Contactless Angular Measurement Sensor (CLAS)

Ref-Nr: TDO0148

Technology abstract

Contact-less angular measurement technology has been developed for future European telecommunication satellite mechanisms under an Artes 5.2 project. Use of capacitive coupling to resolve down to 0.01 degrees (16-bit) within the space environment with no mechanical deterioration of its parts has been achieved. The sensor is available for use in applications such as multibeam antenna pointing.

The technology provides an alternative solution to the past problems experienced with rotary sensors. The solution is focused on desired industry specifications and the expected market for the close to medium future. Capacitive position sensors are relatively uncommon and rarely used in safety related applications. The technology provider appears to have overcome this challenge for the described technology offer.

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Technology Description

Electrically Coupled Angular Encoder for Long Life Mechanisms: Contract number 4000104613/12/NL/AD under the Artes 5.2 program for the European Space Agency.

Contact-less angular measurement makes use of capacitive coupling to resolve down to 0.01 degrees (16-bit) within the space environment with no mechanical deterioration of its parts.

The technology can be used for rotary or linear position sensing in which a series of plates are cut or etched along the measurement axis. As another plate moves across them, the capacitance of the circuits along the axis varies indicating the relative position of the two parts.

The sensor has been developed to deal with the new challenging applications required by European satellite manufacturers such as multibeam antenna pointing, precision solar array pointing and ion thruster control.

Innovations & Advantages

  • Avoids past angular sensor failure mode seen in space applications.
  • Resolves to 0.01 degress (16-bit) within the space environment
  • No mechanical deterioration of its parts.
  • Compact
  • Low power consumption
  • The encoder is based on ESCC qualified EEE parts
  • Radiation hardened guaranteed up to 100Krad.
  • No ITAR constraints are applicable.

The first prototypes have been already manufactured and characterized. Engineering models as well as the launch of the qualification campaign and manufacturing for the flight units were carried out at the end of 2011/early 2012.

Current and Potential Domains of Application

  • Multibeam antenna pointing
  • Solar array mechanisms.
  • Ion thruster pointing applications.