Optimising resources in future heterogeneous millimetre wave communication systems

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science


The vision of this project is to optimise the exploitation of space borne resources in future heterogeneous wireless comms systems by accelerating the deployment of new and higher mm-wave frequency bands for high data rate gateway links between satellite platforms and the terrestrial communication infrastructure. This will be achieved by virtue of a pioneering study that brings together expertise on wireless and satellite communication systems, mm-wave electronics and antennas, atmospheric propagation and digital channel modelling and characterisation. The urgent priority for new mm-wave bands in emerging sitcom systems is evidenced by ESA's TDP#5 mission involving a Q-band (38 GHz) beacon on board the ALPHASAT satellite, which provides a unique opportunity to experimentally characterise atmospheric fading at this frequency. Our world-leading consortium has exclusive access to all three UK-based receive ground stations for this mission as well as exclusive access to meteorological (incl. rain radar) and radiometric data at zero cost to the project.

Planned Impact

A strategic aim of the UK is to increase its global share of the space sector. Spectrum scarcity presents a major potential barrier in achieving this national priority. While today the space industry is rapidly capitalising from 10-fold increase in platform capacity enabled by the recent transition to Ka-band, the ever-growing demand for spectrum and emerging applications indicate the need for exploitation of higher frequencies. It is well appreciated by space agencies and the industry alike that links in the Q/V-band is the next step-change enabler for satcom spectrum release. We propose to investigate for the first time globally the practical use of Q/V-band based on actual data measured concurrently at multiple sites. This pioneering study therefore directly addresses a key enabler in accelerating the UK's competitive advantage in the deployment of UK-based high throughput gateways for the European area.


10 25 50
Description A number of outcomes have been achieved out of this project, most notably:
1. We have established a terminal that receives data from a geostationary satellite and allows the estimation of the atmospheric propagation.
2. We have collected satellite propagation data at Q-band and Ka-band
3. We have developed digital communication techniques to optimise the performance of a satellite link within the framework of the existing standards
4. We have developed machine learning based techniques to predict the atmospheric propagation associated with satellite links
Exploitation Route Data collected at our terminal will feed into the new ITU-R models through collaborations with NASA.
The methodologies we developed for optimising links are of relevance to satellite operators. A paper is being presented in the ESA Microwave Theory and Techniques Workshop 2019
The techniques we have developed are also of relevance to researchers active in this area
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Transport

Description Data collected in our satellite terminals were used as input for future ITU-R recommendations relating to satellite propagation at Q-band through the relevant ITU-R study group (SG4). The project has led to the development of Intellectual Property that is being exploited by the company Atheras Analytics (https://atherasanalytics.com/) that spun out of RAL Space. Atheras provides bespoke software solutions for optimising both the design and operation of High Throughput Satellite (HTS) system gateways employing Smart Gateway Diversity (SGD) techniques. This project performed underpinning fundamental research on this topic.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Title Q-band and K-band data in Edinburgh 
Description We have collected satellite beacon data at Q-band and Ka-band together with ancillary data 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This data may feed into the ITU-R recommendations for satellite propagation in the Q-band 
Description Collaboration with NASA Glenn Research Laboratories 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Glenn Research Center
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution With colleagues form NASA Glenn (Dr. James Nessel) we have established joint satellite receive terminal on the Heriot-Watt campus receiving beacon signals at Ka-band. Heriot-Watt provided the system analysis and hardware. The received signal was split and processed by both the NASA digital receiver as well as a receiver developed by the Heriot-Watt team.
Collaborator Contribution NASA Glenn put expertise in the installation of the terminal. They also provided their validated receiver, which allowed us to confirm the performance of our receiver.
Impact Presently there is a journal paper submitted to the IEEE Transactions Antennas and Propagation under revision (major corrections)
Start Year 2018