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Schott And Tesat-Spacecom To Soar Into Space

A new type of hermetic packaging for a GaN (gallium nitride) power amplifier will be utilised in the ESA satellite Proba-V
The Schott technology group and Tesat-Spacecom GmbH & Co. KG, have developed a hermetically sealed packaging solution that can be used in space.

The technology is supporting the European Space Agency (ESA) ’s satellite Proba-V to perform Earth observations since the beginning of May.

Schott says this housing contains a GaN power amplifier or MMIC chip (Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit) for the first time ever.

Schott and Tesat-Spacecom optimised material composition and geometry for an optimal heat sink for this packaging. What's more, the packaging features hermetically sealed HTCC multilayer ceramics as high-frequency feedthroughs that allow minimal insertion loss and reflection of the high frequency waves.

The communication system for the ESA mini satellite Proba-V that weighs about 140 kg is one cubic metre in size and contains a special microwave amplifier on the basis of GaN that was installed for the first time ever there in an European Satellite.

The MMIC is used to transmit photos taken at a height of roughly 800 km in the X band at 8 GHz to monitor vegetation on our planet.

The semiconductor is capable of improving signal strengths and data transmission by five to ten times and will be used as a new high-performance material in communication systems.

HTCC multilayer ceramics as high frequency feedthroughs

The MMIC amplifier chip delivers its performance on a surface area only a few square millimetres in size and therefore requires innovative packaging concepts.

This device has been installed inside a hermetically sealed packaging unit that Schott and Tesat-Spacecom developed together. Thanks to the innovative design of the ceramic-to-metal feedthrough, the high frequency waves are able to pass by the wall of the housing with very low attenuation.

This means the loss of power of the waves when they pass the housing wall, the so-called insertion loss of the waves, is minimised. What's more, the reflection losses of the high frequency waves along the housing wall are also reduced.

“Simulations of elecromagnetic waves have enabled us to determine the best possible geometries and designs for this special type of feedthrough in close coordination with manufacturing technology," explains Thomas Zetterer, Development Engineer at Schott Electronic Packaging.

The second important property of the package is the high thermal conductivity of its base that allows for the dissipation of the heat generated inside the MMIC amplifier.

To achieve this, the development teams at Schott and Tesat-Spacecom came up with just the right material composition and geometry for a heat sink for this particular application. Materials and material compounds that allow for even higher thermal connectivity still need to be developed in near future and tested for use in applications with even higher microwave power.

“Working together with Schott enables us to obtain the high thermal conductivity packages that are urgently needed for future gallium nitride amplifiers," says Eberhard Möss, Group Leader at Tesat-Spacecom.

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