"Transformational advancement of our nation's space exploration capabilities through innovation in telecommunications, tracking, and remote sensing"

The Communications, Tracking and Radar Division provides scientific and technological leadership, and expertise to NASA/JPL for deep space and planetary communications, navigational tracking, and active radio frequency (RF) remote sensing.  Closely related responsibilities include the scientific observation of Earth and space by radio or radar remote sensing, and application in Earthly communications.

Our areas of expertise include:

  • System engineering and implementations for advanced communications, tracking, and remote sensing instruments for ground and space networks and systems
  • Electromagnetic theory and techniques
  • Next generation communications architectures and technologies for future deep space and planetary proximity systems, including modulation, source and channel coding, protocols, quantum and optical communication technologies, signal and data processing techniques, and communications/information theory
  • Precision tracking and position sensing techniques, technologies, operational systems and data processors that including frequency and timing, the Global Positioning System, very long baseline interferometry, and signal processing/correlation
  • Flight and ground communication systems including antennas, transponders, proximity radios, signal processors, and RF amplifiers
  • Active RF remote sensing instruments, radars and associated data processing algorithms and systems

The Division develops and operates systems to provide high data capacity coupled with precision tracking at low cost with operational reliability and autonomy.  The diverse mission needs supported are: point-to-point operation; planetary relays; in-situ and proximity communication during entry, descent and landing; surface operations; high capacity backbone links; and inter-spacecraft tracking and communication in distributed systems and multiple space vehicle formations.  Systems used for communications and tracking are also utilized for scientific benefit in fields as diverse as radio astronomy, planetary science, geophysics, and quantum physics.  Active remote sensing supports NASA Earth and solar system exploration strategic science goals and includes altimeters, scatterometers, real and synthetic aperture radars, and precise spacecraft-to-spacecraft measurement systems.