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Data Exfiltration of Unattended Ground Sensor Data using a 3U Cube Satellite


OBJECTIVE: Increase the data rate and signal strength capabilities for exfiltrating signals from Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS) using a 3 Unit (3U = 10x10x34 centimeter) cube satellite. DESCRIPTION: The US Army is increasingly relying on Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS) in current military operations. For example, the number one cause of soldier deaths and injuries in current military operations is the Improvised Explosive Device (IED). To combat this threat Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS) are placed to detect enemy movements, including enemy digging to emplace the IEDS. More broadly, the US Army is using UGS to assist in force protection of military outposts for example, perimeter security. Thus, UGS are being used to detect enemy activity as these units attempt to infiltrate friendly positions. In addition to the seismic/acoustic sensors mentioned above, the US Army is actively developing new generations of wireless CBR (Chemical-Biological-Radiological) sensors to monitor the physical environment for combat/logistics or HADR (Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief) operations. These UGS are deployed in a wireless network to cover a very large area and reporting data in real-time to a remote command center. Data from UGS sensors must be collected, processed, and warnings disseminated to the Soldiers in harm"s way. Currently, the collection of sensor data represents a logistical challenge. UGS are battery powered with limited radio transmission range. To collect these signals Soldiers may have to expose themselves to incoming fire or hazardous CBR agents or they may give away their position or intentions in order to get close enough to the UGS to receive their signals. New technologies need to be investigated and developed to solve this logistical challenge. A secure and covert way of extracting the UGS signals is via satellite. The miniature electronics revolution of recent years has enabled smart sensing devices to come in a very small packages, and smart phones to have incredible processing power. This electronics revolution is being extended into space. Nanosatellites are routinely being launched. One type of nanosatellite is the 3U (3 Unit) cube satellite. When folded in launch configuration they measure only 10x10x34 centimeters and weigh about 5 kilograms. In December 2010, limited demonstrations were conducted with the Army"s SMDC-ONE cube satellite in orbit where data from an UGS was successfully collected, transmitted to the cube satellite through a NEXUS gateway and then relayed to a ground station. While this limited demonstration was successful, there are still major problems to solve. This SBIR is designed to increase the data rate and radio frequency sensitivity of this data exfiltration capability. UGS come in a variety of sizes and capabilities. Some are simple pressure sensors that transmit a limited amount of information at a very low data rate. Other sensors measure a number of parameters and require higher data rates. All have relatively low transmit power levels, and by design have less than optimum performance antennas in order to reduce their visual profile. These limitations are a challenge to successful signal collection. This topic specifically is targeting enhancements to the cube satellite to improve communications; enhancements to the UGS devices are out of the scope of this SBIR topic. Most of the wireless UGS are designed to be operational in an extended amount of time without changing the batteries, the primary power source. Thus all the electronics components, especially the communication subsystem, are very energy efficient. The internal software regulates the radio power consumption through the data acquisition and reporting rate. The technical challenge of this SBIR is that the small size of the cube satellite means that the receiver and antenna are also limited in size, weight and power consumption. Despite the extraordinary investment the commercial electronics industry has made in miniaturization and the success achieved with smart phones and other personal devices, this revolution has only just begun to extend into space. The purpose of this SBIR is to accelerate that extension and optimize the application of these technologies into the 3U cube satellite form factor. PHASE I: Determine the technical feasibility of using sensitive cube satellite receivers and an improved antenna system to collect UGS data. Perform end-to-end systems engineering and link calculations to determine maximum data rates and optimal frequencies for UGS collection. Use specifications of actual UGS either in the Army inventory or which will be in the Army inventory in 2 years or less. This research should also present information on a realistic design that would fit within the weight, power and physical space dimensions of a 3U cube satellite. This design should also include an approach to develop small nano-stat compatible ground transceiver components that could fit into the UGS wireless network, either as a stand-alone external or an internal circuit board, plus omnidirectional antenna. The data communication between ground and space is flexible and programmable depending on the nature of the UGS and the ground operation. PHASE II: Leveraging the results from Phase I, develop a prototype receiver and antenna for a cube satellite that is optimized for a particular type of UGS (to be decided jointly between the Government and the contractor in Phase I). Provide practical implementation demonstrating the acquisition UGS data over a variety of orbit altitudes and antenna receive angles. Address a concept of operations where multiple cube satellites in Low Earth Orbit that are not cross-linked successively pass over the UGS to collect and relay their data. PHASE III: The end state for this R & D will be an enhanced 3U cube satellite that will have robust communications capabilities with US Army UGS. This capability will improve the operational awareness of units in the field and will support mission command and intelligence operations. The persistent coverage provided by these enhanced satellites will improve soldier survivability and lethality. The 3U cube satellite standard has been promulgated by California Polytechnic Institute and numerous other organizations. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is sponsoring launches for experimental 3U payloads on a competitive basis. Higher data rates and signal sensitivity in a 3U form factor would broadly benefit the academic as well as the scientific community. REFERENCES: 1) NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative: 2) USASMDC/ARSTRAT: Fact Sheet SMDC-One (Nanosatellite Technology Demonstration) 3) US Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Operational Nanosatellite Effect (SMDC-One), Program Status, CubeSat Workshopr 2009 4) ERDC-TEC AQUAPATH: biological sensor fact sheet 5) ERDC-TEC SilverHawk: chemical, biological and rad sensor fact sheet 6) ERDC-TEC Ground Structure sensor for counter IED fact sheet 7) TARDEC Water Quality sensor fact sheet
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