A New RF Upconverter Can Test Satellites Operating in the Q/V Band

August 12, 2020 by Jake Hertz

This week, Rohde & Schwarz released news of its new Q/V band upconverter meant to test satellite payloads. But what is the Q/V band?

Since the launch of the first artificial satellite in 1957, the satellite industry has undergone tremendous growth. Satellites have been useful in applications such as broadcasting, mapping, meteorology, Earth observation, and much more.


Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite

Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. Image used courtesy of Air and Space Magazine

As can be expected, more satellite-based applications have increased demand on the existing infrastructure. This mounting demand has resulted in a noteworthy shortage of bandwidth availability, particularly in the lower-frequency bands. 


Satellite Frequency Bands: A Background

Historically, satellite communication has operated in roughly the range from 1–40 GHz, putting it in the super high-frequency radio wave range. Within this portion of the EM spectrum exists different bands. 

In the past couple of decades, the satellite industry has been concerned with congestion. This has led the industry to move into new bands, from C to Ku and, recently, from Ku to Ka. The move to the Ka-band is expected to relieve stress on satellite communication since there will be more available bandwidth in this band. Researchers are currently developing transceivers and other components operating in the Ka-band that will connect remote areas on earth.  


Breakdown of the radio wave portion of the EM spectrum

Breakdown of the radio wave portion of the EM spectrum. Image used courtesy of ESA


However, with demand growing for higher throughput, the industry is considering the future. Many people are now turning to a new, higher frequency region of the RF spectrum: the Q/V band. 


The Q/V Band 

The Q/V band is the part of the RF spectrum that lies between 33–75 GHz and is considered an extremely high-frequency area of the radio spectrum. 

Satellite engineers hope that utilizing this portion of the RF spectrum will enhance the performance of next-generation high throughput satellites by offloading satellite links between the Ka-band to the Q/V bands. In turn, there will be more bandwidth available for users in the Ka-band.


Challenges in the Q/V Band

Signals in the extra high-frequency band are subject to higher levels of attenuation than lower frequencies. This leads to degraded signal amplitude and quality. At millimeter waves, which travel solely by line-of-sight, the effects of this propagation can be significant. Therefore, mitigation techniques will be necessary to effectively use the Q/V band. 

Notably, there is also a high demand put on RF devices that operate in the Q/V band. For this reason, it has become particularly important to thoroughly test satellite payloads during development and verification.


Rohde & Schwarz’s New Testing Equipment

Last week, Rohde & Schwarz released a new Q/V band RF upconverter for testing satellite payloads


The R&S SZV100A

The R&S SZV100A. Image used courtesy of Rohde and Schwarz


The new tool, called the R&S SZV100A, offers a solution for testing broadband transponders in the payloads of very high throughput satellites. According to Rohde & Schwarz, when used together with the R&S SMW200A vector signal generator, the R&S SZV100A Q/V provides continuous coverage of all satellite bands from the VHF to V bands as well as the frequency bands for 5G in the Q/V band.


RF Components in the Q/V Band

This news is significant because new tools for testing RF components in the Q/V band will help ensure the quality of new high-throughput satellite payloads. This, in effect, will yield faster and more reliable communication devices in the Q/V band. 

Block diagram of a V-band block-up converter (top) and a Q-band low-noise block-down converter (bottom)

Block diagram of a V-band block-up converter (top) and a Q-band low-noise block-down converter (bottom). Image used courtesy of G. Codispoti et. al

While there are still major hurdles to overcome, this news is one step in the right direction to mitigate bandwidth issues while using the Q/V band.