by Bill Pote, CEO & Founder, MegaPhase
MPD: As RF/microwave system complexities grow across many industries (from smart cars to smart cities), what are the biggest challenges RF component vendors and system integrators should expect to face in the coming year?
Industries that rely on RF and microwave components and systems, including defense, airborne, satellite, and communications, are maximizing efficiency wherever possible. Component companies should be focused on products that accommodate the best SWaP combination (size, weight, and power), so that every ounce and every cubic centimeter of space can be efficiently used.
There is typically a limited amount of real estate available for RF devices within a system. RF modules must handle significantly more work than they did in the past within either the same envelope dimensions, or more likely, much less than half of the space they previously have been afforded. More RF channels in these tiny packages create significant interconnect and signal routing challenges. Furthermore, higher power systems are typically connected with large copper-based cables with stainless steel connectors, which allows for low insertion loss and high power. However, we are seeing these form factor reductions in both the commercial and military markets. We expect the operating frequencies to go higher, the interconnect density to go higher, and in some cases, power handling requirements to increase where heat management will play a significant role in interconnect designs. While systems like radars operate using pulsed signals, electronic warfare systems typically operate with continuous wave power, making size reductions challenging (but not impossible).
For MegaPhase to keep its competitive edge, we have designed and patented some new lightweight cables, multi-function harnesses, and microminiature multiport connectors. These include our HyperFlex™ cable and AlumiBend™ aluminum-jacketed cable, a lighter weight alternative to semi-rigid cables. Both are available through V-band and handle power nicely given their size. We offer over 35 different cable types for a wide range of applications.
MPD: The commercial and defense satellite market is booming. Is your company reaping any revenue from this, or do you expect to?
The government and military are the dominant forces generating revenues for satellites, as governments shift their focus to constellations and missions beyond Low Earth Orbit. Following close behind the U.S. there are militaries and governments in the Asia-Pacific region rapidly acquiring technology and hardware. Additionally, the commercial markets have also been heating up in recent years, especially for LEO and MEO systems. A leading market researcher predicts a 76% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2028 for satellites and SATCOM components and systems.
MegaPhase incorporated a focus on satellites and space into its business plans several years ago. We provided a specialized cable on the HAYABUSA mission which rendezvoused with an asteroid, collected samples, and returned to earth. Today, we are working hard to provide new interconnect technology and solutions that align with this industry’s growth and technical advancements, and we are gaining market share steadily.
Our most popular space product is our AlumiBend™ because of its weight and custom connectors. We also provide a very high power hermetic bulkhead connector and adapter for use in space and altitude chambers. We’ve seen a big demand for special interconnect solutions both in connectorization and new cabling concepts. Back to SWaP, like most technologies, size, weight, and power handling in the vacuum of space is continuously being challenged. This is not only a function of the big space primes but also by the countless small space providers that also have had a stake in this market space over the last few years. We continue to look for new opportunities for lunar vehicles, asteroid mining, and space planes.