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24.06.2013, Landshut/Backnang (Germany)

SCHOTT and Tesat-Spacecom to fly into space

The SCHOTT technology group with its Electronic Packaging Business Unit and Tesat-Spacecom GmbH & Co. KG, one of the leading manufacturers of systems and equipment for telecommunications via satellite, have developed a hermetically sealed packaging solution that can be used in space. It is successfully supporting the European Space Agency ESA’s satellite Proba-V to perform Earth observations since the beginning of May. In more specific terms, this is a housing that contains a gallium nitride power amplifier or so-called MMIC chip (Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit) for the first time ever. SCHOTT and Tesat-Spacecom developed just the right material composition and geometry for an optimal heat sink for this packaging. In addition, the packaging features hermetically sealed HTCC multilayer ceramics as high-frequency feedthroughs that allow for only minimal insertion loss and reflection of the high frequency waves.
The communication system for the ESA mini satellite Proba-V that weighs approx. 140 kg ,is one cubic meter in size and contains a special microwave amplifier on the basis of the semiconductor gallium nitride that was installed for the first time ever here in an European Satellite. This is used to transmit photos taken at a height of roughly 800 km in 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. The MMIC amplifier chip delivers its performance on a surface area only a few square millimeters in size and therefore requires innovative packaging concepts.

This MMIC amplifier chip 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 minimized. In addition, the reflection losses of the high frequency waves along the housing wall are also minimized.

"Simulations of electromagnetic 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 Dr. 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," explains Eberhard Möss, Group Leader at Tesat-Spacecom.

SCHOTT is an international technology group with more than 125 years of experience in the areas of specialty glasses and materials and advanced technologies. SCHOTT ranks number one in the world with many of its products. Its core markets are the household appliance, pharmaceuticals, electronics, optics, solar power, transportation and architecture industries. The company is strongly committed to contributing to its customers’ success and making SCHOTT an important part of people’s lives with its high-quality products and intelligent solutions. SCHOTT is committed to managing its business in a sustainable manner and supporting its employees, society and the environment. The SCHOTT Group maintains close proximity to its customers with manufacturing and sales units in 35 different countries. Its workforce of around 16,000 employees generated worldwide sales of approximately 2 billion euros for the 2011/2012 fiscal year. SCHOTT AG, with its headquarters in Mainz, Germany, is owned by the Carl Zeiss Foundation.

At Tesat-Spacecom (Tesat) in Backnang, Germany, close to 1,300 employees develop, assemble, integrate, and test systems and equipment for use in telecommunications via satellite. The product line includes highly reliable equipment, for instance travelling wave tube amplifiers, multiplexers, waveguide switches, and modulators, which, along with complete systems, are shipped globally to all leading satellite manufacturers. Tesat therefore offers the complete communication technology necessary to emit television signals via the antenna of a satellite to each household, for example. More than half of all communication satellites in orbit feature Tesat equipment on board. By focusing on commercial space programs and cooperating with military and institutional programs, Tesat achieved total sales of €303 million in 2012. The company has participated in more than 600 space projects to date.
Press contact
Tesat-Spacecom GmbH & Co KG
Christiane Rausch
Gerberstr. 49
71522 Backnang
Phone: +49 (0)7191 / 930-1356
Further information
Michael Müller
Hattenbergstraße 10
55122 Mainz
Phone: +49 6131/66-4088
Fax: +49 3641/2888-9140