PhD Optical free-space communications for formation flying

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 01 Nov 2021

In the NWO-funded Perspective program Optical Wireless Superhighways, new perspectives can be opened for wireless communication which will offer unprecedented capacity, connection density, privacy, and energy efficiency. Five universities and a variety of knowledge Institutes and industries are joining forces to explore these opportunities at all length scales: ranging from ultra-long links between satellites, to short links within indoor rooms. We are looking for enthusiastic PhD students to join our program.

Satellite formations allow the observations of phenomena from different points of view, allowing measurements otherwise impossible. Such distributed instrument would acquire information and combine it based on the respective positions, relying on communication and relative position estimation.

The aim of this PhD is advancing the field of satellite formations and distributed instrument by employing a laser link performing concurrent data transmission and ranging between multiple satellites down to accuracies and data rates not reachable with traditional radio-frequency links. This is a relatively un-explored topic as comparable systems are typically designed for either communications or ranging. This opens up several possibilities for scientific and commercial missions with multiple satellites, creating an affordable system also capable of tolerating partial failures. During this PhD, the successful candidate will develop a model of the laser communication channel, estimating the achievable performances in terms of communications and position determination, based on a set of reference missions and available hardware. This model will be validated with laboratory experiments and it will be used to derive relative distance measurements. Based on the achievable performances, this model will be used, for example, to quantify the performance of the science return for various missions, such as the improved space weather observables for Low Earth Orbit missions. Other satellite formation concepts will also be analysed to better assess the full potential of this technology. Based on the achied results, the performances of the laser system will be optimized to improve the scientific return on the analysed missions and from the space systems point of view, leading to a versatile and high-performances distributed instrument design.

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