Satellite Trackers

When satellite tracking is required, DFM Engineering is the company relied upon by industry's prime contractors.

Satellite tracking requires much more then a simple telescope. Without a mount capable of high speed and great precision utilizing absolute position encoders, with a high natural resonant frequency, continuous accurate tracking of many satellites is not possible.

To better understand the differences in mount types, Dr. Frank Melsheimer's article, Satellite Tracking Telescopes, offers an excellent overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of mounts:

  • The Altitude over Azimuth (Alt-Az)
  • The Altitude over Altitude (Alt-Alt)
  • The Equatorial Configuration

DFM has provided numerous specialized telescopes for satellite tracking, for example the Air Force Research Laboratory (AMOS BD/T), NASA MCAT, and now our LEO Scope™ and LEO Comm™ product line.  In addition to satellite tracking telescopes, DFM Engineering also offers precision satellite tracking software refined through over thirty years of use.

All of our current astronomical telescopes and our beam directors have the drive characteristics necessary to track satellites in low or high orbits.

Additionally, DFM Engineering can produce an Alt-Alt or Alt-Az design that is capable of easy setup for mobile applications and testing. Our experience allows us to integrate our telescopes with mobile platforms to create a test-bed for demonstration and validation of different technologies in various environments, atmospheric turbulence levels, climate / weather conditions, and varying light pollution levels – something that simply cannot be accomplished using fixed dedicated ground based stations.

Mobile platform satellite trackers have very specific requirements not well understood by the industry.  These type of trackers need to be easily deployable, easily setup, and easily maintained.  Our extensive experience with automated and fully autonomous telescopes has produced systems that require the least amount of human intervention possible.

When these mobile satellite trackers are utilized as Optical Ground Stations (OGS),  technologies such as Adaptive Optics, a Coudé path, or Nasmyth focus become especially troublesome.  These technologies come with great added complexity.  This complexity always translates into cost, with less availability, more downtime, and higher maintenance costs.  

Coudé paths often take several weeks to properly align.  Adaptive Optics also contain numerous parts that need to be precisely aligned.  A Nasmyth telescope introduce a third folding mirror, which if the rotational axis isn’t right, the beam will move around resulting in a pointing model that is wrong.  Simply put, the induced vibrations of transport are not a good match for these technologies.

To address these issues, DFM Engineering created two solutions to increase system availability - for Space Situational Awareness (SSA) solutions: LEO Scope™, and to address the challenges in laser communication: LEO Comm™ which uses a unique patent pending solution to eliminate these complexities and assuring high quality high bandwidth communication.  Our solutions greatly reduce both initial costs, and the extensive and ongoing maintenance costs associated with incompatible designs.  Both of these solutions are rapidly and discreetly deployable in 20 foot shipping containers as shown below.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help make your project successful.