Software-Defined Radio for CubeSat Applications

Project 20


Each satellite is unique and has specific mission requirements. The solution to these constraints is proprietary and particular to the satellite that is being developed. One of the primary difficulties is establishing a communication link from the satellite to Earth with a specific modulation scheme and frequency for the mission’s requirements. RF transmissions from space to Earth must be resilient to noise and adverse effects introduced to the system by the distance, atmospheric conditions, and other factors while still maintaining enough signal strength to be recovered. Component selection and modulation scheme for the payload and ground station, simulation of the communication link, and adequate testing before launch are key challenges. By using Software-Defined Radio, a flexible, cost-effective, and rapidly prototyped solution can be created that is capable of effective Digital Signal Processing while also taking advantage of the reprogrammable nature of FPGAs to achieve the mission.   


Community Benefit

We have proved that a rapidly prototyped communication link using signal processing to transmit data is possible using SDR. This approach not only reduced costs but also enhanced adaptability and accessibility. Since our work is available to the public, others who are interested in establishing a communication link may reference our work and improve upon it further. We have learned that in development, software compatibility is an enormous constraint that can be managed effectively with Docker containers. In addition, creating adequate methods for pointing the directional yagi antenna during launch would greatly increase the mission’s effectiveness. In the future, implementing a more complex modulation scheme like QPSK while managing signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) could result in better spectral efficiency, bandwidth utilization, and higher data rates. Forward Error Correction (FEC) could also aid in reducing errors at the ground station. Considering what we have learned, future teams will have a much better picture of what it takes to create a robust communication link using Software-Defined Radio for CubeSats.   


Team Members


Sponsored By:

Georgio Sklivanitis