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
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).
Support Funding is available after the completion of the preparation badge. See below.

Core partners

Project mentor

Tyler O'Connor

Assistant Program Manager;

Short Cycle Lab, University at Buffalo Nanosatellite Laboratory

Phone: (716) 868-3326


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


To engage with this project, you will work through a series of Project-Based Collaboration digital badges to guide your experience. These badges will:

  1. Guide you in setting your goals and intentions as well as gaining additional context,
  2. Enhance your collaboration with your mentor/partner,
  3. Support your reflection and help you integrate your learning with your academic and professional goals.

All students who wish to participate in a project on the Project Portal must first complete the Project Preparation Digital Badge. First, contact the project mentor to discuss availability and after you’ve received approval, you can start the Project Preparation Digital Badge.

Preparation guidance

Once you have registered for the Project Preparation Digital Badge, you will receive further instructions related to the activities you will need to complete. In addition, you will also complete the following preparation activities for this particular project:

  • 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.
  • Look over this paper on "Satellite Communication."