[Ground-station] NDA - Ettus, GOLF, Phase 4 Space

Zach Leffke zleffke at vt.edu
Fri Jun 15 13:29:11 EDT 2018

I'll offer an opinion, with no hard numbers to back it.....so maybe just 
thoughts to consider.

The baseline for the GEO mission payload at VT up through PDR (maybe two 
or so years stale at this point?) was based on the AstroSDR from 
Rincon.  The folks at Rincon were super supportive and easy to work 
with.  I'm pretty sure there were some efforts around IP cores for 
DVB-S2X with AHA (...more NDAs...) tailored for the AstroSDR as well 
(not sure how far that went).  We're actively pursing other missions at 
VT/Hume that involve the AstroSDR in some way shape or form (two 
engineering units are 'in the mail' as soon as NDAs and such get worked 
out).  To my limited understanding/eye it is about on par with the 
capabilities associated with the E310 in terms of signal processing, but 
obviously with lots of focus on flightworthiness for spaceflight 
(radiation, thermal, etc.).  So I would offer that VT *may* be able to 
offer some insights into the AstroSDR (within the limits of our NDAs 
with Rincon/Primes) as things progress on those contracts over the next 
year and beyond (haven't learned much in the last couple years of being 
on hold since the GEO PDR, but that should start to change here in the 
next couple weeks).

The LimeSDR and Pluto as I understand it are just the SDRs, with no real 
signal processing capability native to them, implying there would be a 
need to develop the signal processing 'host computer' or FPGA or 
whatever.  The AstroSDR and the E310/320 have the compute power native 
to them, so are more of a complete package.

In cases of a 'complete space SDR' (Ettus/Rincon/others), NDAs around 
the devices seem to add a layer of complexity that makes open source 
work more difficult (not impossible, but 'trickier'). Maybe that's a 
deterrent for others, but clearly not for ORI. Tether's Unlimited has a 
pretty sophisticated line of 'SWIFT SDRs' that might be an option (with 
lots of options and capabilities for multiple bands from UHF through at 
least Ka-Band).  The L3 (Comm Systems West division) CADET is an SDR 
'under the hood.'  I think the Innoflight radios are SDRs as well.  In 
all three cases though, without engaging in pricey contracts and talking 
a lot about fees for custom modifications, the baseline product you get 
is just their 'custom firmware load' for whatever protocol you want the 
radios to support, usually targeted at high rate data downlink, with 
minimal uplink capability.  There are probably many other 'complete 
packages' at any number of defense contractors that would likely be 
impossible for anyone other than US Gov to work with .

I'd offer that Ettus and Rincon seem to be the easiest to work with and 
more receptive when it comes to developing with devices under NDA for an 
overall open source project.  The other companies I mentioned won't show 
you whats behind the curtain, they'll ask for requirements, and charge 
you an arm and a leg to have their own developers implement it to your 
specs (if they do any more than just sell you the baseline model at 
all).........not great for experimentation/prototyping/etc.........

I don't think I'm left field when saying the ideal case would be an open 
source equivalent (or maybe even something less capable, but good enough 
for proposed mission conops).  Still pretty green in this whole arena, 
but is there maybe some value to investigating the AMSAT work on the 
ARISSsat SDX and maybe updating it based on more current technology?  
The capabilities are a far cry from AstroSDR/E310 type devices though, 
so that might be wasted effort if its a huge jump to the type of 
capability we want.  If not the SDX work itself, maybe a longer term 
strategy/road map for ORI should include development of their own open 
source 'space sdr.'

-Zach, KJ4QLP

Research Associate
Aerospace Systems Lab
Ted & Karyn Hume Center for National Security & Technology
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Work Phone: 540-231-4174
Cell Phone: 540-808-6305

On 6/15/2018 12:29 PM, Michelle Thompson via Ground-Station wrote:
> The Careful COTS effort for a re-layout of the USRP for GOLF and Phase 
> 4 Space has changed.
> Ettus declined to sign an NDA with AMSAT GOLF for the E310. It is 
> assumed that GOLF will adopt the original plan presented at Symposium 
> 2017. We have received no communications from GOLF since the minutes 
> from the second Careful COTS conference call were published.
> Phase 4 Space will continue to work with Ettus and other open source 
> teams to target the E320 as a potential communications package.
> The E320 layout will have to be redesigned, if that is what we choose 
> to adapt. As previously discussed, radiation requirements are not the 
> only concern. We need to know what we're doing with thermal as well.
> A variety of research efforts are active to adapt a USRP for higher 
> orbits, with good published results from a number of universities. 
> While not a bad choice at all considering the USRP is widely used, 
> there are other alternatives for a baseline SDR.
> LimeSDR and the Pluto have been frequently brought up, and then there 
> is also the Rincon AstroSDR.
> With IHUs developing, the challenge of producing a solid, open source 
> communications hardware package needs some serious discussion. Comment 
> and critique welcomed and encouraged.
> Continue with the E320?
> -Michelle W5NYV
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> Ground-Station at lists.openresearch.institute
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