Operational Testing and Improvements of the ASU Smallsat Ground Station

Project: Research project

Description

The primary objective of this multi-year proposal is to advance ASU's newly-installed SmallSat ground station facility to a demonstrated operational status by JPL missions. Our secondary objective is to study and prototype innovative advances in state-of-the-art cryogenic receiver hardware and software to achieve the high sensitivity required to enable communications with future deep space CubeSat missions using only a modest-sized (10 ft) satellite dish.

To support testing of the S-band system, we will deploy state-of-the-art FPGA-based digital signal processing equipment, including existing Software Defined Radio platforms, like the USRP (from Ettus Research), and the Roach2 board (from the Casper group at UC Berkeley). These systems will augment the existing UHF software defined radio system, but allow for S-band reception without down-conversion. The existing antennae are now undergoing final pointing tests (for both the UHF yagis and the S/X-band dish see Figure 1), and the new equipment can be easily integrated. We expect that within the first ~6 months of this effort, the station will allow tracking of existing S-band LEO satellites, and will be testing its capabilities to receive limited X-band data from the MarCO (launched in the first year of this effort) and LunaH-Map deep space CubeSats (to be launched and operating within the first to second year of this effort).

ASU's existing ground station hardware was designed to cover three communication bands: UHF, S-band, and X-band. The main goal of this effort is to advance the capabilities of this system through installation of a cutting edge S-band receiver on our installed 10ft parabolic reflector. Several undergraduate students and faculty/staff researchers will partner to design and prototype a receiver that would be at least an order of magnitude more sensitive than the system deployed above, capitalizing on existing research at ASU. Specifically, ASU's radio astronomy experience with the development and operation of similar kinds of systems shows that 20 K or lower system noise temperature should be achievable at 2 to 3 GHz using cryogenically cooled electronics. JPL engineers will work closely with ASU colleagues (including on-site visits) to a) ensure compatibility with MarCO and LunaH-Map and b) investigate how these methods might be translatable to low-cost antenna systems provided by other JPL partner schools.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date11/20/179/28/18

Funding

  • National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA): $28,000.00

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Satellites
Antennas
Radio astronomy
Hardware
Radio systems
Communication
Testing
Digital signal processing
Cryogenics
Field programmable gate arrays (FPGA)
Electronic equipment
Students
Engineers
Costs
Temperature