"Because most spacecraft, once deployed, can never be serviced, it is vital to ensure that their communications systems meet requirements for link availability and quality. Antenna design and analysis are critical to this process.
Engineers use gain pattern analysis to determine how much coverage the antennas provide, and how that coverage is modified by interaction with the physical structure on which they are mounted. For example, if antennas are placed near thruster nozzles, solar arrays, or booms, these components can redirect radio frequency energy, creating dropouts in coverage.
Traditionally, antenna gain analysis has used two-dimensional (2-D) cuts through what is really a three-dimensional (3-D) pattern, an approach that has several disadvantages. Cuts through principal axes can miss important features, while cuts spaced closely enough to include these features are complicated to interpret.
Using MATLAB graphics and GUI building tools, my colleagues and I developed Three Dimensional Visualizer (3DV), an application that gives our group an environment for analyzing gain patterns in 3-D and 2-D simultaneously. The application has reduced turnaround time for analyses and dramatically enhanced our ability to explain results to customers.
While our applications are all space-related, antenna pattern analysis is common throughout aeronautical, marine, and other terrestrial applications. Indeed, 3DV is useful for exploring any information that can be represented as a scalar value varying with direction, including thermal, optical, and radar signatures..."
By Michael Hicks, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company
This article appeared in The MathWorks News & Notes, June 2007