Ohio State Sends Satellite Into Space to Reduce RFI

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Human transmissions are increasingly interfering with satellite radiometers, “swamping microwave sensors,” trying to collect climate data, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

That’s why Ohio State University launched a satellite into space from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on May 21, bound for the international space station, to gather data for approximately one year while “tuning out the noise.”

“In the past, radiometers had to measure everything and just deal with interference, but it’s a lot worse now. Today, every car has a radar on it,” said Christa McKelvey, an Ohio State research associate engineer. “Our sensor tries to measure the natural signals when all the man-made signals are getting in the way.” Once the satellite, called CubeRRT (named after the 1980’s arcade game, “Q*bert”), is in orbit, the research team will test the ability of its Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) technology to home in on the planet’s microwave radiation, reports the Dispatch

CubeRRT cost $5.6 million and took three years to build, said Joel Johnson, the project’s principal investigator. The project is part of the NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, which sends small-scale satellites into space to study innovative technologies before committing to expensive, full-sized projects.

Certain limited portions of the spectrum are protected for this type of earth-science research; however, the FCC is considering allowing wireless carriers such as T-Mobile and Verizon to access more frequencies for smartphones and other broadband services. Johnson said it’s important to retain some protected portions of the spectrum for observing Earth’s thermal emissions, even with the development of processors such as CubeRRT’s, that can tune out man-made transmissions, reports the Dispatch.

June 20, 2018

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