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MEMS RF switches - THALES

Published on 16 April 2016



Switches are important components on board a satellite, performing a range of crucial functions. For example, if there is an incident on a circuit, a switch is used to transfer the load to a working circuit. Thales Alenia Space is planning to integrate a new generation of switches—ten times smaller than those currently in use—into its products. The switches under development were tested on the ground for more than a year. Several test switches were then sent into space in early 2014 to embark upon an impressive fifteen years of reliability testing. The results will determine whether the switches will ultimately make their way into tomorrow’s satellites.


The silicon-based MEMS RF switches feature a transmission line whose signal can be interrupted by an electrical contact that moves when subjected to electrostatic voltage. The switches are made using techniques—like photolithography and thin-layer deposition—fully mastered by Leti.

Leti’s engineers looked to the electrical contact materials and the charge accumulation mechanisms at work to improve the component’s reliability during cycling and confirm its resistance to radiation. Around ten micro switches with varying switching frequencies were sent into space for further testing.

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