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Technologies for Active Microwave Remote Sensing

Description:

ScopeTitle:

Component Advancements for MicrowaveRemote Sensing

ScopeDescription:

This subtopic supports technologiesto aid NASA in its microwave sensing missions.Component advancements are desired to improve capabilities ofactive microwave remote sensing instruments, including improvements forclassical radar/radio components—solid-state power amplifier(SSPA) technology, low-loss high-isolation switching, high-linearitylow-noise amplifiers, and quantum radar/radio components—fiber-coupled Rydberg integrated RF-optics sensor head, arrayed vaporcell systems for atom-based Rydberg detectors, and compactRydberg coupler laser stabilization systems to access target RFtransitions in S-band through K-band.

Classical radar/radio components:

  • Specifically, we are seeking L- and/or S-bandsolid-state power amplifiers (SSPAs) to achieve a power-added efficiency(PAE) of >50% for 1 kW peak transmit power, through theuse of efficient multidevice power-combining techniques or otherefficiency improvements. There is also a need for high-efficiencyultra-high-frequency (335 to 535 MHz) monolithic microwaveintegrated circuit (MMIC) power amplifiers with saturatedoutput power greater than 20 W, high efficiency of >70%, and gainflatness of 1 dB over theband.
  • Switches with high power (>100 W peakand >10 W average), speed (20 KHs events) and isolation(>25 dB) are also desired with low insertion loss of <0.4dB and <0.5 dB at V-band (64 to 70 GHz) and W-band (95GHz +/- 200 MHz), respectively.
  • Solid-state amplifiers that meet high efficiency (>50%PAE) requirements and have small form factors would be suitable forSmallSats, support single-satellite missions (such as RainCube), andenable future swarm techniques. No such devices at these highfrequencies, high powers, and efficiencies are currently available. Weexpect a power amplifier with TRL 2 to 4 at the completion of theproject.
  • Low-noise amplifiers at V-band (64-70 GHz) and W-band (94 GHz)are desired with increased linearity. Although very low noisefigures (2.5 dB) are available at these frequencies, input-referred P1dBis typically below -20 dBm. Amplifiers are desired with increased P1dBover the state of the art, while maintaining or improving noise figure.Approaches that do not require MMIC development are desired.

Quantum radar/radio components or subsystems to supportSTV:

  • Integrated sensor head in a monolithic constructionthat is a thermally controlled vapor cell with dual RFcouplings for atom-mixer optical front-endapplications. Mechanically-stable fiber-to-free-spaceoptics/opto-mechanics.
  • Fiber-coupled vapor cells for Rb and Cs systems withefficiency >40% that, through use of a dichroic,delineate the probe from coupler signal and solve the problem ofcollimating lens and fiber sharing.
  • Arrayed-vapor-cell systems that can permit spatially separateddetection of RF fields to support K-band focal plane detectors withreflector antennas. Requested are 5x5 arrays with spacing less than awavelength. Techniques to obtain a spatially reconfigurable array withina vapor cell is also desired.
  • Optimized frequency-stabilization subsystems for acompact Rydberg laser package with a coupler laser wavelength tunable toaccess target RF transitions at S-band through K-band with absolutefrequency stability at the 100-kHz level or better (goal: 10kHz) foroperation under typical vibration conditions in suborbitalflight.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 2 to 4

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

  • Level 1 08 Sensorsand Instruments
  • Level 2 08.1 RemoteSensingInstruments/Sensors

DesiredDeliverables of Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Hardware
  • Software

DesiredDeliverables Description:

PhaseI: Provide research, analysis, and software to advance scopeconcept as a final report.

Phase II: Design and simulation with prototype.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

Advances inSDC are strongly desired for Earth remote sensing,land use, natural hazards, and disaster response. NISAR is aflagship-class mission, but it is only able to revisit locations on~weekly basis, whereas future constellation concepts usingSmallSats would decrease revisit time to less than 1 day, which is gamechanging for studying earthquake precursors and postrelaxation. Fornatural hazards and disaster response, faster revisit times arecritical. MMIC devices with high saturated output power in thefew to several watts range and with high PAE (>50%) aredesired.

Advances in quantum radars/receivers are strongly desired. Quantumsensing (QS) has the ability to transform space-based science,particularly by substantially increasing the spatial and temporalresolution of remote sensing measurements needed to understandEarth’s climate variability. Quantum detectors configured in,or as a primary part of, novel remote sensing technologies, could assistSMD’s science needs by harnessing QS-derived technology and avariety of advanced component technologies. This could potentiallyenable unprecedented science measurements in established areas, rangingfrom geodetic observation of aquifers on Earth to lunarseismometry, and in new mission concepts including experimentalsearches for signatures of dark energy, achieving spatiotemporalsuper-resolution, super-broad-band or dynamic sensing, and testing theconnection between general relativity and quantum mechanics. An exampleof a technical challenge for the remote sensing of Earth’sSTV is that differences in precipitation, vegetation zones(canopy, near surface, or root), ice, and basal properties setdistinctly different measurement requirements. For example, in radarremote sensing, observations of these key variables require the use ofmultiple bands covering the entire radio window (VHF (very highfrequency) to Ka-band: 50 MHz to 40 GHz) with differentconfigurations sensitive to amplitude, phase, or polarization of signalsto enable vertical profiling with high accuracy, high spatiotemporalresolution, and tomography capability. In addition to STV,Rydberg sensors could play a key role in PBL. The PBL, also known as theatmospheric boundary layer or peplosphere, is the lowest part of theatmosphere, and its behavior is directly influenced by its contact witha planetary surface. Remote sensing through active/passive radars areneeded to observe the PBL. Rydberg techniques support broad spectrumremote sensing of the PBL.

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

SDC science is a continuingDecadal Survey topic, and follow-ons to the science desired forNISAR mission are already being planned. Cloud, water,and precipitation measurements increase capability of measurements tosmaller particles and enable much more compactinstruments. STV is a Decadal Survey topic that will havesignificant impact in the following decade and that will require new andnonconventional  technologies. STVtouches multiple science goals, including solid earth, ecosystems,climate, hydrology, and weather, and is challenging to fitwithin the cost cap. PBL is a decadal survey topic that willhave a significant impact in understanding and monitoringthe lowest part of the atmosphere where the behavior isdirectly influenced by its contact with a planetarysurface.

References:

  • NISAR follow-on for Surface Deformation andChange: https://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/decadal-sdc
  • NASA: "Radar in a CubeSat(RainCube)," https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/cubesat/missions/raincube.php
  • National Academies Press: "Global AtmosphericComposition Mission," https://www.nap.edu/read/11952/chapter/9
  • NASA: "Global Precipitation MeasurementMission," https://gpm.nasa.gov    
  • NASA Surface Topography and Vegetation IncubationStudy: https://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/decadal-stv

Scope Title:

Deployableand/or Steerable ApertureTechnologies

ScopeDescription:

Solutions for thefollowing technology needs are sought:

Low-frequency deployable antennas for Earth and planetary radarsounders: antennas capable of being hosted by SmallSat/CubeSatplatforms are required for missions to icy worlds, large/small bodyinteriors (i.e., comets, asteroids), and for Earth at centerfrequencies from 5 to 100 MHz, with fractional bandwidths >=10%.Dual-frequency solutions or even tri-frequency solutions aredesired; for example, an approximately 5- to 6-MHz band, withan approximately 85- to 95-MHz band. For low-frequency tomographic radarrequirements: Deployable antenna with ~2:1 bandwidth, good pulse(transient) response, deployed volume ~1/3 wavelength at the lowestfrequency (~MHz). For distributed aperture radars there is aneed for daughter-craft antennas for the distributed radar covering afrequency of about 40 to 50 MHz with a gain of at least 5 dBiand with low mass, compact stow, and reasonable cost. Designs need to betemperature tolerant; that is, not changingperformance parameters drastically over flight temperature ranges of~100 °C.

High-frequency (V-band/W-band) deployable antennas for SmallSatsand CubeSats: small-format, deployable/inflatable antennas aredesired (for 65 to 70 GHz, 94 GHz, or 250 to 350 GHz) with an aperturesize of ~1+ m2 (>1.6 m for 250 to 350GHz) that when stowed, fit into form factors suitable forSmallSats—with a desire for similar on the more challengingCubeSat format. Concepts that remove, reduce, or control creases/seamsin the resulting surface, on the order of a fraction of a wavelength,are highly desired. 

Technologies enabling low-mass steerable technologies, especiallyfor L- or S-bands, including—but not limitedto—antenna or RF electronics, enabling steering:cross track +/-7° and along track +/-15°. Thiswould enable a complete antenna system with a mass density of 10kg/m2 (or less) with aminimum aperture of 12 m2. Examples ofdifferent electronics solutions include completely integratedtransmit/receive (TR) modules, with all control features for steeringincluded, or  alternatively an ultra-compactTR module controller, which can control N modules, thus allowingreduction in size and complexity of the TR modulesthemselves. 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 2 to 4

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

  • Level 1 08 Sensorsand Instruments
  • Level 2 08.1 RemoteSensingInstruments/Sensors

DesiredDeliverables of Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype

DesiredDeliverables Description:

For both antenna types(low and high frequency), a paper design is desired for PhaseI and a prototype for Phase II. Concepts and prototypes fortargeted advances in deployment technologies are welcome and do not needto address every need for mission-ready hardware.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

Low-frequency antennas, per physics, arelarge and thus are deployable, even for largespacecraft. For SmallSats/CubeSats the challenges are to get enough ofan antenna aperture with the proper length to achieve relatively highbandwidths. No such 10% fractional antenna exists for theSmallSat/CubeSat form factors.

High-frequency antennas can often be hosted without deployment,but a ~1-m2-diameter antenna on a SmallSat/CubeSat isrequired to be deployable. A specific challenge forhigh-frequency deployable antennas is to deploy the aperture with enoughaccuracy such that the imperfections (i.e., residual folds, supportribs, etc.) are flat enough for antenna performance.

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

Low-frequency-band antennas are ofgreat interest to subsurface studies, such as those completed byMARSIS and SHARAD for Mars and planned forEuropa by the REASON (Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding:Ocean to Near-surface) on the Europa Clipper. Studying thesubsurfaces of other icy worlds is of great interest to planetaryscience, as is tomography of small bodies such as comets andasteroids. Because of the impact of the ionosphere, low-frequencysounding of Earth is very challenging from space, but there is greatinterest in solutions to make this a reality. Lastly, such low-frequencybands are also of interest to radio astronomy, such as that being donefor OLFAR (Orbiting Low Frequency Antenna for RadioAstronomy): https://research.utwente.nl/files/5412596/OLFAR.pdf.

 

V-band deployable antennas are mission enabling for pressuresounding from space.

References:

Forlow-frequency deployables, see similar missions (on much largerplatforms):

  • REASON: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/europa-clipper/
  • REASON: https://europa.nasa.gov/spacecraft/instruments/reason 
  • MARSIS: https://mars.nasa.gov/express/mission/sc_science_marsis01.html

 

For high-frequency deployables, see the similar, but lowerfrequency mission:

  • RainCube: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/cubesat/missions/raincube.php

Scope Title:

Low-PowerW-Band Transceivers

ScopeDescription:

Required is a low-power compactW-band  (monolithic integrated circuit or application-specificintegrated circuit (ASIC) preferred) transceiver with up/downconverters with excellent cancellers to use the same antennafor transmit and receive. Application is in space-landing radaraltimetry and velocimetry. Wide-temperature-tolerant technologies areencouraged to reduce thermal control mass, either through designsinsensitive to temperature changes or active compensationthrough feedback. Electronics must be tolerant to a high-radiationenvironment through design (rather than excessive shielding). In theearly phases of this work, radiation tolerance must be considered in thesemiconductor/materials choices, but it is not necessary todemonstrate radiation tolerance until later. For ocean worlds aroundJupiter, bounding (worst-case) radiation rates are expected to be atless than 50 rad(Si)/sec—with minimalshielding—during the period of performance (landing oraltimeter flyby), but overall total dose is expected to be in thehundreds of krad total ionizing dose (TID). Most cases, particularly forEarth science applications, will be less extreme inradiation.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 2 to 4

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

  • Level 1 08 Sensorsand Instruments
  • Level 2 08.X OtherSensors and Instruments

Desired Deliverablesof Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype

DesiredDeliverables Description:

PhaseI: Paper study/design.

Phase II: Prototype.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

Low-power-consumption transceivers forW-band are critical for studies of atmospheric science, pressuresounding, and atmospheric composition for both Earth and planetaryscience. Such transceivers currently do not exist.

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

  • ACE (AdvancedComposition Explorer): https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/ace/in-depth/
  • Planetary Terminal Descent and Landing Radar FinalReport: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19710011019.pdf

References:

Missions foratmospheric science and altimetry applications:

  • ACE: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/ace/in-depth/
  • Mars Science Laboratory: https://descanso.jpl.nasa.gov/monograph/series13/DeepCommo_Chapter8--141029.pdf

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