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Improving Communication Throughput with Retrodirective Arrays for CubeSat Applications

Justin Long
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Justin Long
Justin Long

The purpose of this project will be to investigate and propose solutions regarding the development of retrodirective arrays (RDA) for CubeSat applications. As an end result, this project aims to improve information throughput with the design of a RDA that meets the strict power and size requirements of CubeSats and other small satellites. This project is a part of a larger ongoing research and development program for advanced CubeSat communications systems involving multiple thesis projects at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The retrodirective antenna array provides autonomous steering of the beam pattern so that the antenna points itself in the direction of arrival (DOA) of a signal source. This will improve satellites antenna pointing abilities without requiring highly accurate attitude determination and control. The end result is an improvement in information throughput by optimizing the power received at the ground station. This technology has already been implemented on a larger scale, and so the purpose of this project will be to miniaturize the technology to meet the needs of smaller satellites. RDAs offer the potential for increasing received power during satellite downlink and improved information throughput. This is directly relevant to NASA technology area 5.2.6, and has widespread applications beyond the CubeSat platform. Numerous challenges and limitations must be overcome before RDA technology is ready to be functionally implemented on a CubeSat. The primary objective of this project is to optimize the design and prototype a functional RDA architecture for CubeSat platforms.

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