SMALL SATELLITE APPLICATIONS OF COMMERCIAL .SMALL SATELLITE APPLICATIONS OF COMMERCIAL OFF THE SHELF

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  • SMALL SATELLITE APPLICATIONS OF COMMERCIAL OFF THE SHELF

    RADIO FREQUENCY INTEGRATED CIRCUITS

    A Thesis

    by

    JOHN THOMAS GRAVES

    Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of Texas A&M University

    in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

    MASTER OF SCIENCE

    December 2011

    Major Subject: Aerospace Engineering

  • Small Satellite Applications of Commercial Off the Shelf Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits

    Copyright 2011 John Thomas Graves

  • SMALL SATELLITE APPLICATIONS OF COMMERCIAL OFF THE SHELF

    RADIO FREQUENCY INTEGRATED CIRCUITS

    A Thesis

    by

    JOHN THOMAS GRAVES

    Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of Texas A&M University

    in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

    MASTER OF SCIENCE

    Approved by:

    Chair of Committee, Helen Reed Committee Members, Alan Palazzolo Ana Goulart Head of Department, Dimitris Lagoudas

    December 2011

    Major Subject: Aerospace Engineering

  • iii

    ABSTRACT

    Small Satellite Applications of Commercial Off the Shelf Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits.

    (December 2011)

    John Thomas Graves, B.S. Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M University

    Chair of Advisory Committee: Dr. Helen Reed

    Within the first decade of the 21st century, the aerospace community has seen many more

    opportunities to launch small spacecraft in the 10 to 100 kg mass class. Coupled with this has been

    consistent interest from the government in developing small-spacecraft platforms to expand civil and

    military mission possibilities. Small spacecraft have also given small organizations such as universities an

    increased access to space.

    Because small satellites are limited in size, power, and mass, new and often nontraditional capabilities

    must be explored and developed to make them viable and attractive when compared with larger and more

    proven spacecraft. Moreover, small organizations that wish to contribute technically are often limited by

    the small size of their teams and available resources, and need creative solutions for meeting mission

    requirements.

    A key need is in space-to-ground communications. Complex missions typically require large amounts

    of data transfer to the ground and in a timely fashion. Available options trade hardware cost, available

    ground stations or networks, available operating-frequency range, data-rate performance, and ease of use.

    A system for small spacecraft will be presented based upon Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits

    (RFIC) that minimizes development effort and maximizes interface control to meet typical small-

    spacecraft communications requirements. RFICs are low-cost components that feature pre-built radio

    hardware on a chip that can be expanded easily by developers with little or no radio experience. These

    devices are widespread in domestic applications for short-range connectivity.

  • iv

    A preliminary design and prototype is presented that meets basic spaceflight requirements, offers data

    rates in the 55 to 85 kbps range, and has completed basic proof-of-concept testing. While there are higher-

    data-rate alternatives in existence, the solution presented here strikes a useful balance among data rate,

    parts cost, and ease of use for non experts, and gives the user operational control necessary to make air-to-

    ground communications time effective.

  • v

    DEDICATION

    To my parents for getting me to this point and to my wife who supported me through it all

  • vi

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

    I would like to thank the services and advice of my committee members Dr. Palazzolo and Dr.

    Goulart throughout the thesis development and defense process.

    I owe a great deal to Colleen Leatherman and Karen Knabe for support from within the Aerospace

    Department to navigate all matters of business and administration during this thesis process. They have

    always brought common sense, effort, and clever solutions to any difficulty I have had in the process.

    All engineering and practical matters relating to this thesis development could not have been

    completed without the help of Joseph Perez, who brought years of experience working on spacecraft of all

    shapes and sizes to bear. His mentorship taught me how to leap from paper development and into real

    hardware. I doubt very much I could have made any of my efforts and plans functional without his

    tutelage and focus on discipline, careful and deliberate methodology when working in the laboratory, and

    extensive advice on any practical matters I happened to be unfamiliar with.

    Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank my committee chair, graduate advisor, colleague,

    and friend, Dr. Helen Reed. She has been the prime force behind my work since I was a sophomore

    working on my Bachelors degree. She came to Texas A&M in 2004, with a desire to establish a student

    satellite laboratory based upon her successful work at Arizona State University. I met her in December of

    2004 asking how I could be involved, and she was able to take my interest at the time, and transform it

    into an amazing set of experiences, work, learning, and partnerships. During this time I have been allowed

    to contribute to help put Texas A&M at the forefront of space engineering through its own indigenous

    spacecraft programs, grow as a leader, take on a graduate education, and add amazing depth and

    dimension to my experiences at Texas A&M.

    She is a tireless champion and supporter of her students dreams and ideas, and none of what I have

    accomplished would have been possible without her.

  • vii

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Page

    ABSTRACT ........................................................................................................................................ iii

    DEDICATION .................................................................................................................................... v

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................ vi

    TABLE OF CONTENTS .................................................................................................................... vii

    LIST OF FIGURES ............................................................................................................................. ix

    LIST OF TABLES .............................................................................................................................. xi

    I. INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................................................... 1

    A. University Programs ................................................................................................... 2 B. AggieSat Lab .............................................................................................................. 2 C. The Goal: Improvement in Communications Subsystems ......................................... 4 D. Current Alternatives ................................................................................................... 5 E. The Proposed Solution: Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits ................................... 7

    II. EXISTING SYSTEMS AND ALTERNATIVES ........................................................................ 10

    A. Amateur Radio Systems ............................................................................................. 14 B. Custom Systems ......................................................................................................... 15 C. Commercial Wireless Modem Systems ..................................................................... 20 D. The RFIC Thesis Project ............................................................................................ 25

    III. SYSTEM OBJECTIVES AND REQUIREMENTS DEFINITION ............................................. 26

    A. System Objectives ...................................................................................................... 26 B. System Requirements ................................................................................................. 28 IV. SYSTEM CONCEPT DEFINITION ........................................................................................... 30

    A. RFIC Device Trade Space and Selection ................................................................... 30 B. The Texas Instruments CC1101 Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit ........................ 34 C. System Concept .......................................................................................................... 37 D. Microcontroller Selection ........................................................................................... 44

    V. PRELIMINARY DESIGN DESCRIPTION ................................................................................ 47

    A. Hardware Design ........................................................................................................ 47 B. Software Design ......................................................................................................... 49 C. Development Summary .............................................................................................. 53

  • viii

    Page

    VI. VERIFICATION PLAN .....................