A miniature L-band transceiver that operates at a carrier frequency of 1.25 GHz has been developed as part of a generic radar electronics module (REM) that would constitute one unit in an array of many identical units in a very-large-aperture phased-array antenna. NASA and the Department of Defense are considering the deployment of such antennas in outer space; the underlying principles of operation, and some of those of design, also are applicable on Earth. The large dimensions of the antennas make it advantageous to distribute radio-frequency electronic circuitry into elements of the arrays. The design of the REM is intended to implement the distribution. The design also reflects a requirement to minimize the size and weight of the circuitry in order to minimize the weight of any such antenna. Other requirements include making the transceiver robust and radiation-hard and minimizing power demand.

Figure 1. The Radar Electronics Module contains the miniature L-band transceiver.
Figure 1 depicts the functional blocks of the REM, including the L-band transceiver. The key functions of the REM include signal generation, frequency translation, amplification, detection, handling of data, and radar control and timing. An arbitrary-waveform generator that includes logic circuitry and a digital- to-analog converter (DAC) generates a linear- frequency-modulation chirp waveform. A frequency synthesizer produces local-oscillator signals used for frequency conversion and clock signals for the arbitrary- waveform generator, for a digitizer [that is, an analog-to-digital converter (ADC)], and for a control and timing unit. Digital functions include command, timing, telemetry, filtering, and high-rate framing and serialization of data for a high-speed scientific-data interface.

The aforementioned digital implementation of filtering is a key feature of the REM architecture. Digital filters, in contradistinction to analog ones, provide consistent and temperature-independent performance, which is particularly important when REMs are distributed throughout a large array. Digital filtering also enables selection among multiple filter parameters as required for different radar operating modes. After digital filtering, data are decimated appropriately in order to minimize the data rate out of an antenna panel.