RF/Microwave Software

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The RF Communications Team, or "RF", uses many different software tools. This includes CAD design software (Altium), CAE/simulation software (Matlab, CST Studio, STK, LTspice), software defined radio tools (GNU Radio), and some software tools for the specific hardware we use.

Interfacing Altium, CST Studio, and STK

For those unfamiliar, Altium is a CAD software tool for PCB design. CST Studio is a RF/microwave simulation software tool (note that CST Studio has educational licenses available for free). Finally, Systems Tool Kit (STK) is a simulation software package that allows for complex analyses of satellites in orbit. At the core of STK is a geometry engine for determining the time-dynamic position and attitude of objects. In this project we use all three software tools. Therefore, the ability to load a PCB design from Altium into CST Studio can be useful. By doing so, we remove the need to rebuild the object in CST. If the PCB is for an antenna (such as a X-band patch antenna), we can export the characteristics (a 3D pattern of gain relative to an isotropic source) of the antenna from CST Studio to an ASCII text file. This text file can then be imported into the STK environment to define our antenna. (Note: We need to use Matlab or similar software to format this text file into the correct format needed for STK).

Interfacing Altium & CST Studio

CST Studio cannot open Altium files directly. From Altium, you will need to export your design into a .stp or STEP format. To do so, follow this page. Afterwards, the step file can be imported into CST Studio. Instructions on how to import models into CST can be found on this page.

Interfacing CST Studio & STK

CST tabled data can be exported to an ASCII text file as shown here. This should allow the gain (dBi) to be exported as a function of cartesian space. The text file will then need to be manipulated with Matlab, R, or similar software to get it into one of the formats specified by STK. See “External Antenna Pattern Files” for STK.

Software Defined Radio (SDR) Tools

SFU SAT uses a limeSDR mini for ground station operations. The open source software GNU radio is used on the software side of the limeSDR mini. A software tool called LimeSuite is used to configure and test the limeSDR mini. Other programs such as Pothos and GQRX can also be used with the LimeSDR mini.

Getting Started with GNU Radio