Basics of Satellite Communications and Communication Satellites


This course provides and introduction to those aspects of RF transmission technology which are important to and govern the design of satellite communication systems. The physics underlying relevant RF communications topics concerning establishment of RF links between earth and a satellite (and vice versa) will be presented and explained, as well as the mathematical concepts governing the digitization and transmission of information over these links. Easily grasped intuitive explanations of the need for and methods of coding and decoding of information sent over satellite links will be presented.

Once the basics of the communications technology have been presented, the course will then provide an introduction to the types of communication satellite now in use and of the technologies used on these satellites and in their ground terminals to implement the RF transmission technologies. A subsystem by subsystem breakdown will be given of a typical communications satellite.

Key Topics:

  • Important Communications Systems and Concepts: Introduction to the basics of RF transmission, including modulation and coding, frequency and spectrum issues, links and link budgets
  • Types of Services and Payloads: Categorization of services, types of payloads, transponders, power amplifiers, and antennas
  • Orbits for Communication Satellites and Launchers for them: GEO, MEO, HEO, and LEO orbits and their uses for various types of services
  • Ground Terminals, Satellite Operations, and overall System Architectures: Uplink versus downlink terminals, TTC and satellite operations, and architectures for different types of services
  • Satellite Payloads: Satellite payload and repeaters types, bent-pipe and processed payloads
  • Satellite Bus Subsystems: Explanations of spin and three-axis stabilized satellites and explanations and breakdowns of all satellite subsystems and major equipment
  • Click below for full outline

Who Should Attend:

This course is designed for anyone who wishes to know about the basics of satellite communications technology, operations, regulation and market dynamics—in short anyone wishing a comprehensive overview of the entire field.. This is especially suited to relative newcomers to the field who need to understand how their work area relates to the many other areas of related specialization. Engineers new to the field, marketing and administrative staff, and someone wishing an update on satellite communications trends.

Course Information:

Type of Course: Instructor-Led Short Course
Course Level: Intermediate
Course Length: 1 day
AIAA CEU's available: Yes


I. Introduction and brief History

II. Why Communication Satellites?
A. Information repeaters
B. Revenue earners

III. Communications Links and Link Budgets

IV. Types of Satellite Services
A. Fixed, Mobile, Broadcast and Data Relay
V. Transmission Basics
A. Modulation
B. Coding concepts
C. Electromagnetic Spectrum and spectrum control

VI. Multiple Access Techniques
A. Compression

VII. Antenna Principles
A. Types of antennas
B. Antenna patterns, footprints and interference

VIII. Key Payload Components
A. LNAs, frequency converters, diplexers and multiplexers, high power amplifiers

IX. Satellite Orbit Fundamentals
A. Kepler’s Laws
B. Orbit Principles
C. Geostationary Orbit and Station-Keeping
D. MEO and HEO Orbits
E. LEO orbit and its benefits and problems

X. Launchers and Launch Sites

XI. Earth Stations and Satellite Terminals

XII. Satellite types and their pros and cons

XIII. Listing and details for all satellite subsystems



Edward Ashford is former Vice President for Technology Development for SES of Luxembourg and former Vice President for Broadcast Satellite Development at a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin. Before that, he spent 27 years with the European Space Agency’s ESTEC Center in the Netherlands, the last ten of which were as Head of its Satellite Communications Department. He is a member of the IAA, a senior member of AIAA and Director Emeritus of the SpaceTech masters degree program of the Delft University of Technology. He is also the author of numerous articles and books in the field of satellite communications.

Joseph N. Pelton, Ph.D., is the former Dean of the International Space University and Director Emeritus of the Space and Advanced Communications Research Institute (SACRI) at George Washington University. Dr. Pelton also served as Director of the Accelerated Masters Program in Telecommunications and Computers at the George Washington University from 1998 to 2004. Dr. Pelton was the founder of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation and remains as the Vice Chairman on its Board of Directors. He was also the Founding President of the Society of Satellite Professionals International. Pelton is a widely published author with 33 books written, co-authored or co-edited. He is an Associate Fellow of AIAA a Member of the IAA and President of the International Space Safety Foundation (ISSF).


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