Power amplifier module prepares for Astro Digital space flight

Design house, Plextek RFI, has used its specialist expertise in microwave and millimetre-wave IC design to create and supply a microwave power amplifier (PA) module for California-based satellite manufacturer and space mission operator, Astro Digital.

The module incorporates a power GaN output device and a GaAs driver circuit. It will form part of a propulsion system that is being supplied to an in-space transportation service company, and will be launched into space next year.

“The specification for this design project presented us with some significant challenges,” said Liam Devlin, CEO of Plextek RFI. “The module design seeks to maximise the DC to RF conversion efficiency, and . . . attention to detail was required to manage the thermal performance in a compact space. The different packaging technologies used for the driver amplifier and the output device also necessitated an innovative approach to the PCB design.”

Patrick Shannon, of Astro Digital, appreciated the skills and expertise: “We needed a design partner who was skilled in all of the semiconductor device, circuit, and packaging technologies needed for our space application,” he said, acknowledging Plextek RFI’s experience with high efficiency solid state amplifiers.

Plextek RFI is a UK-based design house specialising in the design and development of RFICs, MMICs and microwave/mmWave modules. It has designed over 100 custom ICs at frequencies ranging from baseband to 100GHz and is a third party design house for Wolfspeed, GCS, Qorvo and WIN. Plextek RFI’s designs are used in a range of applications from test instrumentation to infrastructure equipment and very high volume consumer wireless devices. The company has in-house test facilities for both bare die (RFOW) and SMT packaged components. Its microwave and mmWave module development activity encompasses a range of technologies including conventional SMT on laminate substrates, high density interconnect (HDI), chip and wire, thin film, thick film and LTCC.


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