Ku Band Generic Flexible Converter for Flexible Innovative Payloads

Status date
Activity Code

The vast majority of Ku-band telecommunications satellites currently in orbit are based on conventional payload architecture associating the generation of fixed wide coverage, fixed frequency plans, channelized amplification with IMUX/OMUX and dedicated HPA per channel. Enhancing capacity and flexibility is one of the major challenges for new-generation Ku-band payloads. In the frame of FLIP program (FLexible Innovative Payload) supported by CNES, THALES ALENIA SPACE studied different payload architectures to cope with these objectives. One of the main axis is the introduction of flexibility within conventional payload with the qualification of Ku-band flexible frequency converters. This product is mandatory to permit to THALES ALENIA SPACE to complete its strategy for the development of flexible payloads. It will permit to TAS to offer competitive flexible solutions offering the performance currently requested by Customers. The procured advantage is primordial for the incoming generation of flexible payloads; it will permit to TAS to be a serious competitor in the realization of flexible payloads and satellite. Moreover, it shall also bring improvements of conventional Ku-band payload architecture. The Ku-band payloads remain the targeted market for the development.


RF section is based on macro-hybrid package technology and MMIC chipset dedicated to standard Ku-band frequency plan. No particular issue as MMIC have been validated from previous internal projects. LO section is based on fractional-N LO loop in MCM HTCC package technology. EM design worked correctly but MMIC wide-band VCO did not meet the complete Ku-band LO bandwidth (1.2 to 3.3 GHz). The MMIC wide-band VCO design was modified, the chips manufactured and tested again, they operate properly. DCDC & TMTC sections are CMS on PCB; new critical parts TMTC manager ASIC and associated EEPROM have been validated in New Generation LDLA project. In order to improve manufacturing efficiency, unit assembly is based on solderless connectors use. Unit operation is qualified with 3 different solderless connectors, showing no critical behaviour for Telecom applications within qualification test sequence.


To present a competitive product on this new emerging market. To reduce size of redundancy rings and then mass of conventional Kuband payloads. To obtain a first flight heritage on these new technologies.


THALES ALENIA SPACE proposes here to develop stand-alone Flexible Down-Converters dedicated to new flexible payloads. 

The development effort is focused on the 3 main parts of the down converter :

  • RF section design to comply with the flexible frequency range;
  • the fractional Local Oscillator section with technological and industrial improvements allowing frequency flexibility & cost reduction;
  • the DC/DC section is also modified to cope with the new RF section and with the modified LO. Cost and mass have also been improved;
  • a TMTC section has been introduced to manage the LO frequency flexibility. 

The new product has modular and flexible architectures allowing easy adaptation to major primes platforms specifications. 

The flexible Ku-band Down-Converter unit will then be based on a RF macro-hybrid device, gathered with internal LO, TMTC & DCDC sections. 

Useful Input Frequency Range

   12750 - 14800 MHz

Input Levels

Maximum Input Level

Input level dynamic range


          -30 dBm

           30 dB

Local Oscillator Frequency Range

2050 - 3300 MHz

Useful Output Frequency Range

10700 - 11700 MHz

Minimum Gain

32 dB

Gain stability

Over qualification temperature range and LO range

< 2.7 dB

Noise Figure

At ambient temperature, at any frequency

< 14 dB


Amplitude Linearity

< -56 dBc

Out of band response

Gain at receive frequency

Gain at receive frequency


< Nominal gain – 20 dB

< Nominal gain – 40 dB

Phase Noise

100 Hz

1 kHz

1 MHz

> 10 MHz


-77 dBc/Hz

-92 dBc/Hz

-109 dBc/Hz

-130 dBc/Hz

Mass and dimensions

               950 g

Power bus/DC Power consumption


Flexible Ku-band Down-converter main performances


An EM of the complete unit was supported by CNES contract, but issues have been identified on MMIC wide-band VCO, to rework from design to test:

  • MMIC wide-band VCO design
  • MMIC wide-band VCO foundry & test
  • Critical Design Review to validate the unit design

Then, EQM activities were dedicated to qualification of the unit:

  • Manufacturing and qualification sequence of Ku-band flexible converter EQM
  • Final Review to validate the unit qualification

The PFM of Ku-band flexible converter is embarked on E8WB payload. In order to reach E8WB program objectives, the ATLAS activity efforts are focused on the following key issues :

  • Critical Design Review to validate the unit design for E8WB operation ;
  • manufacturing and acceptance test sequence of Ku-band flexible converter PFM ;
  • Final Review to validate the unit in-orbit operation.
Current status

All key reviews (PDR, CDR, TRR, TRB & FR) have been held successfully.

The Ku-band flexible Down-converter EQM has been fully tested and qualified with expected performances and under multi-platform environmental conditions.

All parts, materials and processes used are qualified.

The PFM model has been tested according to following steps: mechanical vibration, EMC, thermal vacuum and cycles, according to Spacebus4000 (supporting E8WB) environmental requirements.

The acceptance tests of Ku-band flexible down-converter PFM are successfully completed versus here-above mentioned conditions.

A dedicated End Item Data Package has been issued, including all electrical and environmental tests results, such as quality data.

It has been launched on E8WB satellite in 2015, and has demonstrated good in-orbit performance.

The project is completed.

Prime Contractor