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Effective design for today's spacecraft

ATI's Spacecraft RF Communications
and Onboard Processing course

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Technical Training Short On Site Course Quote

Successful systems engineering requires a broad understanding of the important principles of modern spacecraft communications and onboard data processing. This course covers both theory and practice, with emphasis on the important system engineering principles, tradeoffs, and rules of thumb. The latest technologies are covered, including those needed for constellations of satellites.

This course is recommendedfor engineers, managers, and scientists interested in acquiring an understanding of satellite communications, command and telemetry, onboard computing, and tracking. Each participant will receive a complete set of notes.

View Course Sampler .Instructors:

    Eric Hoffman has degrees in electrical engineering and over 40 years of spacecraft experience. He has designed spaceborne communications and navigation equipment and performed systems engineering on many APL satellites and communications systems. He has authored over 60 papers and holds 8 patents in these fields. Mr. Hoffman recently retired after 19 years as APL Space Dept Chief Engineer.

    Robert C. Moore worked in the Electronic Systems Group at the APL Space Department from 1965 until his retirement. He designed embedded microprocessor systems for space applications. Mr. Moore holds four U.S. patents. He teaches the command-telemetry-data processing segment of "Space Systems" at the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering.

    Contact these instructors (please mention course name in the subject line)

What You Will Learn:

  • The important systems engineering principles and latest technologies for spacecraft communications and onboard computing.
  • The design drivers for today's command, telemetry, communications, and processor systems.
  • How to design an RF link.
  • How to deal with noise, radiation, bit errors, and spoofing.
  • Keys to developing hi-rel, realtime, embedded software.
  • How spacecraft are tracked.
  • Working with government and commercial ground stations.
  • Command and control for satellite constellations.

    This course will give you a thorough understanding of the important principles and modern technologies behind today’s satellite communications and onboard computing systems.

Course Outline:

  1. RF Signal Transmission. Propagation of radio waves, antenna properties and types, one-way radar range equation. Peculiarities of the space channel. Special communications orbits. Modulation of RF carriers.

  2. Noise and Link Budgets. Sources of noise, effects of noise on communications, system noise temperature. Signal-to-noise ratio, bit error rate, link margin. Communications link design example.

  3. Special Topics. Optical communications, error correcting codes, encryption and authentication. Low-probability-of-intercept communications. Spread-spectrum and anti-jam techniques.

  4. Command Systems. Command receivers, decoders, and processors. Synchronization words, error detection and correction. Command types, command validation and authentication, delayed commands. Uploading software.

  5. Telemetry Systems. Sensors and signal conditioning, signal selection and data sampling, analog-to-digital conversion. Frame formatting, commutation, data storage, data compression. International packetizing standards. Implementing spacecraft autonomy.

  6. Data Processor Systems. Central processing units, memory types, mass storage, input/output techniques. Fault tolerance and redundancy, radiation hardness, single event upsets, CMOS latch-up. Memory error detection and correction. Reliability and cross-strapping. Very large scale integration.

  7. Reliable Software Design. Specifying the requirements. Levels of criticality. Design reviews and code walkthroughs. Fault protection and autonomy. Testing and IV&V. When is testing finished? Configuration management, documentation. Rules of thumb for schedule and manpower.

  8. Spacecraft Tracking. Orbital elements. Tracking by ranging, laser tracking. Tracking by range rate, tracking by line-of-site observation. Autonomous satellite navigation.

  9. Typical Ground Network Operations. Central and remote tracking sites, equipment complements, command data flow, telemetry data flow. NASA Deep Space Network, NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS), and commercial operations.

  10. Constellations of Satellites. Optical and RF crosslinks. Command and control issues. Timing and tracking. Iridium as a system example.


    Tuition for this three-day course is $1990 per person at one of our scheduled public courses. Onsite pricing is available. Please call us at 410-956-8805 or send an email to