The NNU RFTSat (Radio Frequency Tag Satellite) CubeSat team is designing and building a 3U CubeSat to demonstrate the application of radio frequency (RF) energy harvesting and backscatter communication to the problem of distributed sensing in space. For this mission, a passive RF tag containing various space weather sensors will be mounted at the end of a boom that is extended from the satellite. The tag will not contain a battery, but will be powered by energy emitted from an RF reader onboard the satellite. The tag’s sensor data will be wirelessly sent back to the reader via backscatter communication, and then to the Earth via a Globalstar satellite constellation link. RF tags equipped with sensors could be added to a spacecraft, like the ISS, without additional wires or power supplies and provide a means to monitor structural integrity, space weather, or make sensitive electric/magnetic field measurements.

Mission Objectives

NNU RFTSat expects to launch in 2019 with the objective of successfully measuring space weather using distributed, passive RF sensor tags.  The objectives of the mission are:
  • Demonstrate an RF communication system using a wireless and passive sensor tag in space
  • Demonstrate an extendable boom for precision movement of sensor tag away from the RF reader
  • Measure total received RF power, 3-axis acceleration, ionizing radiation dose and temperature at the tag

Current Project Team Members 

Curtis Garner - Student
Hannah Thomas - Student
Kaleb Davis - Student
Dakota Lindsay - Student
Dr. Dan Lawrence - Principal Investigator (PI)
Dr. Joshua Griffin - Co-PI
Dr. Steve Parke - Co-PI

Previous Project Team Members 

Cassie Wade - Student 
Daniel Slemmer - Student 
Jordan Poundstone - Student 
Lucas Schamber - Student
Brittany McCarty - Student
Zach Mason - Student


RFTSat: Backscatter Radio for In-Orbit Distributed Sensing 
July 27, 2016
Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research, Boise, Idaho

Poster File: [PDF, 945 kB]