A conventional radar system requires a large antenna to generate high-resolution images. There are practical limitations to the size of a single point antenna. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology was developed to address this limitation by simulating a large antenna by combining data acquired by a moving antenna at multiple locations or from multiple antennas (sub-apertures) spaced apart that are synchronized to receive the coherent signals. High-resolution imagery or remote sensing information can then be generated from the reflection of coherent signals.
If location and timing information can be collected with great accuracy, high-resolution radar-imaging can be achieved from signal data collected by a sub-aperture constellation in motion. A key part of how the technology works is instead of mechanical links between sub-apertures, they are replaced with wireless directional information links that provide the communication, timing synchronization and ranging information (a minimum of three nodes in the network is necessary to ensure relative position).
This architecture allows small sub-apertures that are located on multiple separate platforms (‘bodies’) to be in motion while still maintaining a coherent aperture (effectively a single large aperture), thus providing signal performance comparable to one exceptionally large conventional radar antenna.
This technology eliminates the need for a very large antenna/aperture to receive high resolution radar signals. Instead, a multi-body constellation of separate, less expensive smaller sub-apertures installed on various separate platforms could be used to generate high-resolution radar mapping or remote sensing information.
Use of the technology in space include monitoring space objects and assisting national security missions. Astronomy applications (astronomical measurements, planetary mapping) can benefit from smaller and less expensive RF signal receivers.
Air applications (e.g. drone) include high resolution ocean floor topography and terrestrial mapping as well as national security applications. It could also be used for ocean recovery operations of manmade objects (e.g. lost planes, ships on the seabed) not typically observable in low resolution radar systems or in deep oceans.
Current stage of technology development: 4-5
LLNL has filed for patent protection on this technology.