This Sunday, a Falcon 9 rocket will launch a SpaceX Dragon capsule that will rendezvous with the International Space Station. Part of this mission will include RFTSat, developed by a team of Northwest Nazarene University (Boise, Idaho) led by Prof. Joshua Griffin and a team of Georgia Tech Researchers in ECE. This CubeSat experiment 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 science 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. The launch info can be tracked here. Interesting articles on the launch can be found here and here.
The project was funded by NASA, but could not have been completed without private matching funds from the Space Solar Power Institute. 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!