This paper presents results obtained from an end-to-end, proof-of-concept system for a GOES-R series satellite communication system, that integrates a multilevel modulator, turbo coding, and a nonlinear traveling wave tube amplifier (TWTA). Multilevel modulation schemes allow high-speed data communications in a limited amount of spectrum, enabling higher data rates for GOES-R user downlink, as compared to the GOES user downlinks within the existing L-band allocation. Bandwidth-efficient modulations, such as 8-PSK and 16-QAM allow transmission of 3 or 4 times more data in the same amount of bandwidth than a standard BPSK modulation. This improvement, however, comes at the price of increased linearity requirements for the end-to-end link. This constraint is especially important for the power amplifier, which is typically a nonlinear device. TWTAs are frequently used on satellites for transmitter power amplification. These high-power devices operate at highest efficiency when in saturation mode. However, their transfer function is highly nonlinear in this mode, causing significant degradation in the link bit error rate (BER).
Applying forward error correction based on turbo codes improves the BER by providing an additional noise margin of up to 5 dB. This paper presents measured BER curves for different Turbo codes, taken at different power levels relative to saturation. The results demonstrate that very low BER (below 10-10)can be achieved when using 8-PSK even when operating within 1 dB of saturation. This research and study was done by the Aerospace corporation in support of NOAA, and its future GOES-R series satellites.