GNU Radio is an open source collection of code and tools to build various radio elements for a "Software Defined Radio" or a radio implemented with the help of an FPGA that is programmed to work as a radio. The basic tutorial about GNU Radio can be found at the organisation's website GNU Radio Tutorial. An introduction to how GNU Radio can be used for satellite communication from Dr. Daniel Estevez is Here.

We built groundstation-based GNU Radio receivers and transmitters for some LEO CubeSats for prior missions and are planning to implement a Deep Space Network (DSN) compatible transponder for a proposed mission, and would like to know if anyone has forged this path before us.

I am aware of several software defined radios for deep space like the JPL/Utah State IRIS radio that uses a custom solution, as well as efforts to build CCSDS compatible groundstations that would be able to talk to interplanetary spacecraft, but I've yet to see any evidence of anyone implementing a GNU Radio solution for the spacecraft. Have we missed some critical capability that makes this approach impractical?

TLDR: Any resources for implementing Deep Space Network (DSN) communications with GNU Radio?

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    $\begingroup$ Could you try to add paragraphing (i.e. adding empty lines) to make this question slightly better structured, and could you elaborate on what the question is, specifically? $\endgroup$
    – user17550
    Aug 20, 2020 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ What about the reliability of the FPGA, power consumption, radiation sensitvity, extended temperature ranges? Are these comparable to conventional solutions without FPGA? $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 20, 2020 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ There are a number of Xilinx parts that have a good history of space use that do fine in a moderate to mild radiation environment and typical thermal ranges. Power consumption is not as great as an optimized ASIC but it's a good tradeoff for quick and easy development. The JPL IRIS radio is one well known example. $\endgroup$ Aug 24, 2020 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


Your best bet is to implement the specification from the DSN Handbook in GNU Radio. This has been done on at least one deep space mission recently.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you referring to the IRIS radio on MARCO? That's the only SDR I'm aware of recently that may have been in DSN contact, but I wasn't aware that they did their implementation in GNU Radio. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2020 at 6:10

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