Space Switch Solutions

Our Experience

We have been a premier supplier of space qualified RF switches, coaxial and waveguide, since 1970. Dow-Key Microwave designs, fabricates and tests all integrated switch blocks assemblies and individual switches in our facility. Our switches have had an in-flight failure free record in over 100 different space programs using 150 different product designs. With decades of experience and knowledge we are confident in providing high reliability solutions which can withstand the severe environments that space imposes on complex systems.

Our Solutions

Dow-Key’s innovative and proven high reliability, superior RF performance, and low current/magnetic latch SPDT switches have played a part in hundreds of successful space missions since the 1970’s. Some of these missions include: GPS III (Global Positioning System), Atlas (launch vehicle), Pegasus (rocket), Milstar (satellite communication system), and Optus (leading operator of satellites in the Asia Pacific region).

Our rigorous quality assurance processes allow transfer switches to be used in critical programs such as Inmarsat-4 satellite system which supports Broadband and Global Area Network for delivering Internet and intranet content solutions (e.g. video, fax, email and LAN access). On other space missions like the ACE (Advanced Composition Explorer – an explorer mission) our lightweight (less than 55 grams) and highly reliable qualified transfer switches were a perfect fit.

The benefit of a T-switch over a transfer switch is that up to three combinations of RF paths are available, which is perfectly suited for space applications where more than two path combinations (DPDT) are required. In addition to superior RF performance and lightweight/high power capabilities, Dow-Key distinguishes itself from others by introducing random drive (minimizing the switching time) rather than forcing the application to switch RF paths in sequential order. These RF switches have been qualified in programs including MUOS (space craft), Isro (Indian Space program), and Insat-3 (multipurpose satellite design providing telecommunications, television broadcasting, meteorological, search and rescue services).

In 1993 Dow-Key expended its involvement in Hi-Rel space programs with the acquisition of the Transco Space Qualified Products from Datron/Transco Systems in Southern California, including space programs dating back to 1968. In addition to inheriting many of the Hi-Rel (and commercial) waveguide switches, many of the veteran Transco design engineers stayed with Dow-Key and are still employed with us today. Thus, this unique combination of experience and innovation enhances our capabilities. Dow-Key can supply waveguide switches with or without windows, and also in C (DPDT) or R (4-Position) configuration.

Some of the design advantages of Dow-Key waveguide switches are:

  • Simple light weight design with very few parts
  • Low current actuator design with no moving parts
  • Simple magnetic latching. No mechanisms, springs or detents required
  • Actuator completely sealed from RF waveguide section

Over the years, Dow-Key’s outstanding Hi-Rel track record has generated interest in combining space qualified switches and other components such as power dividers in a block of switches, a.k.a. switch blocks, to achieve the matrix complexity needed in programs such as GPS-3, Kompsat-3 (satellite), Inmarsat-4, and other classified programs. Experience gained in over 150 years of combined knowledge and practice in design, test, and manufacturing of Hi-Rel products, makes Dow-Key a perfect investment for custom and complex switching needs.

For specific part numbers and RF refer to our Space Brochure.

Dow-Key Space Team

We have an entire team of experts – from devoted sales and program managers, QA and procurement personnel to design, test, and manufacturing engineers – dedicated solely to space production that is supported by a well trained and certified group of technicians and production personnel. Our entire staff is fully dedicated to our customer base, with comprehensive focus on each project from the design phase all the way to final test and beyond.

Dow-Key Facility, Quality and Equipment

Dow-Key Microwave has heavily invested in technical staff and capital equipment to provide the right environment and tools for manufacturing products of the highest quality and reliability for use in manned and unmanned space vehicles.

Facility/Test Equipment

  • Two Class 7 Clean Rooms with humidity and temperature controlled environment
  • Prohibited materials and screening chamber
  • Three full time T-VAC test stations
  • RF Power and Multipaction stations
  • Vibration Room

Design Software

  • AutoCAD
  • SolidWorks
  • HFSS (High Frequency Structural Simulator)
  • Cosmos FEA (validation and failure mode simulation)

Quality Certifications

  • Quality Management System (QMS) evolved from MIL-Q-9858A & MIL-I-45208
  • DOD classified certifications
  • AS9100 and ISO-9001 Certified through BSI Management Systems