TCOM 607:  Satellite Communications



Pre-Requisites:             TCOM 500 or ECE 540, and TCOM 551

Term                            Spring 2007

Time:                            Thursdays, 4:30 - 7:10 p.m.

Schedule:                      Jan. 25 to May 10

                                    Mar. 15 (Spring Break – No Class)

Location:                      Enterprise Hall, Room 274

Instructor:                     Dr. Seema Sud

Contact Information: (preferred) or (703) 453-7700 x4478

Office Hours:                Thursdays, 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. (please email me ahead of time if you would like to see me during office hours), or by appointment

Office:                          Rm. 235, Science & Technology II


Course Outline:

This course covers the most relevant aspects of satellite communications, with emphasis on the most recent applications and developments. The course begins with a review on the background and basic concepts of satellite communications.  Next it covers the orbital aspects, with emphasis on the geostationary orbit.  Satellite subsystems, launching methods, and on-board processing are also discussed.  The design of a digital satellite link is discussed in detail, including link budgets, modulation, error control coding, baseband signaling theory, and multiple access methods.  Frequency assignments and propagation aspects that affect the satellite link are then discussed.  Antennas and earth station technology are presented, including the design of very small aperture terminals (VSATs).  The course then covers non-geosynchronous orbits and their applications.  Specific applications of satellites are also explored, including the global positioning system (GPS), satellites for mobile communication, and satellites for internet.


Topics to be Covered:

§         Introduction and Background

§         Orbital Aspects and Launching

§         Spacecraft Subsystems

§         Link Budgets

§         Modulation

§         Multiple Access & On-Board Processing

§         Coding

§         Frequency & Propagation Aspects

§         Earth Station Technology & VSATs

§         Non-Geosynchronous Orbits (NGSO)

§         Applications (GPS, Mobile, Internet, etc.)


General Course Policies:

Homework will be assigned regularly except for the week before an exam.  The purpose of the homework is to reinforce what is taught in class and provide practical, in depth examples.  Students are permitted and encouraged to collaborate on homework and design project assignments.  All graded work, however, must be the original effort of the student.  This means that, while two or more students can develop a solution approach for a homework problem together, each student must independently execute the solution if it is to be submitted for grading.  Homework will be collected at the beginning of each class period.  Note:  Late homework will not be accepted (no exceptions).  Homework solutions will be provided. 

In the case of the research paper, it is encouraged that, while each student must independently develop a response, students seek and provide comments for each other’s approach.  This collaboration is characteristic of the actual engineering design environment.  The project for this semester will be a 5-10 page research assignment to be distributed in the first half of the semester.  Details on format, content, etc. will be provided at that time.  You are free to choose any topic, but if your topic differs greatly from the suggested ones, you must clear it with me first.  This must be done in the form of a ½ to one (1) page proposal submitted in writing within three weeks of the date that the project is assigned.  The proposal must clearly state the purpose of the proposed work and how it relates to the course material, the method of study, and the desired results/outcome.  You are encouraged to use any and all available resources, but all resources must be properly cited.  Failure to properly cite referenced material is a violation of the university honor code.

Exams will be based on course lecture material, assigned textbook reading, and homework.  Exams will be in class, closed book, and closed notes.  You are allowed to bring a one page formula sheet (front and back).  This sheet must contain only formulas and constants.  You should also bring a pen or pencil, paper, and calculator.  No other materials are allowed, and all material, including your formula sheet(s), is to be turned in to the instructor at the end of the exam period.  Questions may be submitted to the instructor during the exam period, but depending on the question posed, may not be answered.  If a student feels that insufficient information is provided to answer an exam question, the student should ask the instructor for clarification.  If this is not possible or practical, the student should state the apparent deficiency clearly, make a reasonable assumption, and proceed with the problem.  Students requiring make-up exams must submit a written request to the instructor at least two (2) weeks prior to the date that the original test is scheduled.  Make-up exams will likely be proctored by the TCOM office assistant or other available staff and not by the instructor.

In grading exams, credit is given for the solution, not the final answer.  So, please give as much information as you can to obtain partial credit.  Note also that points will be taken off if no solution procedure is shown, even if the final answer is correct.  Homework scores will be binary, based on effort.

The George Mason University honor code will be strictly enforced.

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at (703) 993-2474.  All academic accommodations must be arranged through the DRC.






Midterm Exam


Final Exam


The project will not be counted separately towards your final grade.  However, if you do not turn in a project, your final exam score will be reduced by 50%.

 Course Text:

Pratt, Bostian, and Allnutt, Satellite Communication Systems, 2nd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, 2003.  I will attempt to follow the textbook as closely as possible.  If I feel the textbook does not provide sufficient detail, additional notes will be provided.  You are highly encouraged to seek out additional references.


Other Reading Suggestions:

  • D. Roddy, Satellite Communications, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001.
  • M. Richharia, Satellite Communication Systems, McGraw Hill, 1999.
  • G. Maral & M. Bousquet, Satellite Communication Systems, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1999.
  • B. Elbert, Introduction to Satellite Communications, Artech House, 1999.




Some of the material used in this course is based on notes provided by Dr. Jeremy Allnutt and Dr. James LaPean.  Material from Dr. Timothy Pratt at Virginia Tech and the Spring 2001 instructor, Dr. Leila Ribeiro, is also used.  All material is used with permission of the author and is not to be reproduced without permission from the author.


Proposed Schedule (Subject to Change): 



Introduction & Background

Chap. 1; HW1



Orbital Aspects & Launching

Chap. 2; HW1 Due, HW2



Link Design I

Chap. 4



Link Design II

Chap. 4; HW2 Due, HW3



Modulation I

Chap. 5; Research Paper Assigned



Modulation II

Chap. 5; HW3 Due



Midterm Exam, In Class




Spring Break, No Class




Multiple Access Methods

Chap. 6; HW4



Error Control Coding

Chap. 7; HW4 Due



Frequency & Propagation Aspects

Chap. 8; HW5



Earth Station Design & VSATs

Chap. 9; HW5 Due



Non-GSO Systems

Chap. 10



GPS & Future Trends

Chap. 11 & 12; Research Paper Due



Launching; Q&A/Discussion

Chap. 3



Final Exam, In Class