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Marshall Space Flight Center Fiscal Year 2019 Student Collaboration Projects (SCPs) – SIMPSON

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NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) released a call on June 3 for proposals to collaborate with promising students and leverage ongoing work to explore new, innovative applications of that ongoing work.

Executive Summary

Christopher Simpson will build a 130-430 MHz dual-use software-defined radio to test inter-formation networking and precise navigation and timing. This device will later use 24-GHz Ka-band to allow data-rates of 1-Gbps. The prototype will be presented in March 2020 at the conclusion of the effort. The payload functions as a passive radar and directed beam by utilizing electronic beam-forming, passive illumination, and network time reference protocols. During AY 2019-2020, 2 demonstration nodes will be built to test this game-changing technology in formation flying.

Mr. Simpson intends to collaborate with Marshall Space Flight Center researchers developing inter-CubeSat communication using a peer-to-peer topology. The mesh network architecture MSFC researchers are developing is intended to allow for data exchange between spacecraft with no central router. The waveform currently in use will be leveraged to reduce development risk.

This proposal addresses NASA Roadmap 2015 - TA, Intelligent Multipurpose Software Defined Radio and enhances a return to the lunar surface by addressing LEAG - Strategic Knowledge Gap (SKG) Theme 1-D Polar Resources 7.

Addressing the Scientific and Technical Challenges

1.Track and communicate with other nodes (Satellites in the formation)

  • Simulate on ground the tracking and communication capability this network will provide

2.Expanding Network Time Reference (NRT) to communication systems to reduce reliance on external time references and improve navigation.

  • Use this NRT to electronically form the beam and transmit/track satellite.
  • Use same antenna for communication/radar.

3.Reduce required SWaP while improving technical merit.

  • Electronic beam-steering for inter-formation tracking and communication networking has not been demonstrated previously, see NASA Small Satellite Database.
  • Missions are in the work to demonstrate inter-formation network

Budget and Time Constraints

$6,000 for materials (adjusted for risk/price increase)
Table in presentation.
20 Weeks (10 Sprints/625 hrs)

I intend to utilize Scrum planning to utilize an AGILE development. I will finish January 12 if everything occurs ideally. This leaves me with an extra 9 weeks of overage or another 281.25 hours of development.


Synchronized Phased Array Software Defined Radio



STK Certified


I’m now STK Certified Level 1. This means that I can use the GUI and some snippets of code to develop and analyze a scenario. The testing scenario involved the ability to analyze the access of sensors on a small UAV to ground sites and compare that access with satellites and other vehicles given certain restrictions.

The video of the scenario I developed is available here: Video of Test Scenario


I recently received an award for $750 from the Space and Missile Defense Working Group (SMDWG). I have recently completed research on “Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Aided Analysis of a Single-Stage Suborbital Rocket with a Six Degree of Freedom (6DOF) Solver,” that could have an impact on missile design. I was a runner-up for the SMDWG Graduate Fellowship Program.