2012

An MSK Radar Waveform

An increase in radar resolution results without the need for additional spectrum.

The minimum-shift-keying (MSK) radar waveform is formed by periodically extending a waveform that separately modulates the in-phase and quadraturephase components of the carrier with offset pulse-shaped pseudo noise (PN) sequences. To generate this waveform, a pair of periodic PN sequences is each passed through a pulse-shaping filter with a half sinusoid impulse response. These shaped PN waveforms are then offset by half a chip time and are separately modulated on the in-phase and quadrature phase components of an RF carrier. This new radar waveform allows an increase in radar resolution without the need for additional spectrum. In addition, it provides self-interference suppression and configurable peak sidelobes.

Compared strictly on the basis of the expressions for delay resolution, mainlobe bandwidth, effective Doppler bandwidth, and peak ambiguity sidelobe, it appears that bi-phase coded (BPC) outperforms the new MSK waveform. However, a radar waveform must meet certain constraints imposed by the transmission and reception of the modulation, as well as criteria dictated by the observation. In particular, the phase discontinuity of the BPC waveform presents a significant impediment to the achievement of finer resolutions in radar measurements — a limitation that is overcome by using the continuous phase MSK waveform. The phase continuity, and the lower fractional out-of-band power of MSK, increases the allowable bandwidth compared with BPC, resulting in a factor of two increase in the range resolution of the radar. The MSK waveform also has been demonstrated to have an ambiguity sidelobe structure very similar to BPC, where the sidelobe levels can be decreased by increasing the length of the m-sequence used in its generation.

This ability to set the peak sidelobe level is advantageous as it allows the system to be configured to a variety of targets, including those with a larger dynamic range. Other conventionally used waveforms that possess an even greater spectral efficiency than the MSK waveform, such as linear frequency modulation (LFM) and Costas frequency hopping, have a fixed peak sidelobe level that is therefore not configurable, and can be exceeded by high contrast targets. Furthermore, in the case of a multistatic experiment observing a target in motion, self-interference from the transmitter to the receiver is mitigated by the MSK waveform. Waveforms that have delay Doppler coupling, such as LFM, provide no such protection.

This work was done by Kevin J. Quirk and Meera Srinivasan of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . NPO-48367