Our satellite has two missions: GNSS Reflectometry (GNSS-R) and Electrospray Ion Thrusters (EIT). The payload team is responsible for the GNSS-R payload. (For more information on EIT, contact the Propulsion team.) This involves designing a system that can receive GNSS signals, compress the data for downlink, and perform post-processing and analysis on the ground. Our goal is to use the data acquired to map Arctic sea ice extent and thickness.
GNSS-R works by capturing two GNSS signals, one directly and one reflected from the Earth’s surface. The signal differences are used to classify the reflecting surface as water, ice, snow, or land.
Several considerations must be taken into account when designing the system:
- Signal strength and system noise
- Sampling circuit can sample GNSS signals from GNSS satellites above and reflected from Earth below
- Interfacing with the on-board computer
- Power consumption
- Lossless compression with maximized compression ratio
To address these considerations, the payload team employs engineering undergraduate and graduate students to learn and apply knowledge in these areas:
- Antenna theory and RF engineering
- Electrical circuit and hardware design
- Data structures
- Embedded programming