Remote Sensing and Space Science

There is an increasing need for society to understand the space environment and how it impacts space-based assets on which society is becoming ever more dependent, including space-based communication and navigation systems. It is important to know about the various physical and chemical processes that occur in this environment so that intelligent plans and decisions can be made as these technologies are developed and deployed. However, space is notoriously difficult to probe and gain direct measurements of. In lieu of direct measurements, one of the most efficient means of acquiring information on the space environment is through remote sensing.

Remote sensing is the science of obtaining information about an object, surface, or body through the analysis of data acquired by a device not in touch or contact with the object, surface, or body under investigation. In many applications, remote probing by using electromagnetic waves, especially at radio and optical frequencies, has played a dominant role through wave propagation, radar, and lidar techniques. For remote sensing of space, platforms for conducting the experiments can be ground-based, space-borne, or mixed. To properly interpret the remotely sensed data, a solid knowledge of energy-matter interactions in different media is needed. This includes knowledge of the propagation characteristics, emissivity and absorption spectroscopy, scattering properties of a body, as well as the reflectivity properties of a surface. Electrical engineers are needed to perform vital tasks in the design and implementation of the complex diagnostic systems that have been placed on satellites, rockets, balloons, and the Earth's surface, as well as perform the mathematically-intense inversion and signal processing of the measured data to gain insight about the medium being remotely sensed.

Promising areas for future breakthroughs abound in remote sensing of the atmosphere and space. Planetary atmospheres in our solar system will be under investigation as we consider sending human explorers to new planets, and studies of these distant environments are expected to yield new insights into the understanding of the complexities of the evolution of the Earth's own atmosphere. Ground-based and space-borne radars and lidars are expected to play a prominent role in these investigations. Additionally, global satellite-based communication and navigation systems will continue to flourish in the decades ahead. A comprehensive understanding of how the signals from these systems propagate through the Earth's atmosphere is also needed and can be gained through remote sensing studies.

One of the important investigative tools in space science and remote sensing is the use of electromagnetic waves which may be in any part of the whole electromagnetic spectrum. Knowledge of their generation, modulation, transmission, interaction, detection and signal processing for information extraction is therefore desirable. The following courses cover some of these areas and are recommended for undergraduate students interested in this area.

Suggested ECE Advanced Core Courses

  • ECE 310 - Digital Signal Processing (3 Hrs)
  • ECE 350 - Fields and Waves II (3 Hrs)

Suggested ECE Electives (including laboratory courses)

  • ECE 453 - Wireless Communications Systems (4 Hrs)
  • ECE 456 - Global Navigation Satellite Systems (4 Hrs)
  • ECE 458 - Application of Radio Wave Propagation (3 Hrs)
  • ECE 468 - Optical Remote Sensing (3 Hrs)

Suggested Non-ECE Technical Electives

  • Math 415 - Linear Algebra (3 Hrs)
  • Math 442 - Intro Partial Diff Equations (3 Hrs)
  • Math 446 - Applied Complex Variables (3 Hrs)
  • CS 455 - Numerical Methods for Partial Differential Equations (3 Hrs)

Other Advanced Electives

  • ECE 361 - Digital Communications (3 Hrs)
  • ECE 452 - Electromagnetic Fields (3 Hrs)
  • ECE 454 - Antennas (3 Hrs)
  • ECE 459 - Communications I (3 Hrs)
  • ECE 460 - Optical Imaging (3 Hrs)

Core Faculty in this area