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Glenn Research Center

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Communications & Intelligent Systems


  • Provides expertise, and plans, conducts and directs research and engineering development in the competency fields of advanced communications and intelligent systems technologies for applications in current and future aeronautics and space systems.
  • Advances communication systems engineering, development and analysis needed for Glenn Research Center’s leadership in communications and intelligent systems technology.
  • Focus areas include advanced high frequency devices, components, and antennas; optical communications, health monitoring and instrumentation; digital signal processing for communications and navigation, and cognitive radios; network architectures, protocols, standards and network-based applications; intelligent controls, dynamics and diagnostics; and smart micro- and nano-sensors and harsh environment electronics.
  • Research and discipline engineering allow for the creation of innovative concepts and designs for aerospace communication systems with reduced size and weight, increased functionality and intelligence.
  • Performs proof-of-concept studies and analyses to assess the impact of the new technologies.


Technical Focus Areas

Advanced High Frequency

  • Conducts research and development in the areas of Radio Frequency (RF) devices and circuits including antennas, traveling-wave tube amplifiers, and RF propagation for aerospace communications.
  • Includes development, test and characterization of RF devices and components such as solid state power amplifiers, power combiners, RF communication circuits for bio-medical applications, semiconductor and superconducting receivers and ferroelectric devices, at microwave, mm-wave and THz frequencies.
  • Develops technologies in support of the next generation space communications architecture, such as superconducting quantum interference filter (SQIF) receivers and Ka-band multi-access antenna arrays.
  • Facilities include planar and cylindrical near-field, far-field and compact antenna ranges, microwave/millimeter-wave device and circuit characterization laboratory, and RF propagation laboratory.
  • Strong computational and device simulation and modeling capabilities are available in addition to microelectronics fabrication and processing facilities.


Architectures, Networks and System Integration

  • Provides communication systems engineering, development and analysis.
  • Emphasizes and implements processes based on best engineering practices and experience.
  • Executes system design processes through stakeholder expectations definition, technical requirements definition, and architecture design solution definition through all life cycle phases of a communications project.
  • Performs communications network/system planning in preliminary concept studies by defining needs, feasibility, requirements, and functional system definitions.
  • Conducts research and development of advanced communications network architectures, protocols, standards, technologies and network-based applications.
  • Particular emphasis on communication efficiency, quality-of-service, security and autonomy (including cognition) for mobile, ad hoc and challenged networks.
  • Develops network testbeds to benchmark and evaluate networking protocols.
  • Major competencies include expertise in conducting network/system level analyses (including link budgets), modeling and simulation in support of communication system evaluations and assessments, development of design requirements, development of network and system architectures, conducting trade studies, and the integration, test and verification of communication systems.


Information and Signal Processing

  • Conducts research and technology development of information and signal processing methods and approaches for digital communications systems.
  • Performs design and testing of hardware, waveform development, software simulation and analysis to identify and create subsystem-level products for NASA space missions and aeronautics applications.
  • Focus areas include software-defined and cognitive radios; waveform development; low power, small form factor radios for extravehicular activity, planetary surface mobility, or smallsats/cubesats; integrated audio concepts for spacesuit applications; position, navigation and timing methods; spectrum and power efficient techniques; reconfigurable microelectronic devices.
  • Develops and maintains open architectures for space-based software defined radios; develops platform-independent, portable waveforms; tests and evaluates digital communication methods for mobile, multi-user links; and performs engineering technology assessment.
  • Uses simulation and model-based design tools.
  • Provides proof-of-concept fabrication and experimental testing (ground and flight).
  • Facilities include software defined radio technology development laboratory and digital systems and signal processing laboratory.


Intelligent Control and Autonomy

  • Conducts research and development of technologies to increase the level of intelligence and autonomy in complex aerospace systems.
  • Identifies, develops and demonstrates relevant new technologies and facilitates technology transition to the aerospace community.
  • Focus areas include: dynamic modeling of complex systems and subsystems; intelligent control concepts development, maturation and validation; advanced system health management and diagnostics; and technologies for autonomous operation of air vehicles in the national airspace. Goal is to enhance the affordability, capability, efficiency, environmental compatibility, and safety of aerospace systems.
  • Facilities include Flight Simulation laboratory, Active Combustion Control laboratory, Actuator Characterization rig, and Unsteady Ejector laboratory.


Optics and Photonics

  • Conducts research and development in the areas of optical communications, optical instrumentation, optoelectronics, photonics and health monitoring.
  • Innovates, develops, demonstrates, and transitions relevant new technologies to the aerospace community with emphasis on communications, propulsion and power systems.
  • Focus areas include free-space optical and quantum communications for space, optical diagnostics instrumentation for aerospace propulsion, optoelectronics for communications and aerospace propulsion, and photonics and mechanical devices for health monitoring of aerospace systems.
  • Resulting data, measurements, and communications systems lead to improved designs, model validation, increased understanding of the fundamental physics, and safety of the aerospace systems for many of the core technologies at Glenn Research Center and across NASA.


Smart Sensors and Electronics Systems

  • Conducts research and development of adaptable instrumentation, which incorporates electronics as necessary to enable intelligent measurement systems for ongoing and future aerospace propulsion and space exploration programs.
  • Emphasis is on smart sensors and electronics systems with improved performance and capabilities that can operate at high temperature or in extreme environments and for safety, security, surveillance, diagnostic health monitoring, and control functions.
  • Focus areas include sensing concepts; wireless sensor technologies; energy harvesting; electronic devices; integrated circuits; and the related areas of microfabrication processing techniques, sensor-device integration, and packaging.
  • Specific areas of work include thin film sensors for temperature, strain, heat flux and flow measurements; chemical species sensors for leak detection, emission, safety, human health, and environmental monitoring; silicon carbide (SiC) based electronic devices for signal conditioning and processing, sensors, and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS); and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS)-based sensors and electronics.
  • Equipped to fabricate smart sensors and electronics systems in micro/nano scales.
  • Facilities include crystal growth laboratories, cleanrooms for sensor and device microfabrication, and laboratories for packaging, test, evaluation, and reliability studies of sensors and electronic devices.