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Russian scientists have developed a high-precision antenna for the orbital radio telescope

Specialists of the enterprise “Information Satellite Systems (ISS) named after Reshetnev” designed a system for disclosing a 10-meter antenna of an orbital radio telescope. The antenna will be able to correct its own form in space.

This is the main scientific tool of the future Russian spacecraft Spectrum-M, which is designed to study the universe using radio waves millimeter range.

For high accuracy of measurements, the radio telescope will be equipped with micromotors, changing the positions of its individual parts.
The observatory is planning to place 1.5 million km from our planet near one of the points of Lagrange, where the gravitational forces of the Sun and the Earth balance each other.

A ten-meter antenna in unfolded form will not fit under the head fairing of the rocket. Therefore, they created a folding one. After entering the orbit, the “umbrella” of the antenna will open. But under terrestrial conditions it is impossible to take into account all the distortions that will occur in this case. Therefore, in the case of the device built micromotors, which will compensate for curvature.
– Scientists have shown us the requirement to achieve a deviation of no more than 10 microns for an antenna with a diameter of 10 m, “ISS Director General Nikolay Testoyedov told Izvestia. – How to behave this or that design in space, you can calculate only mathematically, without testing in practice. In order to minimize the antenna shape error, we decided to include special micromotors in its design.
The shape of the reflector after the opening will be studied using ground-based optoelectronic devices. The obtained data will be compared with the mathematical model, and then the position of each of the “petals” of the umbrella will be adjusted to the calculated parameters.

High sensitivity of the receiving equipment designers want to achieve due to the extremely low temperature in space. The observatory will work at minus 269 degrees Celsius (only four degrees above absolute zero – the minimum temperature that an object in the universe can have). For this purpose, the main receiving antenna will be protected from the radiation of the Sun, Earth and the Moon by five heat shields. Simultaneously, the antenna and the two closest shells will be cooled with liquid helium. Ensuring the performance of scientific equipment at extremely low temperatures is a non-trivial task for engineers.

– Full-scale design and technological models of the thermoregulation system and the reflector are manufactured at the enterprise. Their tests were carried out. Now we are working with helium cooling technology, which is not very developed in Russia, – Nikolai Testoyedov specified.

According to Nathan Eismont, a leading researcher at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, thanks to the micromotors, it will be possible to achieve the required geometry of the radio telescope.

“This approach looks quite justified and raises the chances for the project’s success,” Nathan Eismont said. – To open a folding structure in a diameter of 10 m in space – the task is very serious. It has been working on it for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve heard of such a solution. This method seems to me effective.

** The Spectrum-M project is part of the Russian Federal Space Program 2016-2025.


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