Communication Systems — Division 6

Illustration of a lunar lasercom demo

The Communication Systems Division develops advanced communications systems and technology in support of national security and space exploration missions. Core expertise in radio frequency and optical communication technologies, information theory, communications signal processing, and networking is leveraged to address the needs of next-generation satellite, airborne, and terrestrial communication networks. Emphasis is placed on synthesizing system architectures, developing component technology, building end-to-end system prototypes, and technology transfer to government and industry. Significant current efforts include research and prototyping next-generation protected satellites and terminals, demonstrating space-to-ground laser communications for NASA, and developing robust airborne tactical data links. Extensive field experimentation and data collection assets are employed to measure channel phenomenology and verify algorithms and architectural concepts in operational environments.

Groups


Group 62—Advanced RF Techniques and Systems
The Advanced RF Techniques and Systems Group develops and demonstrates new algorithms, architectures, and hardware implementations for a broad range of radio-frequency (RF) system applications, including advanced wireless communications, emitter geolocation, and emitter surveillance. The group's core competencies include developing algorithms and system concepts for communication, signal detection, localization, and classification in challenging environments, as well as hardware implementations and prototypes of these advanced RF systems. The group has expertise in adaptive antenna array processing, signal detection and estimation, pattern recognition, multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) communications, multiuser detection (MUD), wideband sampling techniques, antenna and RF subsystem design, and systems analysis. Staff members have advanced degrees in electrical engineering, physics, and applied mathematics. To support concept development and evaluation, the group conducts a significant amount of field tests and data collection campaigns, and collaborates with other groups within the division and throughout the Laboratory in real-time prototype implementation, experiment execution, and systems analysis.

Group 64—Advanced SATCOM Systems and Operations
The Advanced SATCOM Systems and Operations Group is involved in a synergistic combination of research, proof-of-concept test beds, and system engineering and application efforts focused on the goals of enhancing the capacity, the robustness to interference, and the flexibility of future generations of communications satellites, as well as line-of-sight radio communications systems and free-space optical communications. Current research is concentrating on the design and performance of advanced waveforms (including higher-order signaling constellations and iterative demodulation/decoding), the construction of flexible, adaptive wideband frequency plans, robust acquisition and tracking techniques, dynamic resource-allocation protocols, and advanced networking strategies. Promising research results are verified in hardware and software proof-of-concept implementations that provide quantitative performance data as well as complexity information. The group's system engineering activities synthesize innovative architectures and apply new concepts and technologies to specific communications programs in the national interest.

Group 65—Tactical Networks
The Tactical Networks Group develops architectures, technologies, algorithms, and protocols to enable the next generation of military airborne, ground, and maritime mobile networks. These networks carry real-time tactical coordination and sensor data between multiple aircraft, vehicles, individuals, and ships within a widely dispersed region of operation, provide range extension and backbone connectivity for geographically dispersed air and surface nodes, and provide protected communications for aircraft operating in highly contested electromagnetic environments. Unlike commercial wireless networks, tactical networks cannot rely on ground-based infrastructure to enable single-hop wireless communications to a cell tower, but instead must operate autonomously or tethered through satellites. Hence, the group conducts fundamental research to understand the performance capacity of mobile ad hoc networks and develops technologies that bring practical systems closer to achieving this capacity. Research areas include interference-resistant and bandwidth-efficient modulation and coding, multiuser detection, topology control and management, multiple-access communications, dynamic scheduling and resource allocation, network coding, efficient and robust unicast and multicast routing, heterogeneous networking, delay-tolerant networking, network architecture and design, and network management as they apply to the tactical environment.

Group 66—Advanced Lasercom Systems and Operations
The Advanced Lasercom Systems and Operations Group conducts analysis, design, demonstration, and testing of optical communications systems over free-space channels. Recent initiatives focused on airborne lasercom systems supporting data transfer from tactical ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) platforms and included identifying and validating techniques for mitigating signal power fluctuation due to atmospheric turbulence. The group's capabilities include high-fidelity atmospheric modeling and simulation, and the development of multi-Gb/s modems; pointing, acquisition, and tracking systems; high-speed electronic coding and interleaving schemes; and network-standard interfaces. The group works with government and industrial partners to help expedite the transfer of capability to operational systems.

Group 67—Optical Communications Technology
The Optical Communications Technology Group develops advanced laser communications technology for use in innovative system demonstrations and architectures. A primary area of research is the development of sensitive, single-photon detector arrays, coherent modems, integrated photonic circuits, and novel modulation and coding approaches. Using these technologies, the group conducts research and development for a wide range of space, airborne, and terrestrial communication system applications, including terabit-per-second direct-to-Earth small-satellite constellations, near-Earth wideband relay laser communication terminal hardware, and next-generation beam-director prototypes inherently scalable to deep-space systems. The group has also initiated new research efforts into extending the range and utility of extremely photon-starved undersea communication transceivers and entanglement-based quantum communication networks.

 

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