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Deep-space communication and navigation is faced with two challenges in the future: (1) the potential retirement of the largest antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network and (2) an anticipated need for increasing ground system capacity so as to support higher data rates to and from missions operating at remote locations in the solar system, as well as in anticipation of a larger number of simultaneously flying missions. In the transmitting, or uplink, direction, one approach to increasing the effective transmitted power is to array multiple antennas. This is attractive mainly because it promises a lower construction cost than equivalent (large) single antenna systems. In addition, it has the potential for increasing the reliability of the uplink and reducing maintenance costs. This paper introduces the concept of uplink arraying by examining technological challenges and possible solutions to them. Arraying principles are presented and error sources described. The main challenge is to maintain carrier phase alignment among the antennas, and this must be done by periodic calibration. Presently, two calibration methods are being developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of an uplink arraying demonstration effort. These methods are briefly discussed.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2007