Small Form Factor SATCOM Solutions
Brad Hall and Wyatt Taylor
Traditional ground station satellite communication systems in the Ka-band have relied on an indoor to outdoor configuration. The outdoor unit includes the antenna and a block down-conversion receiver that outputs an analog signal in the L-band. The signal is then passed to the indoor unit, which contains the filtering, digitization, and processing systems. Because there are typically few interfering signals in the Ka-band, the outdoor unit is focused on optimizing the noise figure at the expense of linearity. The indoor to outdoor configuration works well for ground stations, but is difficult to transition into a low size, weight, and power (SWaP) environment. Several new markets are driving the need for small form factor Ka-band access. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and dismounted soldiers would benefit from having access to these communication channels. For both UAVs and dismounted soldiers, radio power consumption directly translates to battery life, which translates to mission length. Additionally, legacy Ka-band channels that used to be specific to airborne platforms are now being considered for wider access. This means that the airborne platform that traditionally only needed to down-convert a single Ka-channel may now need to operate on multiple channels. This article will outline the design challenges that are faced in Ka-band, as well as outline a new architecture that will allow for low SWaP radio solution for these applications.
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