Increasing CubeSat Downlink Capacity with Store-and-Forward Routing and Data Mules

T. Koritza and J.M. Bellardo (USA)


Wireless Communications Protocols and Standards, Perfor mance Evaluation, Sensor Networks, CubeSat


Pico-satellites have recently gained substantial traction in research and educational communities due to their rela tively low cost. The largest factor in keeping the cost down, their small size, also poses their biggest engineering chal lenge. The tiny, low power radios used to communicate with earth have extremely slow data rates. A typical pico satellite is within communication range of the ground sta tion for approximately 40 minutes per day with a theoreti cal maximum data rate of 1200 bps. At this speed a high resolution digital photograph can take weeks to download. This paper presents a novel communication protocol that allows a sparse network of pico-satellites to transfer data directly between one another. This capability is used to get the data to a “data mule”. The data mule is a spe cialized satellite capable of relaying traffic back to earth at higher rates than the current satellites. This work includes an implementation of the commu nication protocol and a simulator used to evaluate the pro tocol. Simulation results show that, regardless of varying satellite topologies and traffic workloads, the protocol has a significant increase in both the quantity of data transferred to earth and a reduction in the total time required to transfer all the data.

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