The Radio Anechoic Chamber at DTU Elektro (Photo: Torben Nielsen)

Danish expertise essential to European space travel

Wednesday 06 Jul 16


Olav Breinbjerg
DTU Electrical Engineering
+4545 25 38 14
A unique, free-field laboratory and development of the measurement technology that is now used all over the world to ensure accurate measurement of satellite antennae have placed Denmark in a key position witin European satellite communication.

For precisely this reason, the European Space Agency (ESA) has recently entered into a 5-year contract with DTU, home to the ‘DTU-ESA Spherical Near-Field Antenna Test Facility’. The contract commissions the University to serve as an external reference laboratory in connection with ESA satellite missions.

“ESA has its own major technological test centre—ESTEC—in the Netherlands. However, DTU is the seat of the leading expertise in the world when it comes to the antenna-specific assignments in connection with satellite missions,” relates Professor Olav Breinbjerg from DTU Electrical Engineering.

“It was at DTU that the remarkably accurate technical method for the antenna measurements was developed and we have since striven to develop and optimize it to keep our noses in front of our many international competitors. Moreover, we have the best experimental facility in Europe, if not the world: what is known as a ‘free-field room’ that has been set up to enable us to measure the antennae in the same surroundings as when they are fitted to satellites in space.”

Increasing number of ESA assignments
More and more employees and students at the DTU laboratory are working on research and development assignments for ESA, including constant renewal and modernization of measurement instruments and technology. Competition in the area is fierce.

“Our ambition is to take on a significant role in several future ESA satellite missions, such as BIOMASS, whose objective is to measure the total biomass of Jupiter, and JUICE, which is targeted at studying Jupiter’s closest moons,” adds Olav Breinbjerg.

Before that, however, the DTU laboratory has other specific assignments to perform for ESA. The first of these has to do with developing completely new types of antennae that have to be both extremely accurate and 5–10 times more compact than existing models. These antennae are helping position the ‘DTU-ESA Spherical Near-Field Antenna Test Facility’ as the most accurate antenna measuring laboratory in the world.