A Distributed Software Framework for the Virginia Tech Ground Station

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Virginia Tech

The key goal in this work is to enable a flexible ground station that is not constrained to a particular mission or set of hardware. In addition, with the concepts and software produced in this thesis, it will play a significant role in educating engineers and students by providing critical infrastructure and a sandbox for ground station operations. Key pieces of software were developed in this work to create a flexible and robust software-defined ground station. Several digital transmission modes were developed in order to allow communication between the ground station and common amateur radio CubeSats and SmallSats. In order to handle distributed tasks and process at a ground station with multiple servers and controllers, a specialized actor framework was written in Python for ease of use. Actors have the ability to send messages to one another over a network, and they maintain their own memory in order to avoid synchronization problems that come with sharing memory. In addition to the software developed in this work, a novel Peer-to-Peer (P2P) protocol for a network of ground stations is proposed in order to increase coverage and access to spacecraft without requiring centralized server infrastructure. This protocol provides the method to scale the developed software architecture beyond a single ground station. Since the Virginia Tech Ground Station (VTGS) will have many concurrent processes running across multiple servers, it was necessary to apply the actor model in order to simplify the design of the system. The purpose of this thesis is to describe the developed software for the VTGS as well as the P2P protocol for a larger network of ground stations. There are three primary repositories: planck-dsp, gr-vtgs, and pystation. The planck-dsp library and gr-vtgs Out-of-tree (OOT) make up the primary digital signal processing and communications toolboxes, where GNU Radio serves as the scheduler for signal processing blocks used in flow graphs. The pystation module is the extensible software actor framework that connects various systems both locally and remotely. It is also responsible for scheduling and handling ground station requests. While the software was primarily created for the VTGS, it is general enough to apply to other ground station implementations.

Peer-to-peer, Satellite, Ground Station, Actor Model, Distributed Systems