Attitude Determination of a Satellite from a Ground-Based Platform Using Signal to Noise Ratio

satellite dish.

Communicate with satellites in geosynchronous orbit using radio signals to gather information about their orientation.

Project description

Satellite systems are subject to a large host of environmental perils, and as more satellites are placed into orbit, space situational awareness (SSA) is becoming even more important. This is why developing new methods to characterize resident space objects (RSOs) are necessary. This project seeks to expand the collective knowledge of SSA by determining the attitude of known broadcasting satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) readings will be taken from multiple ground stations. From these readings, off boresight angles and line of sight estimates can be made. These line of sight estimates will be used to triangulate the position of broadcasting resident space objects. This will examine the viability of utilizing SNR and estimation-based algorithms to determine boresight and/or maneuver information from transmitting satellites.

Project outcome

An on-campus ground station will be built to track geostationary satellites. Students will learn how to design and set up experiments. The data collected will hopefully provide a proof of concept that will allow future classes to build satellites that use the new method of attitude determination. A poster will also be made to present this research.

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Longer than a semester (6-9 months)
Start time  Anytime
In-person, remote, or hybrid? In-person
Level of collaboration Large group collaboration (4+ students)
Benefits Valuable experience and knowledge    
Who is eligible Undergraduates. Must be a permanent U.S. resident (as required by the Air Force Research Lab).
Goldwater and the National Science Foundation

Students participating in this project might be interested in and eligible for the Goldwater Scholarship and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Connect with the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships to learn more.

Core partners

Project mentor

John Crassidis


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

1003 Furnas Hall

Phone: (716) 645-1426


image of a large satellite next to a small man.

The GOES-R, the NOAA weather satellite that we will be attempting to receive data from

Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

  • Become familiar with the underlying concepts and theory behind radio waves, ground stations, and satellites. 
  • Attend short cycle lab workshop. 
  • Meet individually with SCL managers to outline tasks and specific skills required depending on the task.
  • Review paper given by mentor on satellite communication. 


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering