An experimental platform for multi-spacecraft phase-array communications

Aaditya Ravindran, Ravi Teja Nallapu, Andrew Warren, Alessandra Babuscia, Jose Vazco, Jekan Thangavelautham

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The emergence of small satellites and CubeSats for interplanetary exploration will mean hundreds if not thousands of spacecraft exploring every corner of the solar-system. Current methods for communication and tracking of deep space probes use ground based systems such as the Deep Space Network (DSN). However, the increased communication demand will require radically new methods to ease communication congestion. Networks of communication relay satellites located at strategic locations such as geostationary orbit and Lagrange points are potential solutions. Instead of one large communication relay satellite, we could have scores of small satellites that utilize phase arrays to effectively operate as one large satellite. Excess payload capacity on rockets can be used to warehouse more small satellites in the communication network. The advantage of this network is that even if one or a few of the satellites are damaged or destroyed, the network still operates but with degraded performance. The satellite network would operate in a distributed architecture and some satellites maybe dynamically repurposed to split and communicate with multiple targets at once. The potential for this alternate communication architecture is significant, but this requires development of satellite formation flying and networking technologies. Our research has found neural-network control approaches such as the Artificial Neural Tissue can be effectively used to control multirobot/multi-spacecraft systems and can produce human competitive controllers. We have been developing a laboratory experiment platform called Athena to develop critical spacecraft control algorithms and cognitive communication methods. We briefly report on the development of the platform and our plans to gain insight into communication phase arrays for space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2017 Cognitive Communications for Aerospace Applications Workshop, CCAA 2017
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781538639887
StatePublished - Aug 3 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event2017 Cognitive Communications for Aerospace Applications Workshop, CCAA 2017 - Cleveland, United States
Duration: Jun 27 2017Jun 28 2017

Publication series

Name2017 Cognitive Communications for Aerospace Applications Workshop, CCAA 2017


Conference2017 Cognitive Communications for Aerospace Applications Workshop, CCAA 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • control
  • neural networks
  • phased array
  • testbed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Aerospace Engineering


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