Pulse compression has been widely used in radars so that low-power, long RF pulses can be transmitted, rather than a high-power short pulse. Pulse compression radars offer a number of advantages over high-power short pulsed radars, such as no need of highpower RF circuitry, no need of high-voltage electronics, compact size and light weight, better range resolution, and better reliability. However, range sidelobe associated with pulse compression has prevented the use of this technique on spaceborne radars since surface returns detected by range sidelobes may mask the returns from a nearby weak cloud or precipitation particles. Research on adaptive pulse compression was carried out utilizing a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) waveform generation board and a radar transceiver simulator. The results have shown significant improvements in pulse compression sidelobe performance.

Microwave and millimeter-wave radars present many technological challenges for Earth and planetary science applications. The traditional tube-based radars use high-voltage power supply/modulators and high-power RF transmitters; therefore, these radars usually have large size, heavy weight, and reliability issues for space and airborne platforms. Pulse compression technology has provided a path toward meeting many of these radar challenges. Recent advances in digital waveform generation, digital receivers, and solid-state power amplifiers have opened a new era for applying pulse compression to the development of compact and high-performance airborne and spaceborne remote sensing radars.

The primary objective of this innovative effort is to develop and test a new pulse compression technique to achieve ultrarange sidelobes so that this technique can be applied to spaceborne, airborne, and ground-based remote sensing radars to meet future science requirements. By using digital waveform generation, digital receiver, and solid-state power amplifier technologies, this improved pulse compression technique could bring significant impact on future radar development.

The novel feature of this innovation is the non-linear FM (NLFM) waveform design. The traditional linear FM has the limit (–20 log BT –3 dB) for achieving ultra-low-range sidelobe in pulse compression. For this study, a different combination of 20- or 40-microsecond chirp pulse width and 2- or 4-MHz chirp bandwidth was used. These are typical operational parameters for airborne or spaceborne weather radars. The NLFM waveform design was then implemented on a FPGA board to generate a real chirp signal, which was then sent to the radar transceiver simulator. The final results have shown significant improvement on sidelobe performance compared to that obtained using a traditional linear FM chirp.

This work was done by Lihua Li, Michael Coon, and Matthew McLinden of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16458-1