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Article in International Journal of Microwave and Optical Technology · January 2015

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126 INTERNATIIOONAL JOURNAL OF MICROWAVE AND OPTICICAL TECHNOLOGY, VOL.10, NO.2, MARCH 2015 Flexible Solid State

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Flexible Solid State Power Amplifiers for Space use

R J Doshi 1* , Deepak Ghodgaonkar 2 , D K Singh 1 , D K Das 1

1 Space Applications Centre, Indian Space Research Organization Ahmedabad-380015, India

2 Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT), Gandhinagar-382007, India Email:rameshdoshi@sac.isro.gov.in

Abstract- This work presents a simplified design of a Solid State Power Amplifier (SSPA) with varying RF output power (flexible SSPA) and its' new type of application for onboard application. For satellite applications, the uplink rain fading losses can be compensated with the help of the Automatic Level Control (ALC) technique by increasing the gain of the amplifier but the for downlink rain fading losses the output power of the power amplifier has to be increased. This can be achieved by the use of flexible SSPA to compensate the downlink rain fade losses. For satellite applications it is necessary to maximize power added efficiency in all operating conditions for reliable and cost effective operation. This is achieved by DC bias control of the power stages of the power amplifier to improve the overall power added efficiency. A remarkable improvement of the order of 5 % at 3 dB back off is achieved. As a part of recent developments on flexible payloads worldwide, the flexi TWTAs can be replaced by flexi SSPAs.

Index Terms: Dynamic Bias Circuits, Linearity, Power Added Efficiency, Power Amplifier.

I.

INTRODUCTION

When the satellite technology was in its childhood, the space segment was much simplified as compared to complex ground segment. Later with advancement in technology, the ground segments are made as simple and portable as possible and the space segment is made bulky and complex with 10 to 15 years of life. The performance designed once was unaltered (fixed) for the proposed life of 7 to 15 years. The limitation with such payloads is that within the specified life, the technology would

have advanced much faster but the user has to use the available services already on-board. It becomes necessary to make the link parameters like (C/N, EIRP, coverage, usage frequency) variable so that any new requirement can be accommodated even after launch of satellite. The flexible payload allows user to change EIRP by changing the RF output power of SSPA without affecting the efficiency much.

The efficiency being the key parameter, many efforts have been proposed to achieve high efficiency of the RF power Amplifier, such as DC-DC converter [1], digital control using switch control and bias switch [2]. However, the solutions proposed by [1] and [2] are not satisfactory for portable wireless application due to high complexity and high cost where. The linearity of class-A and class-AB amplifiers are good for power amplifier applications, but the power efficiency of these two types is poor [3-4]. Switching mode power-amplifiers, such as Class- D, Class-E, and Class-F amplifiers, have high power efficiency, but they work as non-linear amplifiers and may generate interferences for the adjacent channels [5-8].

All these efforts are to improve the efficiency of the amplifier at the saturation condition. But the major concern for high power amplifier is to improve the efficiency under the RF input back off conditions. This calls for two contradictory requirements of high linearity and efficiency together. To meet such requirement Doherty amplifier is proposed to improve the efficiency over a wide power range [9-12]. The Doherty amplifier is more suitable for improving the Peak to Average Power Ratio (PAPR) and needs more components. Another approach proposed is to

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127 INTERNATIIOONAL JOURNAL OF MICROWAVE AND OPTICICAL TECHNOLOGY, VOL.10, NO.2, MARCH 2015 dynamically vary the

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dynamically vary the bias point in a class-A amplifier, according to the varying envelope of the incoming RF input signal power to improve

satellite transponder design. A common practice is to design a payload with state-of-the-art sub- systems available in the market. For example,

the

efficiency. All of these works are excellent

100 watt SSPAs for UHF-band, 40 watt SSPAs

achievements and most of them are for ground applications hence the aspects regarding space applications are not presented.

for L-band and 15 watt SSPAs for C-band are available off-the-shelf with space heritage design. They are commonly selected for satellite transponder design. Anything different from the

For

space applications, very limited work has

off-the-shelf space heritage product needs new

been proposed [13-14]. Moreover they are based

design and new qualification leads to impact on

on

only theoretical concept which may be

cost and schedule. The following examples show

difficult to implement practically for space

the applications where flexible output power

application. A scenario for space hardware is quite different then ground hardware. Some of

SSPAs are needed.

the

critical challenges are DC power generation

(i) The Direct-To-Home (DTH) Television

on-board, thermal management, multipaction and corona due to vacuum operation, ionizing radiations, availability of space qualified component, reliability guidelines, non-repairable hardware etc. For ground applications, availability of DC power and removal of heat is

reception is highly distorted and sometimes the Television reception is fully lost due to rain fading of the signal (especially when the communication is at Ku-Band). The uplink rain fading losses can be met by using Automatic Level Control (ALC) circuit at the input of the

not of major concern, but for satellite application where Sun is the only source of energy and conduction is the only medium to dissipate heat,

amplifier which compensates the uplink path loss by increasing the small signal gain of the amplifier. But, in order to meet the downlink rain

DC

power generation and thermal management

fading losses, the satellite transmit power has to

are

very critical. As compared to the ground

be increased. This can be achieved by increasing

hardware, there are more restrictions on component selection for space hardware because of different reliability guidelines. For example, the availability of the active device (BJT, MESFET, MOSFET, etc.) which is the heart of

the input power to the final power devices but this drives the device into hard saturation which affects reliability of the device. Another approach can be use of higher power amplifier than normally required. This higher power amplifier

the

active sub-systems with higher efficiency is

will consume more power even when there is no

limited for space applications. It is also mandatory to use devices with specified derating guidelines to meet the reliability criteria of the device. Higher the device efficiency lower is the power dissipation and better the thermal performance which leads to maintain specified channel temperature of the device and hence the reliability is good.

rain. So it is advantageous to keep higher power SSPA in the chain, operate at the required power level and increase the output power automatically as and when required while keeping the efficiency maximum at back-off. This is a different application proposed than most of the published work.

So, it is very useful to improve efficiency of any active device in all applications. In this paper, we present a simplified technique using which the space hardware can be easily realized.

II. NEED FOR FLEXIBLE OUTPUT SSPA

Depending upon coverage area and user requirement, the power amplifier is selected for

(ii) The growing development of telecommunications results in the crucial need for spectrally efficient modulation techniques. M-QAM modulations appear then useful for satellite communication systems. But the main critical point lies in that the non constant envelope characteristic of M-QAM signals classically requires an output power back-off of the SSPAs which is prejudicial to the Power Added Efficiency (PAE) performances. As a

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consequence, these types of modulation require an elaborate management of the RF power resources to meet the linearity specification while saving DC consumption.

reason is that for the devices like Metal to Semiconductor FETs (MESFET), changing the gate voltage affects reliability as well as gain of the device because gate voltage is also related to mutual trans-conductance.

Most of the satellites launched so far are with fixed output whose output can be varied using tele-commandable attenuator but has very low efficiency at back-off. The Flexible output power SSPA allows changing the output power while maintaining a good efficiency at back off.

Table 1: Efficiency of 20 watt SSPA under back-off

RF Input level

Pout

Dc power

 

(dBm)

consumption

add

(watt)

(%)

Nominal

20

54

37

Pin-4

10

42

23

Pin-7

5

37

13

Table 1 shows the relationship between the input back-off with the DC power consumption and power added efficiency of 20Watt GaAs FET SSPA developed for space applications. DC power consumption does not reduce at the same rate as output power. So efficiency reduces drastically at every 3 dB output power back-off.

III.

THEORY

The DC power consumption of the devices can be changes by either changing the Drain voltage V ds or by changing the Drain current I ds . The drain current can be changed by changing gate-to source voltage V gs. Most of the authors [13-15] have proposed to vary V ds and few authors have proposed to vary both. It is not clear from these works that when the bias parameters are changed how the impedance matching of the devices and other parameters for linearity is taken care. For ground applications it do not matter much which parameter is varied as there is not much concern for reliability as for space applications. Many of the authors have not explained the details about which parameter should be varied for different devices. For space applications frequent changing of gate voltage is not recommended because the drain current will also vary and hence the reliability of the device. The most important

If gain of the amplifier is changed an additional gain compensation circuit has to be incorporated in the amplifier. So it is advisable to reduce the drain voltage rather than drain current. The non- linearity of the device is dependent on the drain voltage so reducing the drain voltage may affect the linearity of the SSPA so it is necessary to ensure that the inter-modulation product remains within permissible limits. Moreover for space applications another important aspect is to design the line up such that the final power devices are

not driven into hard compression affecting the reliability under the unwanted overdrives up to 20 dB from the ground. For SSPAs using wide band gap devices like GaN (Gallium Nitride), the compression point will be 3-4 dB so at back off the gain will change by 3-4 dB for which gain compensation will be must. Most of the published work does not emphasize on such reliability aspects. The proposed design will ensure that the device’s reliability is not degraded under the overdrive conditions also for space application.

For satellite applications class B or AB is preferred for optimum performance in terms of better linearity and efficiency. The following explanation demonstrates the relation of the efficiency at saturation and at back off for fixed drain voltage [15]. Under ideal fixed voltage class B operation, the ratio of drain efficiency with variable and fixed drain voltage given by

Var 1

d

d fixed 1

 

2

(1)

Where represents the FET “ideally factor” and β= Pout/Pout max, the back-off ratio. For an ideal device (α =0), the ratio is always greater than 1 indicating higher efficiency under “extended saturation” operation. Thus above discussion shows that the SSPA offers higher efficiency at

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saturation as compared to the back-off condition.

IV. DESIGN, OPTIMIZATION AND SIMULATION

Before implementing the approach practically it is necessary to design, optimize and simulate the performance of high power device at different operating conditions. The non-linear model of the device is characterized using non-linear simulation on ADS and the important parameters like stability, gain, power and linearity are optimized for different voltages. Later, the same is carried out practically to collect the required data. To understand the technique following two different approaches were worked out and the best was selected.

The block diagram of SSPA with Dynamic Bias approach is shown in Figure.1

of SSPA with Dynamic Bias approach is shown in Figure.1 Fig.1. Block diagram of SSPA with

Fig.1. Block diagram of SSPA with dynamic bias approach

V. REALIZATION OF HARDWARE

1.) Constant output power Approach 2.) Constant Gain Approach

Comparing both the approaches, it is observed that the constant Gain approach is very useful for space applications as the transponder gain is not changed as compared to constant output power approach where transponder gain changes. Some sort of controller is required which will vary the drain voltage in accordance with input power back-off. This has been realized as follows.

The RF input power was monitored using a coupler and this coupled power was converted into DC voltage using RF detector. This detected signal was used for reference signal for the dynamic biasing controller. The dynamic biasing controller consists of A/D converters, PROMs, a PROM controller and D/A converters, which provide control voltage for drain. All these designs need to be passed through space qualified processes and all components needed for circuit realization must be as per ESA/NASA derating guidelines. As compared to ground hardware, the major challenge lies in design, selection of components with Radiation Hardening (Rad- Hard) as well development process and qualification over extreme temperature (-10 to + 60 degree Celsius) under vacuum of the order of 10E-6 torr.

The circuit topology can be explained as follows. The input signal is first coupled by a coupler of suitable coupling and then detected by RF detector diode. The dc output of the detector is

given to the ADC, where it is to be converted into digital form to feed to the EPROM. Depending

upon

the data fed to the EPROM, it will give the

DC

output in digital form, which is then

converted back into an analog form by DAC.

This DC voltage is given to EPC (Electronics

Power Conditioner). The EPC finally provides the required bias with sufficient load current to different amplifier stages. Sometimes the controller circuit is part of EPC but we propose to include the controller part in SSPA due to various reasons. SSPA requires gain and output power stability so gain and power compensation over the temperature range from -10 °C to +60 °C in vacuum is required. For this, controller is required which is part of SSPA so the same

controller also can be used for the above function. Many RF designers procure EPC from

other vendors and if such features are demanded

the cost can be very high. Thus we have used the controller circuit as a part of SSPA.

Table 2. shows a typical look up table which is

burn

into the EEPROM. In order to implement

the

circuit practically, more parameters are

required to be measured and presented so the

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results are presented in tabular form rather than the graphical representation.

Table 2: Look up table for EEPROM controller

Output of

Input to

Input power level

ADC (volt)

DAC (volt)

4

9.0

Nominal RF input

3.5

7.73

1 dB input back-off

3.0

6.96

2 dB input back-off

2.5

6.25

3 dB input back-off

2.0

5.74

4 dB input back-off

1.5

5.40

5 dB input back-off

Table 4: Test data for 10 Watt SSPA with Dynamic Bias.

Pin

Pout

IRF

VDC

P

dc

η (%)

(dBm)

(dBm)

(Amp)

(volt)

(watt)

18

38.93

2.44

9.0

21.96

35.36

17

37.95

2.21

8.49

18.76

33.24

16

36.95

1.87

8.10

15.15

32.71

15

35.95

1.70

7.74

13.16

29.91

14

34.95

1.60

7.61

12.18

25.67

13

33.95

1.53

7.53

11.52

21.55

Table 5: shows the efficiency improvement using flexible 10 Watt SSPA

VI. TESTING OF ACTUAL HARDWARE.

The interfacing circuit of Dynamic Biasing Controller is shown in the Figure.2

Output to EPC DAC 0800 EEPROM 89C52 ADC 0820 Input From detector
Output to EPC
DAC 0800
EEPROM
89C52
ADC 0820
Input From detector
EPC DAC 0800 EEPROM 89C52 ADC 0820 Input From detector Fig.2. Interfacing circuit of dynamic biasing

Fig.2. Interfacing circuit of dynamic biasing controller

The DAC output is applied to Power supply circuit (EPC) which provides voltage required for last stage along with sufficient load current. Thus by increasing the input by 1 dB and giving the execute command; all the required voltages were generated by the EPROM programmer along with the sufficient drive required by the last device.

Table 3 shows the test data for 10 Watt SSPA without Dynamic Bias.

Table 3: Test data for 10 watt SSPA without dynamic bias

Pin

Pout

IRF

VDC

P

dc

η (%)

(dBm)

(dBm)

(Amp)

(Volt)

(watt)

18

38.93

2.44

9.0

21.96

35.36

17

38.23

2.30

9.0

20.70

31.75

16

37.36

2.16

9.0

19.44

27.52

15

36.33

2.03

9.0

18.27

23.00

14

35.27

1.93

9.0

17.37

18.87

13

34.20

1.85

9.0

16.65

15.34

Table 4 shows the test data for 10 Watt SSPA with Dynamic Bias.

Table 5: The efficiency improvement using flexible 10 Watt SSPA

Pin (dBm)

Efficiency improvement ( % )

DC power

improvement

(watt)

18 (Nominal)

0

0

17

1.49

2.19

16

5.19

4.64

15

6.91

5.52

14

6.80

5.66

13

6.22

5.63

The DC power saving of about 5 watt at 3 dB input back-off for 10 watt SSPA is quite considerable for on-board applications. In the present case the drain voltage of only final device is varied but for higher power SSPAs the driver stage of the final stage can also be varied to get higher amount of efficiency improvement. This amount is still higher for higher power SSPAs as explained in earlier discussion. Here we present the flexible SSPA using state of the art GaN HEMT device. The non linear model of High power GaN device is used to perform Harmonic Balance simulation on ADS and the simulated results are presented here. The amount of DC power saving is shown for 200 watt GaN device at 1.2 GHz frequency in the following Tables 6 and 7.

Table 6: 200 watt GaN device without dynamic bias

Pin

Pout

IRF

VDC

P

dc

η (%)

(dBm)

(dBm)

(Amp)

(volt)

(watt)

39

53.0

11.7

28

327.6

58.5

38

52.6

11.1

28

310.8

56.3

37

52.0

10.3

28

288.4

52.7

36

51.2

9.4

28

263.2

48.2

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Table 7: 200 watt GaN device

with

dynamic bias

Pin

Pout

IRF

VDC

P

dc

η (%)

(dBm)

(dBm)

(Amp)

(volt)

(watt)

39

53.0

11.7

28

327.6

58.5

38

52.6

10.4

25.2

262.1

57.8

37

52.0

9.3

22.9

213.0

56.7

36

51.2

8.3

21

174.3

55

VII.

CONCLUSION

The concept of the flexible SSPA has been demonstrated on device level with hardware realization using the dynamic biasing approach for on-Board space applications. It can be seen from the measured results that a considerable amount of power, 2 watt in 10 watt SSPA and 90 watt in 200 watt SSPA, at 3dB input back-off can be saved using this approach. Using this SSPA the satellite transmit power can be varied automatically to meet the losses due to atmosphere and rain fading. The reliability of the device also can be improved by reducing its drain voltage and channel temperature. This is considered as a remarkable power saving for space application and also the significant technique to improve the link availability for DTH application.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The authors would like to express their deep gratitude to Shri A. S. Kiran Kumar, Director, Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, ISRO, for his encouragement and support for this work. The authors would also like to thank each and every person who directly or indirectly contributed to make this task successful.

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