Private Companies Produce RF Packages and Electromechanical Actuation Systems for ISRO

ISRO Chairman Shri S. Somanath examines components. (Credit: ISRO)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India (ISRO PR) — SFO Technologies, Thiruvananthapuram and Hical Technologies, Bengaluru realized and delivered flight grade RF systems and Electromechanical Actuators, respectively, at the Government-owned Company-operated (GOCO) facilities at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram. Firms handed over the modules to ISRO Chairman Shri S. Somanath in a function held last month.

RF Packages and Actuation systems are among the most complex systems in a launch vehicle. Their realization is equally challenging. RF system realization involves intricate frequency tuning, complex integration and rigorous testing. Realisation of actuation systems encompasses complex mechanical and electrical integration requiring vast skill in both areas. Thus, the realization of RF and actuation systems predominantly remains an in-house activity.

However, the demand to focus on new technology developments prompted VSSC management to open the doors to private partners by adopting the GOCO model for the realization and testing of RF packages and Actuation systems for launch vehicles. The success of the GOCO model elsewhere including that in VSSC for surface treatment of mechanical parts also gave an impetus to the decision.

An Expression of Interest (EoI) was floated and then the Requests for Proposal (RFPs) were sought. Finally, SFO Technologies, Thiruvananthapuram and Hical Technologies, Bengaluru were contracted to realize RF Systems and Actuators, respectively.

ISRO Chairman Shri S. Somanath examines components. (Credit: ISRO)

RF Systems GOCO Facility

RF packages are used in the telemetry and telecommand functions of a satellite launch vehicle mission. Three RF Packages were identified for realization through the GOCO facility: Programmable S-Band Transmitter (PSBT), Solid-state C-Band Transponder and Digital Telecommand Receiver (DTCR).

RF GOCO Facility was set up with state-of-the-art equipment for the fabrication and testing of launch vehicle RF systems. Skillset demanded by the activity was imparted to the industry. Training at a Hi-reliability soldering school and hands-on training on tuning/testing of the package by RF domain experts were crucial. Technical manpower provided by industry partners quickly absorbed the skills. GOCO facility commenced operations on 6th August 2021. It realized RF Transmitters, Transponders and Receivers in a short duration. In February 2022, the RF systems realized at the facility were handed by Dr. TJ Apren, President R&D (RF & Microwave) SFO Technologies to Chairman ISRO Shri. S. Somanath, in presence of Director, VSSC Dr. Unnikrishnan Nair.

Actuator GOCO Facility

Electromechanical Actuators are utilized in the control and guidance of satellite launch vehicles to ensure proper thrust vector control of propulsion stages by alignment of nozzles in desired directions. Twelve types of Electromechanical Actuators for PSLV, GSLV and GSLV MkIII were identified for production in GOCO mode.

The facility was established with bonded stores, a fitting shop, assembly and inspection areas, and a fully equipped Class-1000 clean room. All electrical and mechanical tools, test fixtures and test equipment and checkouts were also installed. Effective knowledge transfer to the company personnel was ensured through lectures, Hi-reliability soldering school and interactive sessions.

The facility commenced its operation on 6th January 2021. Actuators started rolling out of the facility in August 2021, despite the pandemic-induced restrictions. The first set of actuators and components (PS3 Actuator, Mirror Image sensor and PS4 actuator) realized at the facility were successfully qualified. The flight actuators (PS3 & PS4) were handed over to Chairman ISRO Shri. S. Somanath by Managing Director, Hical Technologies, Ms. Sujaya Sasikiran in presence of Director, VSSC Dr. Unnikrishnan Nair.