CESET Technical Research Focus


The Center of Excellence in Systems Engineering for Space Exploration Technologies’ technical program will consist of the development of Software Defined Radio Technologies for space applications. Software Defined Radio (SDR) is a revolutionary technology that involves replacing fixed or minimally adjustable analog radio subsystems with adjustable, adaptable, programmable architectures. Current space communication technologies utilized by NASA are still limited in addressing multi-band, multi-data-rate requirements, power control, sensitivity, and mass issues. The objective of the proposed research is to provide an impact in the development of SDRs through the technology demonstration of frequency adaptive analog front-end components and development of cognitive-based algorithms for RF front-end control, smart power control, and smart waveform identification.

The resulting SDR will demonstrate a multi-band, multi-function capability for space communications transmission and reception. The Center of Microwave Satellite, and Radio-Frequency Engineering (COMSARE) and the Signals and Sensors Laboratory (SIGSENS) will conduct research in the development of the key SDR components. The technical plan includes development of Front-end components including: tunable RF filters, ultra-wideband low-noise amplifiers, broadband amplifiers, and broadband mixers in GaAs device technology. GaAs-based circuits have been proven to have excellent performance in-flight at Ka-band and will be the demonstrated technology for the fully integrated architecture. The initial focus will be on advanced circuit design and circuit and system simulation optimization of the key components. Short term goals will include hybrid designs based upon microwave integrated circuits (MIC) and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTs) components which will be fabricated and tested as a benchmark towards transitioning to a fully integrated GaAs-based SDR RF analog front-end receiver architecture. The technical plan also includes development of both hardware and software Back-end components including: deriving algorithms for waveform identification, power measurement, and control of various aspects of the RF front-end. The Plan also includes research, development, and application of SDR techniques to a Digital Signal Processing Astronomy Receiver Back-end. This includes modeling receiver functionality and research into increasing its signal resolution through the use of higher bit-width data converters.

In addition to the development of front-end and back-end SDR technology for communication systems, SIGSENS will develop digital signal processing solutions for enhancement of an astronomy spacecraft radio receiver. The goal of this enhancement is to utilize digital electronics as close to the preamp as possible, avoiding the mass of filters and other RF front-end elements and utilizing the added flexibility provided by digitizing and processing the full 16 MHz passband.

All areas of the proposed research will build upon the legacy work and the expertise gained from previous URC research efforts, i.e., the ‘Fully Integrated Direct Sample Digital Radiometer (DSDR)’ and the ‘Ka-Band High Efficiency Amplifier for Receiver Technology.’ Although the focus for this work is the development of an adaptable receiver, it is also important to note that the components that will be demonstrated can be used – and are vital – in both the receivers and transmitters. All segments of the research will begin basically with the relevant literature searches, which will be followed by iterative modeling and testing efforts. The modeling efforts will be followed by hardware/testing efforts and iterative implementations onto a SDR test bed.

Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. School of Engineering
Morgan State University
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
© Copyright 2009 CESET, A Research Center of Morgan State University School of Engineering.