JPL DESCANSO - Deep Space Communications and Navigation Center of Excellence

A DSN Array for the 21st Century

Presented by:
Dr. Sander Weinreb
Principal Scientist, JPL
Faculty Associate, Caltech


The present NASA capability for deep space communications is based upon 70m antennas, which were designed and constructed over 30 years ago. The cost of substantially larger antennas becomes prohibitively expensive and a large array of smaller antennas is suggested. A baseline approach of 4000 5m-diameter antennas useful to 40 GHz could provide an order of magnitude improvement in receiving capability at a cost of under $300M. This ground infrastructure investment would provide benefits over a 30 year period which are a powerful combination of reduced spacecraft antenna size, reduced transmitter power, increased data rate, and reserve capability for emergency situations. The large array also provides greatly enhanced navigational capability, soft failure modes, weather diversity, and imaging capability for radio science applications. An even larger, square kilometer array is being considered as the next large international radio astronomy instrument by a consortium of institutions, which includes Caltech.

This talk will discuss both the applications and state-of-the-art technology for this instrument. Several new technologies are ripe for application to ultra sensitive, wide-bandwidth, versatile arrays. These include satellite TV antennas which are being produced in large quantity at amazing costs, monolithic integrated circuits (MMICs) for use in the multitude of very low noise receivers, photonic signal transmission systems to connect the array, and high-speed data processing equipment to process thousands of signals with bandwidths in the GHz range.

The Speaker

Dr. Weinreb is presently a Principal Scientist at JPL and a Faculty Associate at Caltech. His present main area of research is the development of low-noise microwave and millimeter wave integrated circuits (MMICs) for use in radio astronomy and atmospheric research. Prior to joining JPL and Caltech last year, he held key positions at U. of Massachusetts, Martin Marietta Laboratories, U. of Virginia, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory where he was the Assistant Director.