A one-page document describes a Ka-band transponder being developed for use in deep-space radio science. The transponder receives in the Deep Space Network (DSN) uplink frequency band of 34.2 to 34.7 GHz, transmits in the 31.8 to 32.3 GHz DSN downlink band, and performs regenerative ranging on a DSN standard 4-MHz ranging tone subcarrier phase-modulated onto the uplink carrier signal. A primary consideration in this development is reduction in size, relative to other such transponders.

The transponder design is all-analog, chosen to minimize not only the size but also the number of parts and the design time and, thus, the cost. The receiver features two stages of frequency down-conversion. The receiver locks onto the uplink carrier signal. The exciter signal for the transmitter is derived from the same source as that used to generate the first-stage local-oscillator signal. The ranging-tone subcarrier is down-converted along with the carrier to the second intermediate frequency, where the 4-MHz tone is demodulated from the composite signal and fed into a ranging-tone-tracking loop, which regenerates the tone. The regenerated tone is linearly phase-modulated onto the downlink carrier.

This work was done by Matthew S. Dennis, Narayan R. Mysoor, William M. Folkner, Ricardo Mendoza, and Jaikrishna Venkatesan of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-45598

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Ka-Band Transponder for Deep-Space Radio Science

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This article first appeared in the December, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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