Developing the World’s First Sub-THz Satellite Network Platform

ECE Professor and Interim Chair Josep Jornet, MIE Professor Andrew Gouldstone, ECE Professor Kaushik Chowdhury, ECE William Lincoln Smith Professor Tommaso Melodia, and ECE/COS Professor Ken Duffy, in collaboration with the Morehead State University Space Science Center, were awarded a $750,000 NSF grant for the “Development towards a Community Research Platform for sub-THz Satellite Communication Networks.”

This effort aligns with multiple ongoing activities at the Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things focused on leading the development of space communication networks, including work related to the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative’s existing commitment to launch two small satellites, an effort that the NSF is contributing to.  Additional activities include the ongoing training of three of our students by the University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) at the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. All of these extensively involve the Aerospace NU student club, led by Co-PI Andrew Gouldstone, as well as the NU Wireless Club.


Abstract Source: NSF

Non-terrestrial networks (NTNs) can provide ubiquitous coverage and resilient connectivity, but currently only with achievable data rates far from the expectations of 5G networks and 6G forecasts. Terahertz (THz) band technology (0.1-10THz) has recently been envisioned as a potential enabler of high-rate space-based NTNs. This project is aimed at exploring the development of the world’s first community research platform for sub-terahertz satellite communication networks. The platform plans to have two twin small satellites with a software-defined sub-terahertz radio platform that will enable numerous inter-satellite communication experiments, as well as a ground station to investigate the feasibility of ground-to-satellite access links.

This collaborative project brings together interdisciplinary investigators from Northeastern University (NU) and Morehead State University (MSU), including accomplished experts in THz communications, wireless networking, mechanical and aerospace engineering, systems engineering, and satellite development. This two-year effort will focus on developing and testing space-qualified sub-terahertz radios, which will integrate world-record transmit power front-ends at 225 GHz with an ultrabroadband programmable digital signal processing engine. In addition, the satellite bus requirements, including the dimensions and weight of the small satellites, the electrical power system capacity, mechanical interfaces, and deployment procedures, will be analyzed. Moreover, a digital twin simulator will be designed to accurately replicate the entire infrastructure operation and provide extensive inputs to the mission planners.

This project’s developmental work could lead to better global connectivity. High-throughput sub-THz NTNs will bridge the Digital Divide by providing reliable high-speed internet to remote and underserved communities. Additionally, the inherent resilience of satellite-based systems offers a reliable communication backbone for critical operations during both natural and human-driven instabilities and catastrophes. Beyond societal impact, the project will contribute to international NTN standardization efforts and spectrum policy development. Furthermore, project findings will be integrated into interdisciplinary courses at both universities, fostering future generations of researchers.

The project website, http://www.thz-sat.com, will be a one-stop shop for everyone interested in broadband non-terrestrial networks at terahertz frequencies. The website will provide an overview of the field, the latest publications by the team, and the up-to-date status of the infrastructure development, including all the major milestones towards the eventual launch and operation of this unique infrastructure.

Related Faculty: Andrew Gouldstone

Related Departments:Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering