Dr. Ahmed G. Abo-Khalil

Electrical Engineering Department

Deep-space telecom

Development of error-correction codes was tightly coupled with the history of deep-space missions due to the extreme dilution of signal power over interplanetary distances, and the limited power availability aboard space probes. Whereas early missions sent their data uncoded, starting from 1968 digital error correction was implemented in the form of (sub-optimally decoded) convolutional codes and Reed-Muller codes.[8] The Reed-Muller code was well suited to the noise the spacecraft was subject to (approximately matching a bell curve), and was implemented at the Mariner spacecraft for missions between 1969 and 1977.

The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions, which started in 1977, were designed to deliver color imaging amongst scientific information of Jupiter and Saturn. This resulted in increased coding requirements, and thus the spacecraft were supported by (optimally Viterbi-decoded) convolutional codes that could be concatenated with an outer Golay (24,12,8) code. The Voyager 2 probe additionally supported an implementation of a Reed-Solomon code: the concatenated Reed-Solomon-Viterbi (RSV) code allowed for very powerful error correction, and enabled the spacecraft's extended journey to Uranus and Neptune.

The CCSDS currently recommends usage of error correction codes with performance similar to the Voyager 2 RSV code as a minimum. Concatenated codes are increasingly falling out of favor with space missions, and are replaced by more powerful codes such as Turbo codes or LDPC codes.

The different kinds of deep space and orbital missions that are conducted suggest that trying to find a "one size fits all" error correction system will be an ongoing problem for some time to come. For missions close to earth the nature of the channel noise is different from that of a spacecraft on an interplanetary mission experiences. Additionally, as a spacecraft increases its distance from earth, the problem of correcting for noise gets larger.

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Tuesday 10-12

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email: [email protected]

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Phone: 2570


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Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers






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