HF vector sensor for radio astronomy: ground testing results
September 13, 2016
The radio sky below ~10 MHz is largely unexplored due to the inability of ground-based telescopes to observe near or below the ionospheric plasma frequency, or cut-off frequency. A space-based interferometric array is required to probe the portion of the electromagnetic (E-M) spectrum below 10 MHz with sufficient angular resolution and sensitivity to be scientifically useful. Multi-spacecraft constellations scale quickly in cost and complexity as the number of spacecraft increases, so minimizing the number of required spacecraft for an interferometric array (while maintaining performance) is critical for feasibility. We present the HF (High Frequency, 3 to 30 MHz) Vector Sensor as a high performance spacecraft instrument in a future space-based interferometric array. The HF Vector Sensor is composed of three orthogonal dipoles and three orthogonal loop antennas with a common phase center. These six elements fully measure the E-M field of incoming radiation. We present the design of two prototype HF Vector Sensors, ground-based data collection at frequencies above the ionospheric cut-off, and imaging results using several different algorithms.