Cassegrain antenna

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Types of parabolic antenna Parabolic antenna types2.svg
Types of parabolic antenna

In telecommunications and radar, a Cassegrain antenna is a parabolic antenna in which the feed antenna is mounted at or behind the surface of the concave main parabolic reflector dish and is aimed at a smaller convex secondary reflector suspended in front of the primary reflector. The beam of radio waves from the feed illuminates the secondary reflector, which reflects it back to the main reflector dish, which reflects it forward again to form the desired beam. The Cassegrain design is widely used in parabolic antennas, particularly in large antennas such as those in satellite ground stations, radio telescopes, and communication satellites.

Telecommunication transmission of information between locations using electromagnetics

Telecommunication is the transmission of signs, signals, messages, words, writings, images and sounds or information of any nature by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems. Telecommunication occurs when the exchange of information between communication participants includes the use of technology. It is transmitted either electrically over physical media, such as cables, or via electromagnetic radiation. Such transmission paths are often divided into communication channels which afford the advantages of multiplexing. Since the Latin term communicatio is considered the social process of information exchange, the term telecommunications is often used in its plural form because it involves many different technologies.

Radar object detection system based on radio waves

Radar is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves in the radio or microwaves domain, a transmitting antenna, a receiving antenna and a receiver and processor to determine properties of the object(s). Radio waves from the transmitter reflect off the object and return to the receiver, giving information about the object's location and speed.

Parabolic antenna type of antenna

A parabolic antenna is an antenna that uses a parabolic reflector, a curved surface with the cross-sectional shape of a parabola, to direct the radio waves. The most common form is shaped like a dish and is popularly called a dish antenna or parabolic dish. The main advantage of a parabolic antenna is that it has high directivity. It functions similarly to a searchlight or flashlight reflector to direct the radio waves in a narrow beam, or receive radio waves from one particular direction only. Parabolic antennas have some of the highest gains, meaning that they can produce the narrowest beamwidths, of any antenna type. In order to achieve narrow beamwidths, the parabolic reflector must be much larger than the wavelength of the radio waves used, so parabolic antennas are used in the high frequency part of the radio spectrum, at UHF and microwave (SHF) frequencies, at which the wavelengths are small enough that conveniently-sized reflectors can be used.



The primary reflector is a paraboloid, while the shape of the convex secondary reflector is a hyperboloid. The geometrical condition for radiating a collimated, plane wave beam is that the feed antenna is located at the far focus of the hyperboloid, while the focus of the primary reflector coincides with the near focus of the hyperboloid. [1] Usually the secondary reflector and the feed antenna are located on the central axis of the dish. However, in offset Cassegrain configurations, the primary dish reflector is asymmetric, and its focus, and the secondary reflector, are located to one side of the dish, so that the secondary reflector does not partially obstruct the beam.

Paraboloid quadric surface of special kind

In geometry, a paraboloid is a quadric surface that has (exactly) one axis of symmetry and no center of symmetry. The term "paraboloid" is derived from parabola, which refers to a conic section that has the same property of symmetry.

Hyperboloid type of surface in three dimensions

In geometry, a hyperboloid of revolution, sometimes called circular hyperboloid, is a surface that may be generated by rotating a hyperbola around one of its principal axes. A hyperboloid is a surface that may be obtained from a hyperboloid of revolution by deforming it by means of directional scalings, or more generally, of an affine transformation.

Feed horn small horn antenna used to convey radio waves between a transmitter and/or receiver and a parabolic reflector

In parabolic antennas such as satellite dishes, a feed horn is a small horn antenna used to convey radio waves between the transmitter and/or receiver and the parabolic reflector. In transmitting antennas, it is connected to the transmitter and converts the radio frequency alternating current from the transmitter to radio waves and feeds them to the rest of the antenna, which focuses them into a beam. In receiving antennas, incoming radio waves are gathered and focused by the antenna's reflector on the feed horn, which converts them to a tiny radio frequency voltage which is amplified by the receiver. Feed horns are used mainly at microwave (SHF) and higher frequencies.


This design is an alternative to the most common parabolic antenna design, called "front feed" or "prime focus", in which the feed antenna itself is mounted suspended in front of the dish at the focus, pointed back toward the dish. The Cassegrain is a more complex design, but in certain applications it has advantages over front feed that can justify its increased complexity:

Antenna feed

In telecommunications and electronics, an antenna feed refers to several slightly different parts of an antenna system:

In a radio receiver circuit, the RF front end is a generic term for all the circuitry between a receiver's antenna input up to and including the mixer stage. It consists of all the components in the receiver that process the signal at the original incoming radio frequency (RF), before it is converted to a lower intermediate frequency (IF). In microwave and satellite receivers it is often called the low-noise block (LNB) or low-noise downconverter (LND) and is often located at the antenna, so that the signal from the antenna can be transferred to the rest of the receiver at the more easily handled intermediate frequency.

Radio telescope form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy

A radio telescope is a specialized antenna and radio receiver used to receive radio waves from astronomical radio sources in the sky in radio astronomy. Radio telescopes are the main observing instrument used in radio astronomy, which studies the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by astronomical objects, just as optical telescopes are the main observing instrument used in traditional optical astronomy which studies the light wave portion of the spectrum coming from astronomical objects. Radio telescopes are typically large parabolic ("dish") antennas similar to those employed in tracking and communicating with satellites and space probes. They may be used singly or linked together electronically in an array. Unlike optical telescopes, radio telescopes can be used in the daytime as well as at night. Since astronomical radio sources such as planets, stars, nebulas and galaxies are very far away, the radio waves coming from them are extremely weak, so radio telescopes require very large antennas to collect enough radio energy to study them, and extremely sensitive receiving equipment. Radio observatories are preferentially located far from major centers of population to avoid electromagnetic interference (EMI) from radio, television, radar, motor vehicles, and other manmade electronic devices.

In electronics, noise temperature is one way of expressing the level of available noise power introduced by a component or source. The power spectral density of the noise is expressed in terms of the temperature that would produce that level of Johnson–Nyquist noise, thus:

A beam waveguide antenna, a type of Cassegrain design, showing the complicated signal path. Picture bwg.gif
A beam waveguide antenna, a type of Cassegrain design, showing the complicated signal path.

A disadvantage of the Cassegrain is that the feed horn(s) must have a narrower beamwidth (higher gain) to focus its radiation on the smaller secondary reflector, instead of the wider primary reflector as in front-fed dishes. The angular width the secondary reflector subtends at the feed horn is typically 10° - 15°, as opposed to 120° - 180° the main reflector subtends in a front-fed dish. Therefore, the feed horn must be longer for a given wavelength.


In a radio antenna pattern, the half power beam width is the angle between the half-power points of the main lobe, when referenced to the peak effective radiated power of the main lobe. See beam diameter. Beamwidth is usually but not always expressed in degrees and for the horizontal plane.

In electromagnetics, an antenna's power gain or simply gain is a key performance number which combines the antenna's directivity and electrical efficiency. In a transmitting antenna, the gain describes how well the antenna converts input power into radio waves headed in a specified direction. In a receiving antenna, the gain describes how well the antenna converts radio waves arriving from a specified direction into electrical power. When no direction is specified, "gain" is understood to refer to the peak value of the gain, the gain in the direction of the antenna's main lobe. A plot of the gain as a function of direction is called the radiation pattern.

Beam waveguide antenna

A beam waveguide antenna is a type of complicated Cassegrain antenna with a long radio wave path to allow the feed electronics to be located at ground level. It is used in very large steerable radio telescopes and satellite ground antennas, where the feed electronics is too complicated and bulky, or requires too much maintenance and alterations, to locate on the dish; for example those using cryogenically-cooled amplifiers. The beam of incoming radio waves from the secondary reflector is reflected by additional mirrors in a long twisting path through the axes of the altazimuth mount, so the antenna can be steered without interrupting the beam, and then down through the antenna tower to a feed building at ground level.

Beam waveguide antenna

A beam waveguide antenna is a particular type of large steerable parabolic antenna in which the radio waves are transported in a beam between the movable dish and the stationary transmitter or receiver using multiple reflective surfaces.

Altazimuth mount two-axis mount for supporting and rotating an instrument (e.g. telescope) about two perpendicular axes – one vertical and the other horizontal

An altazimuth or alt-azimuth mount is a simple two-axis mount for supporting and rotating an instrument about two perpendicular axes – one vertical and the other horizontal. Rotation about the vertical axis varies the azimuth of the pointing direction of the instrument. Rotation about the horizontal axis varies the altitude of the pointing direction.


The Cassegrain antenna design was adapted from the Cassegrain telescope, a type of reflecting telescope developed around 1672 and attributed to French priest Laurent Cassegrain. The first Cassegrain antenna was invented and patented by Cochrane and Whitehead at Elliot Bros in Borehmahwood, England, in 1952. The patent, British Patent Number 700868, was subsequently challenged in court, but prevailed. [6]

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Cassegrain satellite communication antenna in Sweden. The convex secondary reflector can be seen suspended above the dish, and the feed horn is visible projecting from the center of the dish.
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Closeup of the convex secondary reflector in a large satellite communications antenna in Pleumeur-Bodou, France
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Cassegrain spacecraft communication antenna in Canberra, Australia, part of NASA's Deep Space Network. The advantage of the Cassegrain design is that the heavy complicated feed structure (bottom) doesn't have to be suspended over the dish.
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Cassegrain antenna on the Voyager spacecraft

See also

Related Research Articles

Parabolic reflector reflector that has the shape of a parabola

A parabolicreflector is a reflective surface used to collect or project energy such as light, sound, or radio waves. Its shape is part of a circular paraboloid, that is, the surface generated by a parabola revolving around its axis. The parabolic reflector transforms an incoming plane wave traveling along the axis into a spherical wave converging toward the focus. Conversely, a spherical wave generated by a point source placed in the focus is reflected into a plane wave propagating as a collimated beam along the axis.

Satellite dish antenna for TV and radio reception

A satellite dish is a dish-shaped type of parabolic antenna designed to receive or transmit information by radio waves to or from a communication satellite. The term most commonly means a dish used by consumers to receive direct-broadcast satellite television from a direct broadcast satellite in geostationary orbit.

Reflecting telescope telescopes that reflect light with a combination of mirrors

A reflecting telescope is a telescope that uses a single or a combination of curved mirrors that reflect light and form an image. The reflecting telescope was invented in the 17th century, by Isaac Newton, as an alternative to the refracting telescope which, at that time, was a design that suffered from severe chromatic aberration. Although reflecting telescopes produce other types of optical aberrations, it is a design that allows for very large diameter objectives. Almost all of the major telescopes used in astronomy research are reflectors. Reflecting telescopes come in many design variations and may employ extra optical elements to improve image quality or place the image in a mechanically advantageous position. Since reflecting telescopes use mirrors, the design is sometimes referred to as a "catoptric" telescope.

Newtonian telescope

The Newtonian telescope, also called the Newtonian reflector or just the Newtonian, is a type of reflecting telescope invented by the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), using a concave primary mirror and a flat diagonal secondary mirror. Newton's first reflecting telescope was completed in 1668 and is the earliest known functional reflecting telescope. The Newtonian telescope's simple design makes it very popular with amateur telescope makers.

Slotted waveguide

A slotted waveguide is a waveguide that is used as an antenna in microwave radar applications. Prior to its use in surface search radar, such systems used a parabolic segment reflector. The slotted waveguide antenna was the result of collaborative radar research carried on by McGill University and the National Research Council of Canada during World War II. The co-inventors, W.H. Watson and E.W. Guptill of McGill, were granted a United States patent for the device, described as a "directive antenna for microwaves", in 1951.

Horn antenna

A horn antenna or microwave horn is an antenna that consists of a flaring metal waveguide shaped like a horn to direct radio waves in a beam. Horns are widely used as antennas at UHF and microwave frequencies, above 300 MHz. They are used as feed antennas for larger antenna structures such as parabolic antennas, as standard calibration antennas to measure the gain of other antennas, and as directive antennas for such devices as radar guns, automatic door openers, and microwave radiometers. Their advantages are moderate directivity, low standing wave ratio (SWR), broad bandwidth, and simple construction and adjustment.

Catadioptric system optical system where refraction and reflection are combined

A catadioptric optical system is one where refraction and reflection are combined in an optical system, usually via lenses (dioptrics) and curved mirrors (catoptrics). Catadioptric combinations are used in focusing systems such as searchlights, headlamps, early lighthouse focusing systems, optical telescopes, microscopes, and telephoto lenses. Other optical systems that use lenses and mirrors are also referred to as "catadioptric" such as surveillance catadioptric sensors.

Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope

The Schmidt–Cassegrain is a catadioptric telescope that combines a Cassegrain reflector's optical path with a Schmidt corrector plate to make a compact astronomical instrument that uses simple spherical surfaces.

Cassegrain reflector type of telescope reflector

The Cassegrain reflector is a combination of a primary concave mirror and a secondary convex mirror, often used in optical telescopes and radio antennas, the main characteristic being that the optical path folds back onto itself, relative to the optical system's primary mirror entrance aperture. This design puts the focal point at a convenient location behind the primary mirror and the convex secondary adds a telephoto effect creating a much longer focal length in a mechanically short system.

Reflector (antenna) part of radio antenna

An antenna reflector is a device that reflects electromagnetic waves. Antenna reflectors can exist as a standalone device for redirecting radio frequency (RF) energy, or can be integrated as part of an antenna assembly.

Schmidt–Newton telescope

A Schmidt–Newton telescope or Schmidt–Newtonian telescope is a catadioptric telescope that combines elements from both the Schmidt camera and the Newtonian reflector. In this telescope design a spherical primary mirror is combined with a Schmidt corrector plate, which corrects the spherical aberration. The resulting system has less coma than a reflecting telescope with a parabolic mirror. The design uses a 45° flat secondary mirror to view the image, as in a standard Newtonian telescope.

Offset dish antenna

An offset dish antenna or off-axis dish antenna is a type of parabolic antenna. It is so called because the antenna feed is offset to the side of the reflector, in contrast to the common "front-feed" parabolic antenna where the feed antenna is suspended in front of the dish, on its axis. As in a front-fed parabolic dish, the feed is located at the focal point of the reflector, but the reflector is an asymmetric segment of a paraboloid, so the focus is located to the side.

The Gregorian telescope is a type of reflecting telescope designed by Scottish mathematician and astronomer James Gregory in the 17th century, and first built in 1673 by Robert Hooke. James Gregory was a contemporary of Isaac Newton, both often worked simultaneously on similar projects. Gregory's design was published in 1663 and pre-dates the first practical reflecting telescope, the Newtonian telescope, built by Sir Isaac Newton in 1668. However, Gregory's design was only a theoretical description and he never actually constructed the telescope. It was not successfully built until five years after Newton's first reflecting telescope.

Focal cloud

A focal cloud is the collection of focal points of an imperfect lens or parabolic reflector whether optical, electrostatic or electromagnetic. This includes parabolic antennas and lens-type reflective antennas of all kinds. The effect is analogous to the circle of confusion in photography.

Yebes Observatory RT40m

The Yebes Observatory RT40m, or ARIESXXI, is a radio telescope which is part of the observatory at Yebes, Spain. It is a 40-metre Cassegrain–Nasmyth telescope.

Antenna array set of multiple antennas which work together as a single antenna

An antenna array is a set of multiple connected antennas which work together as a single antenna, to transmit or receive radio waves. The individual antennas are usually connected to a single receiver or transmitter by feedlines that feed the power to the elements in a specific phase relationship. The radio waves radiated by each individual antenna combine and superpose, adding together to enhance the power radiated in desired directions, and cancelling to reduce the power radiated in other directions. Similarly, when used for receiving, the separate radio frequency currents from the individual antennas combine in the receiver with the correct phase relationship to enhance signals received from the desired directions and cancel signals from undesired directions. More sophisticated array antennas may have multiple transmitter or receiver modules, each connected to a separate antenna element or group of elements.

Fresnel zone antennas are reflector antennas that focus the signal by using the phase shifting property of the antenna surface, rather than its shape. There are three type of Fresnel zone antennas, namely, Fresnel zone plate, offset Fresnel zone plate antennas and phase correcting reflective array or "Reflectarray" antennas. They are a class of diffractive antennas and have been used from radio frequencies to X rays.


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