Three companies to design new L-band RF power amplifiers to improve GPS signals efficiency

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., 16 June 2014. U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites may be on the way to becoming smaller and more power efficient with a series of planned upgrades to the way the satellites generate navigation signals.

Jun 16th, 2014
Three companies to design new L-band RF power amplifiers to improve GPS signals efficiency
Three companies to design new L-band RF power amplifiers to improve GPS signals efficiency
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., 16 June 2014. U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites may be on the way to becoming smaller and more power efficient with a series of planned upgrades to the way the satellites generate navigation signals.

Microelectronics experts at three U.S. satellite communications (SATCOM) companies will design new L-band radio frequency power amplifiers for the GPS satellite navigation payload under terms of contracts from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

The companies are the Northrop Grumman Corp. Aerospace Systems segment in Redondo Beach, Calif.; the Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems segment in El Segundo, Calif.; and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Boeing won a $4.5 million contract on 6 June, while Ball won a $2.2 million contract on 14 May. Northrop Grumman won a $7 million contract this past week.

The three companies are working to demonstrate the direct digital synthesis of GPS signals by designing a digital beam forming element, engineering design unit, and other enabling technologies of the digital phased array GPS payload.

Related: Pioneer of satellite-based navigation now known as GPS, Roger Easton, passes away at 93

Direct digital synthesis is a way of producing an analog signal in digital form and then performing a digital-to-analog conversion. Because operations primarily are digital, this process can offer fast switching between output frequencies, fine frequency resolution, and operation over a broad spectrum of frequencies.

With advances in design and process technology, today’s direct digital synthesis devices are compact and draw little power. This process can provide agile sources of low-phase, noise-variable frequencies with good spurious performance for GPS navigation signals, communications, and other RF and microwave applications.

Direct digital synthesis is gaining a reputation for generating analog signals efficiently because today's single-chip integrated circuits can generate programmable analog output waveforms simply and with high resolution and accuracy.

Related: Northrop Grumman's Astro Aerospace delivers antennas for GPS III military satellites

Continuing improvements in integrated circuit process technologies have helped reduce the costs and power consumption of integrated circuits for direct digital synthesis.

For more information contact Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems online at www.boeing.com, Ball Aerospace at www.ballaerospace.com, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems at www.northropgrumman.com, or the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate at www.kirtland.af.mil/afrl_vs.

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