If all goes well, the NNU team that brought us MakerSat will be launching a new satellite mission early next year as part of a new NASA-funded project. The new satellite experiment, called RFsat, will have a unique RF energy-harvesting radio designed and built by the Georgia Tech Propagation Group. PhD student researcher Cheng Qi has built a one-of-a-kind microwave backscatter reader and tag-sensor combo that will drive the mission package.
The low-powered reader designed by our team deploys a sensor that unfurls a distance away from the spacecraft. The reader then energizes and receives backscatter information from the device using a 5.8 GHz transmission. Complete with generator, retrodirective antenna, and rectenna harvester, the radio package qualifies as the first microwave space-based solar power satellite ever tested — despite the somewhat limited 1m range. You have to start somewhere.
Check out the story of the November 2017 MakerSat launch by the NNU team here.