Wafer scale integration greatly reduces the size and weight of remote sensing and telecommunications satellites
Ewing, NJ - For immediate release
Discovery Semiconductors, Inc., the world leader in delivering optical receivers with bandwidths over 40 GHz, announced today the grant of US Patent 6,137,171 entitled 'Lightweight miniaturized integrated microsatellite employing advanced semiconductor processing and packaging technology'. The innovations claimed in the patent enable reducing the weight of communications and remote sensing satellites to 10 kg (22 pounds) and the volume to 5000 cubic centimeters (305 cubic inches). The instrumentation module or payload portion of the satellite can be reduced to 32 grams and 200 cc (1.07 ounces & 12 cubic inches). This drastically lowers the cost of launching and maintaining fleets of low earth orbiting satellites. The packaging concepts utilized within the patent have broad applications for reducing the size and weight of many complex electronic assemblies in terrestrial and submarine systems.
Conventional satellites are ten times bigger and heavier than the patented design due to the bulk of packaging separate functions in individual sub-assemblies. By employing the company's capabilities to design and fabricate opto-electronic integrated circuits (OEIC) on Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) and Silicon (Si) wafers, complete sub-systems of the electronic module will be fabricated on individual wafers. These wafers are then stacked in a cylindrical central housing and interconnected to the module via contacts on the circumference of the wafers. Selected signals can be communicated between wafers utilizing light sources and detectors integrated onto the wafers via methods patented by Discovery Semiconductors in US patent number 5,621,227 ('Method and apparatus for monolithic opto-electronic integrated circuit using selective epitaxy'). For example, the RF communications antenna would be fabricated on the wafer facing earth with one of the company's wide bandwidth detectors at its center. The antenna drive signal would be communicated from the signal-processing wafer via an integrated semiconductor laser, eliminating the need for bulky RF interconnects. In another example cited in the patent, the diffraction grating, several photodiode detection arrays and the signal-processing circuitry of a multi-wavelength band spectrometer could be implemented on one wafer for remote sensing applications. Combined with additional optics, the spectrometer would image the earth's landmass in UV, visible and infrared light to monitor the health of crops. The monolithic design greatly improves the reliability of the spectrometer as it eliminates many mechanical connections that would be susceptible to vibration failure in a space launch.
The inventor and CEO of Discovery Semiconductors, Abhay Joshi, said "the packaging and interconnect technology described by this patent will enable a new generation of low cost electronics. It has the potential to shrink the size of equipment racks for communications carriers here on earth as well as enabling a new generation of affordable satellites. These will open up more rural and rugged terrain to low-cost communications services as well as opening up new markets for satellite services such as remote sensing and GPS. Our mission at Discovery is to build the modules that move information at the speed of light between points A & B, whether it is via fiber or wireless links. This invention provides us the means to serve the mobile markets that fiber optic links can't touch."
About Discovery Semiconductors, Inc.
Discovery is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of ultra-wide bandwidth fiber-optic photodiodes and optical receivers for optical networking, communications and aerospace markets. A privately held firm, it was founded in 1993 for the purpose of developing opto-electronic detection technology for sensing and communications applications. It is based in Ewing Township, NJ in the USA.
The winner of a number of research contracts from NASA, the US Air Force and the US Army, the company has developed unique technology for sensor arrays and ultra-wide bandwidth photodiode detectors. The company has several patents granted or pending on its technology. It has leveraged the resulting expertise in RF microwave detection and packaging to make its market leading commercial products. Since 1998, it has expanded its distribution globally, serving over 200 organizations in the telecommunications, data communications and aerospace industries. This resulted in 411% growth since 1996, earning a place on the Deloitte and Touche list of New Jersey's Fast 50 companies.
Caption for illustration at right:
Drawing of micro-satellite design patented by Discovery Semiconductors. Call-out 19 identifies instrumentation module composed of sub-systems on semiconductor wafers (call-out 32). The exposed wafer (28) shows the integrated spiral antenna for earth communications.
Solar cells (18) charge the battery box (4), which also provides a counter weight at the end of a gravity gradient boom (6). This design uses gravity to passively control the pitch and yaw, maintaining the satellite's orientation to the earth.
Other illustrations from the patent, or a color drawing (without callouts), are available. The complete patent is available at The US Patent & Trademark Office.
For additional information, including complete product specifications, operational capabilities and pricing, or to discuss your application in detail, please call Discovery at: (609) 434-1311 or fax: (609) 434-1317.