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Technologies for Passive Microwave Remote Sensing

Description:

ScopeTitle:

Components or Methods to Improve theSensitivity, Calibration, or Resolution of Microwave/Millimeter-WaveRadiometers

ScopeDescription:

NASA requires novel solutions to challenges ofdeveloping stable, sensitive, and high-resolution radiometers andspectrometers operating from microwave frequencies to 5 THz. Noveltechnologies are requested to address challenges in the current state ofthe art of passive microwave remote sensing. Technologies could improvethe sensitivity, calibration, or resolution of remote-sensingsystems or reduce the size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C).Components, methods, or manufacturing techniques utilizing noveltechniques are desired, such as additive manufacturing (AM), thatinclude interconnect technologies that enable highly integrated,low-loss distribution networks that integrate active components andpassive devices such as power splitters, couplers, filters, antennaarrays, and/or isolators in a compact package with significant volumereduction. Companies are invited to provide unique solutions to problemsin this area. Possible technologies could include:

  • Low-noisereceivers (e.g., total power, pseudo-correlation,polarimetric) at frequencies up to 5THz.
  • Solutionsto reduce system 1/f noise over time periods greater than 1sec.
  • Internalcalibration systems or methods to improve calibration repeatability overtime periods greater than days or weeks.
  • Noisesources from G-band up to 1 THz with >6 dB ENR (excess noiseratio).
  • Broad-band(multi-octave) packaged low-noise amplifiers covering up to 70GHz.
  • Low-noiseamplifiers that operate at 1.2 THz with >10%bandwidth.
  • Technologies, processes, or methods, such as AM, that are able toreduce SWaP-C while achieving radio-frequency (RF) performance on parwith or superior to traditional manufacturingmethods.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 3 to 5

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

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

DesiredDeliverables of Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Prototype
  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Software

DesiredDeliverables Description:

Research, analysis,software, or hardware prototyping of novel components or methods toimprove the performance of passive microwave remotesensing: 

  • Depending on the complexity of the proposed work, Phase Ideliverables may include a prototype system or a study.
  • Phase II deliverables should include a prototype component orsystem with test data verifying functionality.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

Depending on frequency, current passivemicrowave remote-sensing instrumentation is limited in sensitivity (asthrough system noise, 1/f noise, or calibration uncertainty),resolution, or in SWaP-C. Critical gaps depend on specific frequency andapplication.

Gaps includetechnologies to reduce 1/f noise with submillimeter amplifier-basedreceivers, particularly those using internal calibrationsources such as noise sources or pseudo-correlation architectures. Othergaps include highly linear receiver front ends capable of beingcalibrated in the presence of radio-frequency interference (RFI) thatmay change the operating point of prefilter components.

Technologies,such as AM, are sought that can result in significant volume/costreduction with performance comparable or superior to currenttechnologies. For example, technologies that can integrate X-, Ku-, orKa-band transmit/receive modules with antenna arrays and/orlocal oscillator (LO) distribution networks for F- and/or G-bandreceiver arrays. Several publications have demonstrated the feasibilityof additively manufactured RF to millimeter-wave circuitry; however,there is a notable gap in research that specifically examines itsreliability and effectiveness in environments pertinent to NASA andspace applications. Furthermore, the current body of work predominantlyfocuses on subcircuits or a restricted number of parts, withoutadequately demonstrating the desired repeatability and reproducibilityrequired for the development of intricate multimodule circuit networksneeded for space instrumentations. There is also a gap for additivemanufacturing technologies with fabrication tolerances, repeatability,and material properties that enable electronic devices (e.g.,mixer blocks, corrugated horn antennas, etc.) that operate inthe 0.5 to 1.5 THz regime with RF performance on par with traditionalmanufacturing methods.

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

Critical need: Creative solutionsto improve the performance of future Earth-observing, planetary, andastrophysics missions. The wide range of frequencies in this scope areused for numerous science measurements such as Earth science temperatureprofiling, ice cloud remote sensing, and planetary molecular speciesdetection.

References:

  • Ulaby, Fawwaz; and Long,David: Microwave radar and radiometric remotesensing, Artech House,2015.
  • Wilson, W.J.; Tanner, A.B.; Pellerano,F.A.; and Horgan, K.A.: "Ultrastable microwave radiometers for future sea surface salinitymissions," Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NationalAeronautics and Space Administration, 2005.
  • Racette, P.; and Lang, R.H.: "Radiometer design analysisbased upon measurement uncertainty," RadioScience, 40(05), pp. 1-22, 2005.
  • Cooke, C.M. et al.: "A 670 GHz integrated InP HEMTdirect-detection receiver for the tropospheric water and cloud iceinstrument," IEEE Transactions on TerahertzScience and Technology, 11(5), pp. 566-576,2021.

Scope Title:

AdvancedDigital Electronic or Photonic Systems Technology for Microwave RemoteSensing

ScopeDescription:

Technology critical to increasing the utilityof microwave remote sensing based on photonic (or other novel analog)systems, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), andfield-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are showing great promise. Thistopic solicits proposals for such systems or subsystems to processmicrowave signals for passive remote-sensing applications forspectrometry or total power radiometry. Example applicationsinclude:

 

  • Photonic(or other analog) components or systems to implement spectrometers,beamforming arrays, correlation arrays, oscillators, noise sources, andother active or passive microwave instruments having size,weight, and power (SWaP) or performance advantages over digitaltechnology.
  • Electro-optic modulators that operate up to 600GHz.
  • In currenttechnology, phase and amplitude modulations on laser outputs areimplemented in two separate photonic devices. It is desirable to developa compact device to support versatile waveform with both phase andamplitude modulations. It is also desirable for the modulation inputsignal to operate up to 1 GHz with bandwidth >100 MHz, low phasenoise, and high frequency stability.
  • ASIC-basedsolutions for digital beamforming, creating one or more beams to replacemechanically scanned antennas.
  • Digitizersfor spectrometry starting at 40 Gsps, 20 GHz bandwidth, 8-bit or moreresolution, and with a simple interface to aFPGA.
  • ASIC implementations of polyphase spectrometer digitalsignal processing with <1W/GHz, >10-GHz-bandwidth spectrometer with 8192channels, and radiation-hardened and minimized powerdissipation.

 

All systemsor subsystems should also focus on low-power, radiation-tolerantbroadband microwave spectrometers for NASAapplications. Proposals should compare predicted performanceand SWaP to conventional radio-frequency and digital-processingmethods.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 3 to 5

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

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

DesiredDeliverables of Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Hardware

DesiredDeliverables Description:
Demonstration of novel subsystem or system to enableincreased capability in passive microwave remote-sensing instruments.Photonic systems specifically are low-TRL emerging technologies, soofferors are encouraged to identify and propose designs where photonictechnology would be most beneficial. For electronic solutions, low-powerspectrometers (or other applications in the Scope Description) for anASIC or other component that can be incorporated into multipleNASA microwave remote-sensing instruments are desired:

  • Dependingon the complexity of the proposed work, Phase I deliverables may includea prototype system or a study.
  • Phase IIdeliverables should include a prototype component or system with testdata verifying functionality.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

  • Photonicsystems for microwave remote sensing are an emerging technology not usedin current NASA microwave missions, but they may enable significantincreases in bandwidth or reduction in SWaP. Again, state-of-the-artdigital electronic solutions typically consume many watts ofpower.
  • Digitalbeamforming: most digital beamforming applications have focused oneither specific narrowband approaches for commercialcommunications or military radars. NASA needs solutions thatconsume low power and operate over widebandwidths.
  • Digitizers: High-speed digitizers exist but have poorly designedoutput interfaces. Specifically designed ASICs could reduce this powerby a factor of 10, but pose challenges in design and radiationtolerance. A low-power solution could be used in a wide range of NASAremote-sensing applications.
  • Spectrometers: The state of the art is currently the use ofconventional microwave electronics for frequency conversion andfiltering for spectrometers. Wideband spectrometers still generallyrequire over 10 W. Current FPGA-based spectrometers require ~10W/GHz.

 

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

Photonic systems may enablesignificantly increased bandwidth of Earth-viewing, astrophysics, andplanetary science missions. In particular, this may allow for receiverswith increased bandwidth orresolution for applications such as hyperspectralradiometry.

Broadband spectrometers are required for Earth-observing,planetary, and astrophysics missions. The rapid increase in speed andreduction in power per gigahertz in the digital realmof digital spectrometer capability is directly applicable toplanetary science and enables radio-frequency interference(RFI) mitigation for Earth science.

References:

  • Ulaby,Fawwaz; and Long, David: Microwave radar andradiometric remote sensing, Artech House,2015.
  • Chovan, Jozef; and Uherek, Frantisek:"Photonic Integrated Circuits for CommunicationSystems," Radioengineering, 27(2),pp. 357-363, 2018.
  • Pulipati, S. etal.: "Xilinx RF-SoC-based Digital Multi-Beam ArrayProcessors for 28/60 GHz Wireless Testbeds," MoratuwaEngineering Research Conference (MERCon), Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, July2020.
  • Johnson, Joel T. etal.: "Real-Time Detection and Filtering of RadioFrequency Interference Onboard a Spaceborne Microwave Radiometer: TheCubeRRT Mission," IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in AppliedEarth Observations and Remote Sensing, 13, pp.1610-1624, 2020.
  • Le Vine, David M.: "RFI and Remote Sensing of the Earthfrom Space," Journal of AstronomicalInstrumentation, 8.01, 2019,  https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20170003103

Scope Title:

AdvancedDeployable/Inflatable Antenna Apertures at Frequencies up toMillimeter-Wave

ScopeDescription:

Deployable antenna apertures are required for awide range of NASA passive remote-sensing applications from SmallSatplatforms. Current deployable/inflatable antenna technology is extremelylimited, particularly above Ka-band. NASA requires low-lossdeployable antenna apertures with high compaction ratio (small stowedvolume) at frequencies up to 200 GHz or beyond. Deployed aperturediameters of 0.5 to 2 m are desired, but proposers are invitedto propose concepts for smaller apertures at higher frequencies. Typicalbandwidths required for these antennas may be 10% or more formicrowave radiometers.

NASA alsorequires low-loss broadband deployable or compact antenna feeds withbandwidths of two octaves or more. Frequencies of interest start at 500MHz and extend to 5 THz. Loss should be as low as possible to minimizeradiometric uncertainty caused by changes in the antenna physicaltemperature. The possibility of thermal control and/or monitoring of theantenna is desired to further improve system calibrationstability.

Broadbandfeedhorns with the target frequency range of 10 to 200 GHz are alsodesired.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 3 to 5

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

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

DesiredDeliverables of Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Hardware

DesiredDeliverables Description:

Phase I deliverablesshould consist of analysis and potential prototyping of key enablingtechnologies.

Phase II deliverables should include a deployable antennaprototype.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

Current low-loss deployable antennas arelimited to Ka-band. Deployable apertures at higher frequencies arerequired for a wide range of applications, as aperture size is currentlyan instrument size, weight, and power (SWaP) driver for manyapplications up to 200 GHz.

Typicalradiometer frequencies without deployable antenna technologies include(but are not limited to) 50-57 GHz, 88 GHz, 112-120 GHz, and 176-190GHz. Radar remote sensing would also benefit from deployable antennatechnologies at 64-70 GHz, 95 GHz, 167-175 GHz, or near 215GHz.

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

Antennas at these frequencies areused for a wide range of passive and active microwave remote sensing,including measurements of water vapor and temperature. NASArequires low-loss deployable antenna apertures at frequencies up to 200GHz and beyond. NASA also requires low-loss broad-banddeployable or compact antenna feeds with bandwidths of two octaves ormore; these frequencies of interest start at 500 MHz. 

References:

  • Passive remote sensing such as performed by the GlobalPrecipitation Mission (GPM) Microwave Imager (GMI): https://gpm.nasa.gov/missions/GPM/GMI
  • Chahat, N. et al.: "Advanced CubeSatAntennas for Deep Space and Earth Science Missions: A review,"IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, 61(5), pp. 37-46,Oct. 2019, doi: 10.1109/MAP.2019.2932608.

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