Direct to Earth return links are limited by the size and power of lander devices. A standard alternative is provided by a two-hops return link: a proximity link (from lander to orbiter relay) and a deep-space link (from orbiter relay to Earth). Although direct to Earth return links are limited by the size and power of lander devices, using an additional link and a proposed coding for relay channels, one can obtain a more reliable signal. Although significant progress has been made in the relay coding problem, existing codes must be painstakingly optimized to match to a single set of channel conditions, many of them do not offer easy encoding, and most of them do not have structured design.

A high-performing LDPC (low-density parity-check) code for the relay channel addresses simultaneously two important issues: a code structure that allows low encoding complexity, and a flexible ratecompatible code that allows matching to various channel conditions. Most of the previous high-performance LDPC codes for the relay channel are tightly optimized for a given channel quality, and are not easily adapted without extensive re-optimization for various channel conditions. This code for the relay channel combines structured design and easy encoding with rate compatibility to allow adaptation to the three links involved in the relay channel, and furthermore offers very good performance. The proposed code is constructed by synthesizing a bilayer structure with a protograph. In addition to the contribution to relay encoding, an improved family of protograph codes was produced for the point-to-point AWGN (additive white Gaussian noise) channel whose highrate members enjoy thresholds that are within 0.07 dB of capacity.

These LDPC relay codes address three important issues in an integrative manner: low encoding complexity, modular structure allowing for easy design, and rate compatibility so that the code can be easily matched to a variety of channel conditions without extensive re-optimization. The main problem of halfduplex relay coding can be reduced to the simultaneous design of two codes at two rates and two SNRs (signal-to-noise ratios), such that one is a subset of the other. This problem can be addressed by forceful optimization, but a clever method of addressing this problem is via the bilayer lengthened (BL) LDPC structure. This method uses a bilayer Tanner graph to make the two codes while using a concept of “parity forwarding” with subsequent successive decoding that removes the need to directly address the issue of uneven SNRs among the symbols of a given codeword. This method is attractive in that it addresses some of the main issues in the design of relay codes, but it does not by itself give rise to highly structured codes with simple encoding, nor does it give rate-compatible codes. The main contribution of this work is to construct a class of codes that simultaneously possess a bilayer parity- forwarding mechanism, while also benefiting from the properties of protograph codes having an easy encoding, a modular design, and being a rate-compatible code.

This work was done by Dariush Divsalar of Caltech, and Thuy Van Nguyen and Aria Nosratinia of the University of Texas at Dallas 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-47539

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the August, 2013 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.