A 2-to-48-MHz phase-locked loop (PLL), developed for the U.S. space program, meets or exceeds all space shuttle clock electrical interface requirements by taking as its reference a 2-to-48-MHz clock signal and outputting a phaselocked clock signal set at the same frequency as the reference clock with transistor- transistor logic (TTL) voltage levels. Because it is more adaptable than other PLLs, the new PLL can be used in industries that employ signaling devices and as a tool in future space missions.

A conventional PLL consists of a phase/frequency detector, loop filter, and voltage-controlled oscillator in which each component exists individually and is integrated into a single device. PLL components phase-lock to a single frequency or to a narrow bandwidth of frequencies. It is this design, however, that prohibits them from maintaining phase lock to a dynamically changing reference clock when a large bandwidth is required — a deficiency the new PLL overcomes. Since most PLL components require their voltage-controlled oscillators to operate at greater than 2-MHz frequencies, conventional PLLs often cannot achieve the low-frequency phase lock allowed by the new PLL.

The 2-to-48-MHz PLL is built on a wire-wrap board with pins wired to three position jumpers; this makes changing configurations easy. It responds to variations in voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) ranges, duty cycle, signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), amplitude, and jitter, exceeding design specifications. A consensus state machine, implemented in a VCO range detector which assures the PLL continues to operate in the correct range, is the primary control state machine for the 2-to-48-MHz PLL circuit. By using seven overlapping frequency ranges with hysteresis, the PLL output sets the resulting phase-locked clock signal at a frequency that agrees with the reference clock with TTL voltage levels.

As a space-shuttle tool, the new PLL circuit takes the noisy, degraded reference clock signals as input and outputs phaselocked clock signals of the same frequency but with a corrected wave shape. Since its configuration circuit can be easily changed, the new PLL can do the following: readily respond to variations in VCO ranges, duty cycle, SNR, amplitude, and jitter; continuously operate in the correct VCO range because of its consensus state machine; and use its range detector implements to overlap seven frequency ranges with hysteresis, thus giving the current design a flexibility that exceeds anything available at the time of this development. These features will benefit any industry in which safe and timely clock signals are vital to operation.

This work was done by Robert D. Koudelka of the Johnson Space Center. This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to the Patent Counsel, Johnson Space Center, (281) 483-0837. Refer to MSC-22875.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2004 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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