ECE 4644 Satellite Communications | ECE | Virginia Tech

Undergraduate PROGRAMS

Course Information


Theory and practice of satellite communications. Orbits and launchers, spacecraft, link budgets, modulation, coding, multiple access techniques, propagation effects, and earth terminals.

Why take this course?

Satellite communication systems carry much of the world’s communications traffic, particularly over oceans, and are widely used for television distribution and navigation. Increasingly, satellites are also being used for data relay and personal communication systems. The principles of radio communications have wider application, but the unique attributes of orbiting satellites and the techniques used for communication via these satellites requires a specialized course. This course gives students a broad treatment of the diverse subsystems that make up a complete satellite communication system.

Learning Objectives

    determine the orbital parameters of a satellite
  • determine the azimuth and elevation angles and visibility of a geostationary satellite from an earth station
  • create link budgets for an uplink and a downlink, and determine carrier to noise ratio (C/N) at an earth terminal receiver
  • calculate the baseband signal-to-noise ratio or bit error rate for a satellite link
  • design a communications satellite system to meet specified objectives for signal to noise ratio (S/N) in an analog baseband or BER in a digital link using appropriate multiple access techniques
  • determine the BER improvement obtained with various ARQ and FEC coding techniques
  • determine the effect of rain attenuation in a satellite link and the availability of the link based on the geographic location of the earth terminals
  • determine the type and dimensions of antennas for use on satellites and at earth stations
  • design satellite communication systems using GEO or LEO satellites to carry voice, video, or data signals using analog or digital modulation

Course Topics


Percentage of Course

Satellite orbits and launching procedures, look angles 10%
Spacecraft: power, communications, TT&C, antenna systems 10%
Link budgets, C/N calculation 18%
Analog modulation techniques, S/N calculation 7%
Digital modulation, transmission, BER calculation 15%
Multiple access techniques: FDMA, TDMA, CDMA, RA 10%
Coding and error control 7%
Propagation effects 10%
Case studies: DBS-TV, GPS, LEO and VSAT networks 13%