ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
Accredited by ABET
Undergraduate Programs

ECE 4644 Satellite Communications


Spring 2015 textbook list

The Spring 2015 ECE textbook list is available online for students.

Current Prerequisites & Course Offering

For current prerequisites for a particular course, and to view course offerings for a particular semester, see the Virginia Tech Course Timetables.

Return to course list

ECE 4644 Satellite Communications (3C)

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

What is the reason for 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.

Technical Elective. Typically offered: Spring. Program Area: Communications.

Prerequisites: C- or better in 3614.

Why are these prerequisites or corequisites required?

This course assumes that students have had an introduction to communication systems and the description of signals and circuits in terms of their frequency spectra and frequency response. A basic knowledge of analog and digital modulation is required, as is a working level familiarity with the basics of random variables and probability distributions, as taught in 3614 and its prerequisites.

Department Syllabus Information:

Major Measurable 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
Topic Percentage
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%

Return to course list