the European Space Agency (ESA) project will partner with Airbus Defence & Space and Filtronic, two key industrial players in the space communications sector.

It is the fourth award from the ESA to the EDT Lab in the last three years, bringing total awards to €1.8M. Previously, the group received funding to develop the next generation of high-power microwave filters for satellite payloads using new manufacturing techniques. This project benefits significantly from the additive manufacturing capability offered by Birmingham’s Advanced Materials Processing Laboratory (AMPLab), led by Professor Moataz Attallah.

ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP) has co-funded a PhD student hosted at the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Topological Design, supporting research into new ideas of temperature compensation techniques for high-power microwave devices for space applications.

The EDT group also leads an ESA Expro+ project to develop filters and multiplexers for millimetre-wave sounders and imagers for earth observation applications. This project partners with STFC’s RAL Space. The Birmingham team applies expertise from the group’s long heritage of filtering research into new use cases in space applications with very challenging design requirements.

These research awards recognise Birmingham’s expertise in microwave and millimetre-wave hardware devices at the School of Engineering and in additive manufacturing at the School of Metallurgy and Materials against the backdrop of a vibrant space sector in the UK and the EU and the rapid adoption of additive manufacture techniques in the aerospace industry.