Featured Technology:
The Frontier Radio

LEARN MORE  Market Need | Features | Product Description | Availability | Product Contacts

Market Need

Anti-Feedback Circuit Breaker: Picture 1 Demanding mass and power requirements across many low-cost, competed, NASA missions sets (Discovery, New Frontiers, Mars Scout, SMEX, MIDEX, and others) place a premium on lightweight, efficient, and versatile radios. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has developed, and seeks to license to qualified industry partners, a novel low-power, low-mass, radio with advanced communication and navigation features.

The Frontier Radio was developed primarily for space applications and environments but may also be utilized in terrestrial and airborne applications. A deep-space compatible version, operating at X- and Ka-bands, is also planned for development, requiring incremental hardware and firmware upgrades with heritage from existing qualified deep-space radios.


  • Low mass, low power for application across wide range of missions
  • Flexible, reconfigurable, and modular HW/FW architecture for easy adaptation to unique mission requirements
  • Compliant with STRS SDR standard
  • Exciter
    • S/Ka-band (26 GHz),any channel
    • X/Ka-band (32 GHz) in development
    • Data rate to 25 Mbps
    • Modulation: residual carrier PM, BPSK, QPSK (others via firmware upgrade)
    • Coding: Convolutional, Turbo (LDPC via firmware upgrade)
  • Receiver
    • S-band, any channel
    • X-band in development
    • Data rate to 1 Mbps
    • Demodulation, residual carrier PM/subcarrier, BPSK, QPSK
    • Critical command decoder
    • FEC decoder via firmware upgrade
  • Other
    • Internal Low phase noise ovenized oscillator (external options available)
    • Power converter, 28V nominal input
  • Two-way coherent operation with reprogrammable turnaround ratio and channel assignment enables two-way Multiple Spacecraft per Aperture operation
  • Simplified electronics and packaging design to minimize manufacturing, alignment, and test costs
  • Radiation
    • >= 50 krads component-level (Si), higher radiation options available
    • SEL threshold >= 80 MeV-CM^2/mg

Technology Description

The Frontier Radio builds on over 10 years of flight radio developed at JHU/APL. Compliant with NASA's STRS software-defined radio standard, it is capable of coherent S and/or Ka-band operation with transmit data rates of up to 25 Mbps and receive data rates of up to 1 Mbps.

In-band channel assignment, bit rate, modulation formats, turnaround ration, loop bandwidths, coding formats, and other features are all reconfigurable in flight. Along with its low-power (4 W receive mode, with internal ovenized oscillator, depending on configuration) and low mass (1.8/2.2 kg, single/dual-band configuration), the Frontier Radio offers missions an attractive combination of capabilities and efficiency.

The Highly-modular hardware and firmware architectures within this radio enable incremental upgrades or modifications to meet unique mission requirements. The current firmware set includes communications and Doppler navigation modes, with provisions for future advanced communications, navigation, radio science, and sensor functions.


The existing prototype is in testing.
S/S-band flight implementation under development for 2012 launch
Deep-space options planned for development

This technology is currently available for licensing.

Product Contacts

Licensing Information:

Norma Lee Todd
443.778.4528 (Baltimore Metro Area)
FAX: 443.778.5882


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