High Data-Rate Inter-Satellite Link (ISL) For Space-Based Interferometry

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The inter-satellite link (ISL) in swarm and constellation missions is a key enabler in the autonomy of the mission. OLFAR (Orbiting Low Frequency Array for Radio astronomy) is one such mission where 10 to 50+ nanosatellites are placed in the Lunar orbit and perform astronomical observations from the far-side of the moon. Each of the nanosatellite in the swarm would carry a receiver that performs observations between 0.3 - 30 MHz, which are the least explored frequency bands in radio astronomy, thus attracting a large scientific interest.
Observations in this frequency bands from Earth are highly challenging as the ionosphere is opaque to these frequency bands. Furthermore, RFI (Radio Frequency Interferences) generated on Earth makes it highly challenging to perform astronomical observations below 30MHz band. The impediments faced by Earth-based or near-Earth-based radio astronomy for these frequency bands is the motivation to perform measurements from the far-side of the moon.
The purpose of using a swarm of nanosatellites to perform low frequency observations is to enable the realization of long observation baselines and additionally, the effective aperture of observation increases with the number of satellites. For the swarm of nanosatellites to operate as a single aperture, it is very important to cross-correlate the information collected by each satellite and this is where the ISL becomes very crucial. Apart from exchanging data collected by the payload, other information such as attitude and timing information needs to be exchanged.
This work derived mission level requirements which would be used to define a suitable communication architecture for space-based radio astronomy missions such as OLFAR. The approach chosen for communication system for such a swarm mission will comprise of two types of ISL: High data-rate directional link that will be used to exchange payload date and low data-rate omni-directional link that will be used to exchange attitude, timing information and be used for localization, positioning and ranging of the nanosatellites in the swarm. This work will present link budgets to show the feasibility of the proposed communication architecture and derive the specs to further design the transceivers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication70th International Astronautical Congress
Subtitle of host publicationB2. IAF space communications and navigation symposium
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2019
Event70th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2019 - Washington, United States
Duration: 21 Oct 201925 Oct 2019
Conference number: 70

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation, IAF
ISSN (Print)0074-1795


Conference70th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2019
Abbreviated titleIAC 2019
CountryUnited States
OtherThe proceedings will be provided to all participants on
the first day of the Congress.
Internet address


  • High data-rate communication
  • Inter-satellite link
  • Nano-satellite
  • Space-based radio astronomy


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