RF Systems/Propagation


COSMIAC Ground Station

COSMIAC has an extensive background in the areas of RF and satellite communications. The Center has two separate satellite ground stations.

The first is an amateur frequency ground station utilizing the VHF and UHF frequency bands. The average nanosatellite in Low Earth Orbit has around four passes a day for 10 minutes each pass. The COSMIAC amateur station is designed to recognize the arrival of a satellite. It then tracks the satellite and communicates with it during the pass. COSMIAC is currently working with Montana State University to assist them with data collection.

The second communications system is the Mobile CubeSat Command and Control (MC3) system. The MC3 is a Naval Postgraduate School organized system to provide communications support for military CubeSat missions. MC3 currently functions in the UHF frequency bands but research is ongoing to develop a unified S-Band capability.

New research is also ongoing for systems such as Iridium and Globalstar. These commercial satellite systems provide an excellent alternative for nanosatellite development and operations.

New research is beginning that is a joint activity between AFRL, COSMIAC, and NASA Glenn. This research involves establishing a series of communications links at 72 GHZ and 82 GHZ between COSMIAC and the Sandia Crest to perform analysis on the effects of weather at these frequency bands.


Profile view of transmitter/receiver slant path from Sandia Mountain to COSMIAC/UNM to establish the first terrestrial link at 70/80 GHz

Additional research is being performed in the areas of additive manufacturing of RF systems. This NASA funded research involves the printing of antennas into 3D materials (as shown below), thus allowing for the creation of antennas in nontraditional shapes. The ultimate goal is to be able to print items such as phased array or dynamically reconfigurable antennas.