Implementing planetary meteor impact craters as high gain radio frequency dish reflector antennas

by Taylor, Travis S., Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA IN HUNTSVILLE, 2012, 154 pages; 3514999


Future ventures back to the Moon, Mars, or the outer planets and natural solar system objects would benefit fiom high bandwidth communications capabilities that enable faster data transfer rates to and fiom the spacecraft. However, communication links for such missions are limited by the antenna aperture size, transceiver power, and range between the space vehicle communications system and the receiving systems on Earth. This dissertation proposes a novel approach for using naturally occurring meteor impact craters as the parabolic dish reflector for radio frequency antennas.

Analysis and experimentation shows that for long radio wavelengths that meteor impact craters appear very similar in geometry to dish antennas. There are many craters on the lunar surface that fit very closely to dish geometries. Some of these craters are as large as 100 kilometers in diameter. The calculated data transmission rate achievable from such an antenna configuration is many times greater than currently available long range space communications systems.

Preliminary experiments conducted using manmade craters demonstrated the possibility of the concept. A 20 m diameter crater was dug and implemented in a complex radio telescope configuration with receiver systems at multiple wavelengths. The electronic components were all inexpensive hobbyist components or homemade. The radio telescope system was successful in detecting radio signals from the Sun and from the Crab Nebula. Sidereal motion of the astronomical sources matched exactly to the time lapse of the detected signals.

Further analysis suggests that this concept could be implemented in near-term missions to the Moon with currently available technology. Analysis suggests that a spacecraft orbiting the Moon at 100 km altitude could use very large craters as reflector dishes. Terrestrial based experiments using impact craters like the one in Meteor Crater, Arizona could be conducted to determine the impact of soil reflectivity, surface roughness, and feedhorn position accuracy.

AdviserBrian Landrum
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsAerospace engineering
Publication Number3514999

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