Satellite Trade-offs Require a Broad View

Electronics in the defense industry continue to evolve as designers find different ways to trade cost and performance in one part of a system versus another. These trade-offs continue to occur in satellite communications, where designers decide how to balance power levels — which determine cost and size – in terminals and in satellites.

Launches of both military and commercial communication satellites are ongoing. The nation’s focus on network-centric warfare, coupled with the increasing importance of high-resolution imagery, translates to a growing need for bandwidth.

Trade-offs occur in the choice between putting more capabilities in either the terminals carried by warfighters or in the equipment that’s in orbit. Both scenarios make sense, depending on the application and the number of earthbound terminals.

Terminals that are less expensive to produce can be more expensive to use, driving up total costs over time. This has prompted some military operations to move away from technologies like spread spectrum, shifting instead to more powerful terminals.

These sorts of trade-offs are becoming more common in many industries. Minor tweaks made in one segment of an overall system often make a big difference in another segment. IPC has developed a new conference and exhibition, IPC Electronic System Technologies Conference (IPC ESTC), to address the need to take a holistic view of a design. From the interviews I’m doing, it’s certainly an area of high interest for many design teams.

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