The ever-increasing amount of Earth imagery data captured by satellites, together with the limited bandwidth of the radio frequency transmitters that are used to send the data to Earth, have caused a data bottleneck in space. Free-space optical communication technology keeps maturing with recent demonstrations on the order of several gigabits per second, with the intersatellite use case driving the development. However, the higher frequency signals in the optical band traveling across the atmosphere are more sensitive to atmospheric effects (attenuation due to fog and clouds, wavefront distortion, absorption and scattering) which may ultimately deteriorate and even disrupt the received communication signal.

The Swedish Space Corporation, SSC, is currently developing a data reception service based on optical communication between space and ground. In this master thesis project, two atmospheric characterisation stations (weather stations) will be used to analyse the suitability of ground locations as nodes in the future SSC optical ground network. The two stations are installed at the SSC sites in Santiago, Chile, and Western Australia. The gathered data include measurements of atmospheric turbulence (Fried parameter) from differential image motion monitors, cloud coverage information from all-sky imagers, wind speed, precipitation, humidity, air pressure, etc.

In this project the data from the two weather stations will be gathered, post-processed, and visualised (typically with Grafana, which could also include real-time data fusion from additional sources). The data will then be analysed to investigate the suitability of the ground station locations in Chile and Australia for space-to-ground optical communications. The validated data will be compared with an historical weather model (MeteoBlue).

Upon completion, the project work may also include simulations of the performance of a global network of optical ground stations, where the weather data is used as input. The simulations are used to analyse data transmission availability of a network of ground stations for satellites across different orbits, towards optimal service delivery. In-house simulation code in Python will be used as a baseline for the further code development, refinement and documentation. The work will allow for a broader understanding of optical ground network operational aspects.

The project is suitable for one or two persons in their last year of studies within Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering Sciences or similar, with a specialization in aerospace/space engineering. The start date is January 2024.

Location: Solna.

Deadline for application: 2023-12-30

We are conducting interviews continuously and may close the recruitment earlier.

Credits: 30 hp

Application Documents: CV, personal letter, copy of academic transcripts.