Satellite UHF and VHF transceivers and transmitters

Roundups

Satellite UHF and VHF devices play an important role in satcomms on many spacecraft. This a market segment overview of commercially-available very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) transceivers and transmitters for CubeSats and small satellites.

If you are familiar with the technology and would like to skip straight to the product listings, please click here.


Introduction

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) designates radio frequencies in the 30 to 300 MHz band as very high frequency (VHF), and those in the 300 MHz to 3 GHz band as ultra high frequency (UHF).

Early small satellite and CubeSat development often involved the use of amateur radio frequencies in the VHF and UHF bands due to the low costs and high accessibility for end users.

The UHF and VHF bands were also chosen as the primary frequencies for telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) in CubeSats for similar reasons.

Now, many years after the launch of the first CubeSat, various antennas have been developed at different operational frequencies depending on the requirements and applications of the end users.

These include several models for satellites at various sizes including picosats.

Most currently active CubeSats communicate with ground stations on frequency bands that correspond to amateur (HAM radio) satellite frequencies or are specifically allocated for space communication.

HAM radio frequencies that are typically used fall in the ranges; 145.8 MHz – 146.0 MHz in the VHF band and 435.0 MHz – 438.0 MHz in the UHF band.

VHF and UHF bands are often duplexed in order to increase the overall bandwidth.

This functionality, along with the relative simplicity of obtaining a license, makes the low bitrate VHF and UHF a popular choice for Cubesats [PDF].


Satellite UHF and VHF equipment experiences from early CubeSat missions

One of the main causes of unsuccessful Cubesat missions is an issue related to the communication system, typically due to the use of non space-qualified electronics [PDF] in the transceiver.

These issues come in different forms. Here are three examples of early CubeSat missions (as described in this 2016 Master’s thesis [PDF] by Stephen Joseph Shea, Jr.) that were affected by such communication system faults:

AAU-1 – launched to LEO by Aalburg University (AAU) in Denmark in 2003, AAU-1 carried a demonstration optical payload. The ground segment used an amateur radio design and the satellite transmitted Gaussian Minimum Shift Keying (GMSK) at 9.6 kbps at 437 MHz.

Issues with the radio contractors led to a change in radio system late in the process, when there was little time for extensive ground testing.

The AAU-1 satellite (image credit: Wikipedia).

In-orbit it was very difficult to close the link with the satellite and it was not possible to establish a consistent enough connection to complete initial handshaking, which made the satellite appear unresponsive. The mission team was only able to achieve limited functionality.

CAPE-1 – The Cajun Advanced Picosatellite Experiment (CAPE-1) was a 1U CubeSat developed at the University of Louisiana and launched in 2007.

The system used Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) at a frequency of 437 MHz and the team spent a significant amount of time ensuring that their CC 1020 radio chip could operate effectively with a set of custom commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) amateur radio equipment for the ground station.

Unfortunately although the downlink functionality was thoroughly tested, issues with the ground segment receive capabilities were not solved prior to launch, and the satellite was not capable of receiving commands once in orbit.

MicroMAS-1 – the Micro-Sized Microwave Atmospheric Satellite (MicroMAS-1) CubeSat was designed and built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Space Systems Lab (SSL) and MIT Lincoln Laboratory (MIT LL).

The system was a 3U CubeSat using the L-3 Cadet-U Radio with a 9.6 kbps FSK at 450 MHz uplink, and a 3 Mbps Offset Quadrature Phase Shift Keying (OQPSK) at 468 MHz downlink.

The MicroMas-1 CubeSat (image credit: eoPortal Directory).

Once in orbit the operations team was only able to successfully communicate with the satellite for three passes; on March 4, 5, and 9 of 2015.

Telemetry testing identified a failure in the transmit chain which was likely caused by a solar panel that had only partially deployed.

These three examples demonstrate the vital importance of a secure and stable satellite UHF or VHF connection to mission success. But you also need to ensure that the system purchased is the right option for your particular application.


Understanding your requirements

We recommend a simple four-step approach for the preliminary selection of any new piece of hardware or software for a satellite or other space system.

Note that this is just a basic guide based on what we’ve learned helping hundreds of buyers select products within our marketplace and get rapid responses from suppliers.

It is just meant to help engineers make an initial assessment and shouldn’t replace formalised systems engineering approaches such as the INCOSE Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) CubeSat frameworks.

  1. Specify your currently known mission parameters,
  2. Record all currently known overall design specifications of the system,
  3. Consider the range of technology that will be used in the satellite and in ancillary sub-systems, and
  4. Take into account the key performance criteria of the kind of product you wish to procure.

These criteria are explained in more detail below.


Mission parameters

The first step is to fully understand the currently known mission parameters, including both the critical applications and desirable, but not necessarily essential, objectives.

Typically the more precise mission parameters will only be established later in the process – usually iterated upon in a number of loops by considering the “system of systems.”

But having an idea of what functions your selected technology is likely to need to perform, and on what schedule and duration, will make selecting the most suitable model mch easier.

Also consider the launch stresses, testing processes and regulatory compliance that the product will need to go through in order to make it into orbit, as well as any obsolescence procedures once the mission is complete.


Overall design specifications

Next, keep to hand all currently known design information about the entire unit.

This can include the volume, weight, primary structural material and more basic things such as the location, storage and transport arrangements of the major components.

You will need to make sure that the new piece of technology you choose will be suitable for these parameters.


Full range of technology

Once you are clear on exactly what tasks the new product will need to perform and the design characteristics of the satellite or other unit that it will work within, the next consideration is the full range of technology that will sit alongside the product to make sure that everything is compatible.

You may not yet know the entire range of accompanying technology (and you might need to first choose the product model you are interested in in order to make decisions on other components), but make sure you have access to all available technical specifications of sub-systems and structural components that are most likely to be used, as per the current mission plans.

It is important to understand how different sub-systems and components will interface with each other to create a high-performing satellite.

Balancing the available mass, power and volume budgets is also important, which can only be done with a clear plan of which components will be used.

Also consider how the product will work with the planned or existing ground segment to ensure effective data transfer and communication stability.

Now that you have a clear idea of what sort of product is needed for your mission, system, and existing platform setup, the next step is to compare the commercially-available products that meet these criteria according to the most relevant performance metrics.


Key performance criteria

To select the best satellite UHF/VHF transmitter or transceiver for your specific mission or service, the following criteria can be used to assess commercially available products:

Transmit and receiver frequency – note that many product manufacturers will provide at least one frequency range, possibly others if the system can be used in multiple bands. Typically measured in MegaHertz (MHz).

Data rate – typically measured in bits per second (bps) or kilobits per second (kbps).

Noise figure – measures of degradation of signal-to-noise ratio, defined as the difference in decibels (dB) between the noise output of the actual receiver to the noise output of an “ideal” receiver. Noise figure is usually given in dB.

Power – available RF power, measured in Watts (W) or decibel-milliwatts (dBm).

Orbit – range and duration of each contact satellite ground station.

Ground Station and satellite performance – e.g. Equivalent Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP).


VHF/UHF transceivers and transmitters on the global market

In this section you can find a range of satellite UHF and VHF transmitters and transceivers available on the global market. These listings will be updated when new products are added to the global marketplace for space at satsearch.co – so please check back for more or sign up for our mailing list for all the updates.

To view alternative satellite communications systems we have also put together the following overviews:

Click on any of the links below to find out more about the systems. You can also submit a request for a quote, documentation or further information on each of the products listed or send us a more general query to discuss your specific needs, and we will use our global networks of suppliers to find a system to meet your specifications.


TTC – P3

DATASHEET

A dual, hot-redundant satellite telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) radio. The TTC-P3 includes two half-duplex VHF/UHF transceivers and is intended to be used in antenna diversity schemes (where each channel is connected to orthogonal and cross-polarized antennas).

transmit frequency

400 to 460 MHz

receive frequency

130 to 140 MHz

data rate

4.8 — 38.4 kbps nominal (up to 115.2 kbps upon request)

transmit power

30 dBm

UHF Radio SAT2RF1-1D

DATASHEET

A half-duplex radio with an efficient transceiver controlled by a dedicated ARM Cortex-M4 MCU. The radio uses the UHF band and is programmable in the 395 to 440 MHz range. It supports GFSK2 or GFSK4 modulation and 2,400 to 38,400 bit rates.

transmit frequency

395 to 440 MHz

receive frequency

395 to 440 MHz

data rate

9.6 kb/s

transmit power

< 3 W

UHF Radio SAT2RF1-1B

DATASHEET

A UHF radio that utilizes a half-duplex architecture and features a transceiver controlled by a dedicated ARM Cortex-M4 MCU. The system features a configurable clock speed of 16-72 MHz and can include up to 48 KB of built-in SRAM.

transmit frequency

430 to 440 MHz

receive frequency

430 to 440 MHz

data rate

9.6 kb/s

transmit power

< 2 W

Pulsar TMTC

DATASHEET

A compact telemetry and command radio designed for nanosatellites, compatible with the CubeSat standard. Suitable for applications where low data-rate down- and uplinks are required. The system provides a lower data-rate backup radio for a higher data-rate primary radio and uses the AX.25 protocol.

transmit frequency

400 — 420 MHz (commercial)
430 — 440 MHz (amateur)

receive frequency

140 to 150 MHz

transmit data rate

9.6 kb/s GMSK
1.2 kb/s AFSK

transmit power

27 to 33 dBm

NANOcomm TM/TC communication subsystem

DATASHEET

A CCSDS-compliant full-duplex communication sub-system. The NANOcomm features an SoC design approach designed to provide a UHF downlink and VHF uplink. The system has been designed to provide low power consumption in receiving mode and supports different modulation schemes.

transmit frequency

420 to 450 MHz

receive frequency

130 to 200 MHz

data rate

< 32.6 kb/s

transmit power

< 2 W

UHF Band Transceiver

A 125 g half-duplex UHF band transceiver with hot and cold redundancy built in. The system features health telemetry functionality including temperature and SWR and is compatible with both the CCSDS and ECSS protocols. Radio frequency whitening and scrambling are also incorporated.

transmit frequency

399 to 401 MHz
435 to 438 MHz

receive frequency

399 to 401 MHz
435 to 438 MHz

data rate

< 100 kb/s

transmit power

< 1000 mW

Communication Subsystem (COM)

DATASHEET

A half-duplex transceiver with a single-point failure tolerant design and in-built health telemetry. The system is cold in transmit and receive, with optional hot redundancy in receive, and features serial communication interfaces using differential signaling (CAN, M-LVDS) and an ESA-approved ICD.

transmit frequency

399 to 401 MHz

receive frequency

399 to 401 MHz

data rate

1.25 to 150 kb/s

transmit power

< 30 dBm

UHF uplink/UHF downlink Full Duplex Transceiver

A full duplex UHF transceiver with an in-flight re-configurable data rate. The system operates in commercial bands of the UHF frequency spectrum and is tailored for CubeSat missions. It also includes a single PCB radio and single board telemetry, telecommand and beacon capabilities.

transmit frequency

267 to 273 MHz

receive frequency

312 to 322 MHz

transmit data rate

1200 b/s
2400 b/s
4800 b/s
9600 b/s

transmit power

27 dBm

VHF uplink/UHF downlink

DATASHEET
CAD
OPTION SHEET

A communication system for CubeSat TT&C applications using full duplex operation. Designed to be low power, low mass, and highly configurable; offering the ability of changing data rates and frequencies in flight. Can be used in both commercial and amateur bands of the VHF/UHF.

transmit frequency

435 to 438 MHz
400.15 to 402 MHz

receive frequency

145.8 to 146 MHz
148 to 150.05 MHz

transmit data rate

1200 b/s
2400 b/s
4800 b/s
9600 b/s

transmit power

27 dBm

UHF transceiver SX-UHF-03

DATASHEET
CAD

Suitable for use in low orbit as a primary or backup transceiver, communication using the transceiver is performed in half-duplex mode through one antenna, while telemetry, telecommands and beacon messages are transmitted via single radio channel.

transmit frequency

435 to 438 MHz

receive frequency

435 to 438 MHz

transmit data rate

N/A

transmit power

38 dBm

UHF transceiver

DATASHEET
CAD

A reprogrammable transceiver with a central frequency in the 434 - 436 MHz range and a bandwidth no wider than 20 kHz. The system is suitable for LEO missions and can exchange telemetry, commands, and data from modest payloads.

transmit frequency

400 to 401 MHz
434 to 438 MHz

receive frequency

400 to 401 MHz
434 to 438 MHz

data rate

2.4 kb/s
4.8 kb/s
9.6 kb/s
19.2 kb/s
38.4 kb/s
57.6 kb/s

transmit power

30 — 33 dbm (1 — 2 W customized)

CUBESAT VHF/UHF Transceiver

DATASHEET

A telecommand receiver and telemetry transmitter module compatible with CubeSat PC104 form factor. The system supports HDLC / AX.25 protocol / RAW pattern of data formats for both up-link and down-link communication and is suitable for a variety of applications.

transmit frequency

400 to 440 MHz

receive frequency

144 to 148 MHz

data rate

1.2 — 115.2 kbps (AFSK 1.2kbps only)

transmit power

27 dBm

TRX-­U Satellite UHF Transceiver

DATASHEET

A compact single board transceiver for satellite communications in the UHF band. Designed as a satellite TT&C radio or narrow band communications payload for CubeSat and smallsat missions. The space-qualified system includes up to 26 programmable channels and built in voltage regulation.

transmit frequency

390 to 450 MHz

receive frequency

390 to 450 MHz

data rate

2.4 to 19.2 kb/s

transmit power

1 to 5 W

SWIFT UTRX

DATASHEET

A modular UHF communications system designed to provide satcomms services to UHF handheld radios. The product can be used in both traditional narrowband applications as well newer wideband modes. It features AES encryption along with several modulation modes and electrical interfaces.

transmit frequency

370 to 450 MHz

receive frequency

370 to 450 MHz

peak throughput

3.33 Msym/s

transmit power

< 36.5 dBm

SWIFT UTX

DATASHEET

A re-programmable, software-defined UHF transceiver designed to provide waveform and frequency agility for narrow or wideband TT&C applications. The system was designed specifically to provide tactical UHF SATCOM services to unmodified UHF handheld radios from smallsats in LEO.

transmit frequency

370 to 450 MHz

receive frequency

370 to 450 MHz

peak throughput

3.33 Msym/s

transmit power

< 36.5 dBm

S-band/UHF-band Transmitter

DATASHEET

An ultra high frequency (UHF) band transmitter with an operating frequency of 430 to 440 MHz - which is adjustable depending on user needs. The system features a variety of modulation options and is housed in a 70 x 40 x 14 mm^3 case.

transmit frequency

430 to 440 MHz

receive frequency

N/A

transmit data rate

9.6 kb/s GMSK
1.2 kb/s AFSK

transmit power

0.8 W

Murgas – the UHF/VHF transceiver

DATASHEET
CAD

A plug and play UHF/VHF uplink/downlink transceiver with full and half duplex operations. The system features two modules for full operational redundancy and is designed to be compatible with the Spacemanic CubeSat standard and with components from other vendors.

transmit frequency

430 to 440 MHz
145 ± 1MHz (modified version for ±400MHz)

receive frequency

430 to 440 MHz
145 ± 1MHz (modified version for ±400MHz)

transmit data rate

0.1 to 38.4 kb/s

transmit power

1 W

UHF communication board

DATASHEET

A half duplex transceiver with a mass of 103 g and utilising an MCX antenna connector. The system has a maximum data rate of 100 kbps (50 kbps at AX.25) and can be controlled by UART communication through ports of CubeSat Kit Bus.

transmit frequency

430 — 450 MHz (can be set with 1 Hz steps)
400 — 403 MHz (optional)

receive frequency

430 — 450 MHz (can be set with 1 Hz steps)
400 — 403 MHz (optional)

data rate

≤ 100 kb/s (AX.25: 50 kb/s)

transmit power

< 1 W

C1U Communication system

DATASHEET

A small half duplex communication system operating in the 430 MHz amateur band. The system is designed to offer low receive power and high transmit efficiency (up to 65%) and an in-built microcontroller allows changeable transmit baud rates and data buffering.

transmit frequency

430 MHz

receive frequency

430 MHz

transmit data rate

N/A

transmit power

< 30 dBm

TT&C Transceiver Module LETS-4343 Series

DATASHEET

A CubeSat TT&C Transceiver is designed as a low-current transceiver covering the frequency bands from 410 to 525 MHz customized (with the general version in the 430 - 442 MHz amateur radio band). The half duplex system features 60dB adjacent channel selectively with 12.5 kHz channel spacing.

transmit frequency

410 to 525 MHz

receive frequency

410 to 525 MHz

data rate

0.1 to 300 kb/s

transmit power

30 dBm

COMMAND TRANSCEIVER VHF/UHF

DATASHEET

Based on a common modem unit (MU) with a VHF/UHF-synthesized RF unit. Featuring a modular sandwiched design with Eurocard 3U sized footprint made from aluminium with Alodine® surface coating. The power and communication interfaces are optimized for the Spaceteq standard bus but can be customized.

transmit frequency

400 to 401 MHz

receive frequency

148.0 to 149.9 MHz

data rate

10 kb/s

transmit power

< 5 W

MiniSatCom UHF

The MiniSatCom series includes lightweight radios that are meant to be used as a low data-rate transceivers for satellites. The systems have been designed for compatibility as the primary up-link and/or down-link radio of a satellite system, or as a convenient backup radio for systems of +20kg.

transmit frequency

420 to 450 MHz
902 to 928 MHz

receive frequency

N/A

data rate

9600 b/s

transmit power

30 dBm

Low Power UHF Radio

DATASHEET

The GAUSS Low Power UHF Radio has been developed with the aim of offering a light and efficient radio small satellites. The system has been designed to integrate both a low power UHF transceiver and a TNC, simplifying the satellite design and enhancing efficiency.

transmit frequency

415 to 450 MHz

receive frequency

390 to 500 MHz

transmit data rate

0.3 to 100 kb/s

transmit power

< 33.3 dBm

High Power UHF Radio

DATASHEET

The GAUSS High Power UHF Radio features an independent uplink and downlink which can be configured with different frequencies, modulations and protocols, and alter output power dynamically. The system also includes both an integrated low power UHF transceiver and a TNC, providing a simpler design.

transmit frequency

415 to 450 MHz

receive frequency

390 to 500 MHz

transmit data rate

0.3 to 100 kb/s

transmit power

< 37 dBm

UHF/VHF Radio

DATASHEET

A user-configurable full duplex CubeSat communications system with a dedicated 32-bit Cortex M4 processor. The system features a selectable data rate, OOK, FSK, and GFSK modulation, and is compatible with the AX.25 protocol.

transmit frequency

430 to 438 MHz

receive frequency

143 to 146 MHz

transmit data rate

1.2 kb/s
2.4 kb/s
4.8 kb/s
9.6 kb/s

transmit power

< 33 dBm

Telemetry/Telecommand (TMTC)

DATASHEET

SITAEL Telemetry/Telecommand (TMTC) is suitable for satellites in LEO orbits. The system is based on an ARM Cortex-M4 32-bit microcontroller, and is equipped with watchdog, OVP and SEL protection. It includes redundant CAN BUS and RS-422 interfaces, and up to 48 Mb of flash memory.

transmit frequency

N/A

receive frequency

N/A

data rate

4.8 to 153.6 kb/s

transmit power

-20 to 10 dBm

NSR-SDR-U/U

The NSR-SDR-U/U is a UHF transceiver with programmable software defined radio architecture. It has both half and full duplex configurations and is provided with integrated AES 256 encryption and optional High-Speed Type-1 encryption.

transmit frequency

N/A

receive frequency

N/A

transmit data rate

N/A

transmit power

N/A

Cormorant

A plug and fly communications system with an integrated hamradio digipeater that is compatible with a variety of hamradio transceivers. The system has a non-magnetic, radiation-tolerant design with integrated sensors for broken antennas, temperature, power bus voltage and battery operation.

transmit frequency

145 to 440 MHz

receive frequency

145 to 440 MHz

transmit data rate

1.2 to 19.2 kb/s

transmit power

< 30 dBm


Thanks for reading! If you would like further help identifying a UHF or VHF transmission or transceiver system for your specific mission or service please click here to send us a query and we’ll use our extended global networks of suppliers to find the information you need.

Have you noticed that your company isn’t included in this article? Simply send us an email today, and we’d be happy to work with you to showcase your products to the satsearch community!

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