Spacecraft RF Communications


This three day course is intended for practicing systems engineers who want to learn how to apply model-driven systems Successful systems engineering requires a broad understanding of the important principles of modern spacecraft communications. This three-day course covers both theory and practice, with emphasis on the important system engineering principles, tradeoffs, and rules of thumb. The latest technologies are covered.

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

  • Important systems engineering principles and latest technologies for spacecraft communications.
  • Design drivers for today’s command, telemetry, communications, and processor systems.
  • RF link budgeting principles.
  • Important effects of noise, radiation, bit errors, and spoofing.
  • Low noise receiver analog and digital design
  • Error control channel coding
  • Application of Kalman filtering to spacecraft tracking.
  • Satellite types and configurations

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


Course Outline:

  1. RF Signal Transmission. Propagation of radio waves, antenna properties and types, Doppler and fading channel characteristics. One-way radar range equation, space time coding and multiple input, output (MIMO) channels.
  2. RF Carrier Modulation. Linear and non-linear multilevel modulations. Analysis of advanced techniques such as OFDM. System design implications of bandwidth and power efficiency, peak to average power, error vector magnitude, error probability, etc.
  3. 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.
  4. Error Control Channel Coding. Performance and application of error detection and correction algorithms to space craft communication. Shannon’s capacity theorem, entropy, data compression, block and convolutional coding, turbo coding.
  5. Telemetry Systems. Sensors and signal conditioning, signal selection and data sampling. Frame formatting, packetizing standards.
  6. Receiver Analog Signal Processing. RF conversion structures, frequency and gain planning, automatic gain control, high speed analog to digital conversion techniques and bandpass sampling.
  7. Receiver Digital Signal Processing. Quadrature down conversion, processing gain, packet synchronization, Doppler estimation, automatic gain control, carrier and symbol estimation in kinematic environments, coherent vs. noncoherent demodulation.
  8. Kalman Filters. Navigation, trajectory prediction, spacecraft attitude estimation and tracking.
  9. Satellite Systems. Types of satellites, beam switching, autonomous navigation, NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS), and commercial operations.
  10. Special Topics. Optical communications, low-probability-of-intercept communications. NASA STRS software defined radio.


This course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses. If you are interested in attending this or another course as open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or at and indicate the course name and number of students who wish to participate. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a lead time of 3-5 months. Group courses can be presented at your facility at any time.For on-site pricing, request an on-site quote. You may also call us at (410)956-8805 or email us at


  • Dr. John M Reyland has 20 years of experience in digital communications design for both commercial and military applications. Dr. Reyland holds the degree of Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Iowa. He has presented numerous seminars on digital communications in both academic and industrial settings.

    Contact this instructor (please mention course name in the subject line)

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