Software defined radios are all around us. For less than one hundred euros anyone can buy a USRP radio, and with the right coding, check out satellites transmitting around the globe. Now the Eindhoven University of Technology is using this software-based approach to enable satellites to communicate with one another and with ground stations on Earth.
‘Instead of building a transponder as a hardware only device, we keep the hardware as minimal as possible and program software so it can operate as a transponder. This way satellite radio communications become much cheaper, easier to manipulate and more versatile’, says researcher Odysseas Votsis of Eindhoven University of Technology. ‘Using a software-based transponder in a satellite is like updating your smart phone. You can make the necessary changes all the time.’
Votsis is developing a software defined transponder programmed with GNURadio following the ECSS-protocol for use on European Space Agency satellites. It will likely be available in 2019. The transponder has open source coding, so universities and small institutions will be able to work with it too.