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Fabric Circuits and Method of Manufacturing Fabric Circuits
Solid-State Microwave Power Module
Typically, microwave power modules (MPMs) are useful only for radar and navigation purposes because they lack the linearity and efficiency required for communications. In standard configurations, conventional MPMs require both a solid-state amplifier at the front end and a microwave vacuum electronics amplifier at the back end. By contrast, Glenn's design features a wideband multi-stage distributed amplifier system. The low-power stage is a high-efficiency gallium arsenide (GaAs) pseudomorphic high-electron-mobility transistor (pHEMT)-based monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) distributed amplifier. The medium-power stage is configured to pick up and amplify the low-power signal. This stage can be either another high-efficiency GaAs pHEMT or a gallium nitride (GaN) HEMT-based MMIC distributed amplifier, depending on the need. The high-power stage, configured to pick up the signal from the second amplifier, is a high-efficiency GaN HEMT-based MMIC distributed amplifier, which supplants the traveling-wave tube amplifier found in most microwave power modules. In Glenn's novel MPM, the radar functions as a scatterometer, radiometer, and synthetic aperture imager. The high-speed communications system down-links science data acquired by Earth-observing instruments. The navigation system functions like a transponder for autonomous rendezvous and docking, and estimates the range information. Glenn's MPM gives systems the versatility to use a single power module to drive not only radar and navigation but also communications systems.
Optical Tunable-Based Transmitter for Multiple High-Frequency Bands
NASA Glenn's researchers have developed a means of transporting multiple radio frequency carriers through a common optical beam. In contrast to RF infrastructure systems alone, this type of hybrid RF/optical system can provide a very high data-capacity signal communication and significantly reduce power, volume, and complexity. Based on an optical wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) technique, in which optical wavelengths are generated by a tunable diode laser (TDL), the system enables multiple microwave bands to be combined and transmitted all in one unit. The WDM technique uses a different optical wavelength to carry each separate and independent high-frequency microwave band (e.g., L, C, X, Ku, Ka, Q, or higher bands). Since each RF carrier operates at a different optical wavelength, the tunable diode laser can, with the use of an electronic tunable laser controller unit, adjust the spacing wavelength and thereby minimize any crosstalk effect. Glenn's novel design features a tunable laser, configured to generate multiple optical wavelengths, along with an optical transmitter. The optical transmitter modulates each of the optical wavelengths with a corresponding RF band and then encodes each of the modulated optical wavelengths onto a single laser beam. In this way, the system can transmit multiple radio frequency bands using a single laser beam. Glenn's groundbreaking concept can greatly improve the system flexibility and scalability - not to mention the cost of - both ground and space communications.
Cascaded Offset Optical Modulator
A unique challenge in the development of a deep space optical SDR transmitter is the optimization of the ER. For a Mars to Earth optical link, an ER of greater than 33 dB may be necessary. A high ER, however, can be difficult to achieve at the low Pulse Position Modulation (PPM) orders and narrow slot widths required for high data rates. The Cascaded Offset Optical Modulator architecture addresses this difficulty by reducing the width of the PPM pulse within the optical modulation subsystem, which relieves the SDR of the high signal quality requirements imposed by the use of an MZM. With the addition of a second MZM and a variable time delay, all of the non-idealities in the electrical signal can be compensated by slightly offsetting the modulation of the laser. The pulse output is only at maximum intensity during the overlap of the two MZMs. The width of the output pulse is effectively reduced by the offset between MZMs. Measurement and analysis of the system displayed, for a 1 nanosecond pulse width, extinction ratios of of 32.5 dB, 39.1 dB, 41.6 dB, 43.3 dB, 45.8 dB, and 48.2 dB for PPM orders of 4, 16, 32, 64, 128, and 256, respectively. This approach is not limited to deep space optical communications, but can be applied to any optical transmission system that requires high fidelity binary pulses without a complex component. The system could be used as a drop-in upgrade to many existing optical transmitters, not only in free space, but also in fiber. The system could also be implemented in different ways. With an increase in ER, the engineer has the choice of using the excess ER for channel capacity, or simplifying other parts of the system. The extra ER could be traded for reduced laser power, elimination of optical amplifiers, or decreased system complexity and efficiency.
High-Speed, Low-Cost Telemetry Access from Space
NASA's SDR uses Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology to enable flexible performance on orbit. A first-generation FM-modulated transceiver is capable of operating at up to 1 Mbps downlink and 50 kbps uplink, full duplex. An FPGA performs Reed-Solomon (255,223) encoding, decoding, and bit synchronization, providing Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) and Near Earth Network (NEN) telemetry protocol compatibility. The transceiver accepts data from the onboard flight computer via a source synchronous RS422 interface. NASA's second-generation full duplex SDR, known as PULSAR (programmable ultra-lightweight system-adaptable radio, Figures 1 and 2 below) incorporates command receiver and telemetry transmitters, as well as updated processing and power capabilities. An S-band command receiver offers a max uplink data rate of 300 Kbps and built-in QPSK demodulation. X- and S-Band telemetry transmitters offer a max downlink data rate of 150 Mbps and flexible forward-error correction (FEC) using Reed-Solomon encoding (LDPC rate 7/8 and 1/2 convolution in development), and it uses QPSK modulation. The use of FEC adds an order of magnitude increase in telemetry throughput due to an improved coding gain. An onboard FPGA uses high-speed logic for uplink/downlink and encoding/decoding processes. Balloon flight testing has been conducted and is ongoing for PULSAR.
Smart Enclosure using RFID for Inventory Tracking
The smart enclosure innovation employs traditional RFID cavities, resonators, and filters to provide standing electromagnetic waves within the enclosed volume in order to provide a pervasive field distribution of energy. A high level of read accuracy is achieved by using the contained electromagnetic field levels within the smart enclosure. With this method, more item level tags are successfully identified compared to approaches in which the items are radiated by an incident plane wave. The use of contained electromagnetic fields reduces the cost of the tag antenna; making it cost-effective to tag smaller items. RFID-enabled conductive enclosures have been previously developed, but did not employ specific cavity-design techniques to optimize performance within the enclosure. Also, specific cavity feed approaches provide much better distribution of fields for higher read accuracy. This technology does not restrict the enclosure surface to rectangular or cylindrical shapes; other enclosure forms can also be used. For example, the technology has been demonstrated in textiles such as duffle bags and backpacks. Potential commercial applications include inventory tracking for containers such as waste receptacles, storage containers, and conveyor belts used in grocery checkout stations.
Signal Combiner for Wideband Communication
Through low-loss signal combination, Glenn is leading the way to optimize radio transmission remotely during self-checking routines. Glenn's signal combiner offers a simple method to minimize signal loss significantly when combining two signals. Using conventional combiners in bit-error-rate testing results in a loss of 3 to 4 dB per band, and with a directional coupler the secondary signal experiences losses of 10 dB or more. Moreover, during signal measurements, the additional components must be placed and later removed to prevent any impact to the measurement, making for a cumbersome process. Glenn's solution is to combine the primary and secondary signals in the frequency domain through the use of a frequency division diplexer/multiplexer in combination with a wideband ADC. The multiplexer selects one or more bands in the frequency domain, and the ADC performs a non-linear conversion to digital domain by folding out-of-band signals in with the primary signal. NASA makes use of subsampling a given band within the ADC bandwidth to fold it into another band of interest, effectively frequency-shifting them to a common frequency bandwidth. Glenn's breakthrough method has two significant advantages over the conventional use of a power combiner or directional coupler in bit-error-rate testing: 1) it combines signal and noise (secondary signal) with very low loss, and 2) it enables the selection of the desired signal-to-noise ratio with no need for the later cumbersome removal of components. This streamlined process allows for invaluable in-situ or installed measurement. Glenn's novel technology has great potential for satellite, telecommunications, and wireless industries, especially with respect to equipment testing, measurement, calibration, and check-out.
Space Optical Communications Using Laser Beams
This invention provides a new method for optical data transmissions from satellites using laser arrays for laser beam pointing. The system is simple, static, compact, and provides accurate pointing, acquisition, and tracking (PAT). It combines a lens system and a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser VCSEL)/Photodetector Array, both mature technologies, in a novel way for PAT. It can improve the PAT system's size, weight, and power (SWaP) in comparison to current systems. Preliminary analysis indicates that this system is applicable to transmissions between satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO) and ground terminals. Computer simulations using this design have been made for the application of this innovation to a CubeSat in LEO. The computer simulations included modeling the laser source and diffraction effects due to wave optics. The pointing used a diffraction limited lens system and a VCSEL array. These capabilities make it possible to model laser beam propagation over long space communication distances. Laser beam pointing is very challenging for LEO, including science missions. Current architectures use dynamical systems, (i.e., moving parts, e.g., fast-steering mirrors (FSM), and/or gimbals) to turn the laser to point to the ground terminal, and some use vibration isolation platforms as well. This static system has the potential to replace the current dynamic systems and vibration isolation platforms, dependent on studies for the particular application. For these electro-optical systems, reaction times to pointing changes and vibrations are on the nanosecond time scale, much faster than those for mechanical systems. For LEO terminals, slew rates are not a concern with this new system.
Antenna Near-Field Probe Station Scanner
In Glenn's novel scanner system, radio-frequency (RF) signals and DC-biased voltages and currents are supplied to an antenna under test (AUT) through an RF feed and DC probe that are integrated into the system. The mechanisms for scanning the open-ended waveguide probe are a three-axis slide mechanism and a rotation mechanism that, under computer control, positions this probe to acquire data at prescribed grid points on a plane very close to the AUT. This near-field scanning scheme eliminates the need for special fixturing. It captures a maximum amount of energy radiated by one or multiple small antennas while they are DC-biased. Glenn's desktop-sized scanning system makes data acquisition and analysis easy. The system is controlled by user-friendly commercial software. The user has great control of the system, with the dimensions of the near-field scan area and the distance between grid points specified by the user. After each scan, the data analysis software processes the measurement data and displays the far-field radiation pattern of the AUT, computed from the near-field measurements. With minor modifications, the system can also be adapted for far-field measurements, as well as for diagnostic and imaging applications. In sum, Glenn's system provides antenna performance results in significantly less time than that required with other state-of-the-practice antenna ranges; permits operation by less skilled personnel; provides comprehensive visualization of data; and costs a fraction of the equipment associated with conventional methods.
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