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2, MARCH 1991

An Antenna Pattern Synthesis Technique For

Spaceborne SAR Performance Optimization
Sergio Barbarossa, Member, E E E , and Guido Levrini

Abstract-The antenna radiation pattern plays an important role in uous signals, and instrument-related errors. Going from the
determining the performance achievable by a Synthetic Aperture Ra- lower to the upper limit of the admissible PRF range, the SNR
dar (SAR) system [l], [2]. Due to the presence of inevitable sidelobes
in the antenna pattern and the need of transmitting a pulsed waveform
increases [ 2 ] , thus leading to an improvement of the image
for imaging purposes, the received signal contains undesired ambigu- quality, whereas the swathwidth decreases due to the limitation
ous signals superimposed to the useful terms. A quantitative measure imposed by the data rate employed to transmit the data to the
of the SAR performance degradations, depending on these ambiguous ground station. Thus a contradiction exists between the demand
contributions, can be evaluated by the ambiguity-to-signal ratio (ASR), for better image quality and wider swath [3]. The user should
defined as the power ratio between the ambiguous echoes and useful
signal. This parameter expresses the capability of the antenna to reject be allowed to select the best trade-off between image quality
signals returning from regions of the Earths surface outside the swath. and swathwidth for each off-nadir angle, and the PRF should
An antenna pattern design technique for spacehorne SARs, which be selected accordingly. Unfortunately, the PRF is constrained
optimizes the signal-to-disturbance ratio, is presented in this paper. It by an additional consideration: The presence of ambiguities in
takes into account the ground reflectivity (relative to the transmitted
frequency) and the viewing geometry (altitude and off-nadir angle). the microwave imaging process and the consequent need to
The proposed technique makes use of the theory of adaptive arrays maintain the ambiguity-to-signal ratio (ASR) below a certain
and takes advantage of apriori knowledge of the ambiguous echo power level. Although the presence of ambiguities constitutes an in-
as a function of the geometry and average ground reflectivity. The op- trinsic limitation of the system, the choice of the PRF is often
timized antenna weighting turns out to be complex, and asymmetrical imposed by the ASR constraint and therefore the corresponding
patterns are generally obtained for a spaceborne SAR. The proposed
technique allows the achievement of better performance compared to value may be quite different from the best one for the user. The
the current design values, especially a t large off-nadir angles. In par- reason for this is that the ambiguities are usually kept under
ticular, it allows the system designer to relax the choice of the pulse control by the system designer by acting on the PRF, which
repetition frequency (PRF), which is an over-constrained parameter, therefore becomes an overconstrained parameter. For overcom-
from the ASR constraint, kept under control by a proper design of the
antenna radiation pattern. ing some of the problems due to the number of constraints af-
fecting the choice of the PRF, in this work a synthesis criterion
is proposed, which consists in designing the antenna radiation
pattem in order to get the minimum ASR, whatever the PRF
I. INTRODUCTION value. In this way the choice of the PRF is less constrained by
the ASR, and therefore its value can be chosen in order to sat-
I T is generally recognized that a fundamental parameter that
the SAR designer can work with for optimizing the system
performance is the pulse repetition frequency (PRF). A number
isfy other user requirements such as swathwidth or SNR.
After the mathematical description of the problem and the
of constraints must be satisfied by the PRF; namely, the range definition of the parameters of interest in Section 11, the pro-
and Doppler ambiguities, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and posed synthesis criterion is presented in Section 111, together
the data rate used to transmit the data to the ground station for with some examples of application. It is shown that the receiver
processing. The lower and upper limits on the admissible PRF thermal noise plays a significant role in the evaluation of the
range are imposed by the sampling rate of the Doppler spectrum optimal pattem. However, as shown in Section IV, its presence
according to the Nyquist criterion and by the time duration of can be taken into account in the optimization procedure, leading
the echo coming from the swath, respectively. In principle, any then to a procedure for optimizing the signal to the overall dis-
value within these limits is selectable. In practice, its value must turbance ratio instead of just the ASR. The gain in ASR with
result from a trade-off among different and contrasting consid- respect to conventional weighting techniques is shown in some
erations in order to meet as much as possible the users require- examples illustrated in Section V.
ments. The requirements can be summarized in two main
aspects: Image quality and swathwidth (for a given resolution). 11. DESCRIPTIONOF THE PROBLEM
The image quality depends on the signal-to-disturbance ratio
(SDR). The disturbance is composed by thermal noise, ambig- The ambiguity problem in a SAR system has been already
considered in the literature [3]-[7]. The performance parameter
commonly used to characterize it is the ASR, defined as the
Manuscript received August 7, 1987; revised October 29, 1990.
S . Barbarossa is with the University of Rome, La Sapienza, Rome, Italy. ratio between the ambiguous signal and the useful signal powers
G . Levrini is with Selenia Spazio SPA, Rome, Italy. [4], [5]. Each point on the illuminated ground can be charac-
IEEE Log Number 904 1826. terized by two quantities which can be measured by the radar:

0196-289219110300-0254$01.00 0 1991 IEEE


The time delay td and the Doppler frequency shift fd. The con- the overall ASR(t) is approximately equal to the sum of two
tribution of each cell on the overall received power depends ASRs:
upon the antenna power gain G ( . ), distance R ( * ) from the
radar, and cross section U( * ) of the cell. This last quantity, on
its turn, is given by the product of the cell reflectivity ao( * )
times its area A ( * ).
The relationship between the power contribution of a cell
characterized by a time delay t, and Doppler frequency fd, and having neglected the product of the two ASRs with respect to
the above parameters is their sum (assuming that the ASR is much less than the unity).
From expression (3) it is clear that the ASR depends on both
the PRF and antenna pattern present in s(td, fd), but in a dif-
ferent way. By varying the pattern for a given PRF, the ambig-
where k is a constant related to the radar equation. uous regions do not vary but are weighted differently. On the
The functions G ( ), a ( ), and R ( * ) are not directly known other hand, by changing the PRF for a given pattern the ambig-
in terms of the variables td and fd. In particular, G ( * ) is known uous regions move over the Earths surface and are observed
as a function of the antenna azimuth and elevation angles 4 and by different perspectives from the antenna. As a rule of thumb
8, respectively, and a ( ) is known in terms of incidence angle we can state that for a given operating condition (observation
or its complementary, the grazing angle $. Therefore we need geometry, surface reflectivity, etc.), the Doppler ASR improves
to know the relationship between the pair of variables ( t d , fd) by increasing the PRF, whereas the time (range) ASR degrades.
and angles 8, 4 , and $. These relationships are evaluated in the In the following we will focus our attention on the time am-
Appendix under the hypothesis of a spherical Earth, with radius biguity ASR, ( td) because the dependence of the time ambi-
R,. As shown in the Appendix, by using the factorization prop- guity on the ground reflectivity and distance is more significant
erty of the antenna pattern the received power can be approxi- than for the Doppler ambiguity. The optimization technique will
mately factorized in the product of a function depending on the provide the antenna elevation pattern which minimizes the time
time delay by a function of the Doppler frequency only: ambiguity ASRT (td). Clearly, the technique can be applied to
the Doppler ambiguity, or directly to the overall ambiguity as
We will make reference to a phased array antenna with N =
14 radiating elements, uniformly spaced at a half wavelength,
operating in the X-band (central frequencyfo = 9.6 GHz) at an
altitude, H = 255 Km.
having indicated by G, ( 8 ) and G+ ( 4 ) the cuts of the antenna
pattern along the elevation and azimuth axes, respectively.
This factorization property is very important from the point 111. SYNTHESIS
of view of the computational cost connected with the optimi-
zation algorithm. In [8] an optimum technique for SAR antenna pattern design
Given a certain PRF, the ambiguous returns have a power has been proposed. This criterion minimizes the energy of the
S(t, + n/PRF, fd + mPRF), with n and m integers not nulls signal received by the antenna sidelobes, assuming a distur-
contemporaneously. The power of these contributions can be bance uniformly distributed over the entire visibility region of
evaluated as a function of the time delay td by integrating over the array. The mathematical solution of this problem leads to
the Doppler frequency fd. The ASR can be then defined as

where B is the bandwidth of the useful signal.

By defining the ASRs in time and frequency, respectively:

ASR, =

an illumination function given by the prolate spheroidal wave 0 ,__--

functions [9]. This approach, however, takes into account nei- I
-10 -
ther the viewing geometry nor the target reflectivity at different
incidence angles. In fact, for spaceborne SAR's no ambiguous -m
contributions can come from any off-nadir angle greater than -
u -20 -

the angle corresponding to the horizon cyH (see Appendix, m -30 -
equation (A2)). Therefore nothing is gained in terms of the ASR U

by suppressing the sidelobes in that angular region of the pat- -40 -

tern. Furthermore, the power received from scatterers outside
the swath depends on the angle cy. The maximum disturbing -5g91Q ' -60 ' -30 0' ' ' 3 0 ( d e' g6) 0
' ' ' 9L
power corresponds clearly to cy = O", because this angle cor- Theta

responds to the maximum reflectivity and the minimum dis- (a)

tance. Also, not all the angular directions for which an
intersection of the propagating EM wave with the Earth occurs 0 I _- -_
contribute to the ASR, but only those regions whose corre- Ir- 'L
sponding time delays differ from the delay of the swath by the -10
integer multiple of the PRF. Once assumed to be a certain model -
of reflectivity, an observation geometry (off-nadir angle, swath- -
U -20

width, etc.), and the PRF, the disturbance Power Spectral Den- C
m -30
sity (PSD) can be evaluated. In our case the PSD is directly U
proportional to the reflectivity uo and is approximately inversely
proportional to the third power of the distance between the an-
tenna and scatterer (see Appendix). An example of the angular
distribution of the disturbance is sketched in Fig. l(a), where a
homogeneous reflectivity relative to an X-band wheat model'
has been assumed. The disturbance is shown as a function of
the antenna elevation angle 19. The off-nadir angle is cyo = 50" Fig. 1. Disturbance distribution versus antenna elevation angle (X-band
wheat model: 01 = 50"; swath = 50 km). (a) Overall return power, ex-
and the swathwidth is 50 km. The angular interval correspond- cluding the swath. (b) Ambiguous signal distribution (PRF = 1600 Hz).
ing to the swath centered around the antenna pointing direction
( I 9 = 0 ) does not contain any disturbance, because the echos
coming from these angles pertain to the useful signal.
As already mentioned, the angular distribution of the ambig- then the weighting vector wept which maximizes the signal-to-
uous regions depends on the PRF. By changing the PRF the disturbance ratio is given by [lo]
position of these regions in Fig. l(b) would consequently move. w = M-'s* (7)
Therefore the result of the optimization procedure would also
depend on the PRF. If we want to obtain a pattern, which is not where M is the spatial correlation matrix of the disturbance.
heavily dependent on the PRF, we have to take the overall dis- The elements of this matrix are the samples of the spatial cor-
turbance into account. In such a case, the disturbance is that relation function, obtained as the inverse Fourier transform of
shown in Fig. l(a) rather than in (b). On the other hand, in a the PSD.
practical system a number of inaccuracies arise such as pointing The synthesis criterion can then be summarized as follows:
errors, motion instabilities, implementation of the optimal 1) Compute the angular distribution of the disturbing echo
weights, and other instrument-related errors. Having to take into
power as a function of the geometry and reflectivity model;
account these inevitable inaccuracies, some margin should be
2) compute the spatial convariance matrix M of this distur-
taken in any case. It is worth pointing out that these consider-
bance; and
ations entail a proper choice of the disturbance model, but they
3) compute the optimal weights wept according to (7).
do not affect the synthesis criterion.
A homogeneous reflectivity model has been assumed, al- An example of the application of this procedure is shown in
though heterogeneous surfaces could be considered as well by Fig. 2 , where the optimal pattern, corresponding to the distur-
considering more complex reflectivity models. bance of Fig. l(a), is reported, The SAR system considered has
The synthesis criterion can be formulated as follows: The op- the characteristics described above, and the thermal noise has
timum pattern must maximize the power ratio between the echo been neglected. Some considerations of general validity can be
received from the pointing angle of the antenna and the distur- made, with reference to the optimal pattern. There are high
bance. In particular, i f s is the steering vector corresponding to sidelobes for off-nadir angles greater than the horizon angle,
the antenna pointing angle 8: because there are no disturbances coming back from that direc-
= (1, e~21idsin@/X . . . e ~ 2 ( N - I)rdainO/h tion. The mainlobe width tries to fit the angular interval corre-
$ 3 ) (6) sponding to the useful swath, and the sidelobes around the nadir
where d = spacing between contiguous array elements, X = angle follow a behavior which is inversely proportional to the
transmission wavelength, and N = number of array elements, disturbance spectral density. For a given radiated power, if the
sidelobes grow excessively in the region beyond the horizon, it
means that there is a corresponding gain loss in the mainlobe.
'DLR, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany On the other hand, according to the adopted optimization pro-


0 ,/- -_

0 -20


Theta (deg)

Fig. 2. Optimal radiation pattern for the disturbance shown in Fig. l(a). Fig. 3. Optimal radiation pattern in the same conditions as Fig. 2, taking
into account the thermal noise (SNR = 3 dB).

cedure, this loss does not produce any problem as regarding the
signal-to-ambiguity ratio. This is why the resulting pattern has
such high sidelobes in those regions. In a practical system,
however, due to the presence of the receiver thermal noise, the
mainlobe gain loss is not usually tolerable. However, as it will
be shown in the following section, the presence of noise can be
taken into account in the optimization procedure.

As already mentioned in the introduction, the image quality
depends on the overall disturbance, given by the sum of thermal Theta (deg)
noise, ambiguities, and instrument-related errors. Instrument Fig. 4. Optimal radiation pattern for a C-band ocean model (01 = 40";
errors are not considered here, because they are instrument de- swath = 50 km; SNR = 3 dB)
pendent and their contribution can be limited only by a proper
instrument design. As shown in Fig. 2 , the straightforward ap-
plication of the proposed optimization technique to a distur-
bance constituted only by the ambiguities has led to excessively -LE ,
high sidelobes for angles over the horizon, with a consequent
mainlobe gain reduction. This would lead to a sensitivity loss,
because it does not optimize with respect to the whole distur-
bance. However, since the receiver noise can be assumed to be
statistically independent from the ambiguous signals, the re-
ceiver thermal noise can be simply taken into account by sub-
stituting the matrix M in (7) by the matrix:

MT= M + u?;Z (8)

where u t = thermal noise power; and Z = identity matrix.
The inclusion of the thermal noise into the covariance matrix
considerably affects the pattern. To illustrate this, Fig. 3 shows
the pattern synthesized in the same conditions as in Fig. 2 , but
for the presence of thermal noise (a SNR of 3 dB has been as- -58
1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6
sumed). The inclusion of the noise in the optimization proce-
dure has caused a different distribution of the radiated energy: PRF (kHz)
Less energy is directed over the horizon and, correspondingly, Fig. 5. Average ASR versus PRF for the optimal pattern shown in Fig. 2
more energy is concentrated in the mainlobe. The balance be- (solid line) and a Hamming weighting (dashed line).
tween these contributions is the optimal one, from the point of
view of the ratio between the useful signal and the sum of am-
biguities and thermal noise.
To show the effect of the ground reflectivity on the optimal V. RESULTSA N D CONCLUSIONS
pattern, the results sketched in Fig. 4 have been evaluated for
a C-band ocean model', an off-nadir of 40, a swathwidth of The ASR, averaged over the swath, is shown in Fig. 5 as a
50 km, and an SNR = 3 dB. function of the PRF for the pattern shown in Fig. 2 (solid line).
The ASR obtained with a Hamming weighting in the same op-
erating conditions is included (dashed line) for comparative
'Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. purposes.

An optimum technique for the synthesis of the antenna pat-

tern for spaceborne SAR has been presented which minimizes
the ASR and allows the easing of the selection of the PRF by
the ASR constraint. The proposed technique takes advantage of
the peculiar nonuniform distribution of the disturbance in SAR
applications that depends on the observation geometry and
ground reflectivity characteristics. The presence of the receiver
thermal noise has been taken into account in the optimization
procedure in order to maximize the signal to the overall dis-
turbance ratio.
A mission planned to operate with different off-nadir angles
and for different applications (e.g., ocean or land observations)
could switch between different sets of weights, previously com-
puted and stored.

In evaluating the ASR it is necessary to find out the relation-
ship between the variables measurable from the radar, namely,
the delay time t,, the Doppler frequency f,, and the geometrical
quantities given by the antenna elevation and azimuth angles 8
and 4, the grazing angle $, and the distance R.
With reference to Fig. 6, the variables t, and f, are related to
the aforementioned angles by the expression: Fig. 6. Observation geometry.

fd = -(RT + h ) (COS (a0 + 8 ) COS 4 For a planar array, the far-field radiation pattern can be fac-
torized as
- (a0 + 8 ) cos2 4
JCOS - COS a H ) G(8, 4 ) = Ge(o)Gs(4) (A51

2v where Ge( 8 ) and Gs( 4 ) are the elevation and azimuth radia-
f, = 7 sin 4 (Al) tion patterns, respectively. It is important to point out that for
small azimuth angles, the Doppler frequency f, is much smaller
than 2 v / h . Therefore in that case, the square root on the de-
where RT is the Earth radius; h is the radar altitude; c is the
nominator of (A3) is approximately equal to 1. This approxi-
speed of the light; v is the speed of the spacecraft; X is the
mation is not valid for high azimuth angles, but, in such a case,
transmitted wavelength; and a. is the off-nadir angle corre-
the antenna gain is so low that the approximation does not lead
sponding to the antenna pointing.
to appreciable errors. Therefore the elevation angle 8 can be
aHis the off-nadir angle corresponding to the horizon:
expressed only in terms of time delay as

aH = sin-
( ~

RTRl h )
The inverse relationship is According to this approximation, the four variables 8 , 4, $,
and R can all be expressed only in terms oft, orf,, separately.
The area of each resolution cell is also dependent on the
( 9 - a0 + c0s-l (RT + h ) 2 - R$ + (~t,/2) viewing angle and distance. In particular, the area can be ex-
(RT + h)ctdJl - (Xf,/2~)* pressed as

where r is the compressed pulse duration; and A 4 is the azimuth

The grazing angle $ and distance R can be expressed in terms resolution.
of the time delay only: Since both R and $ are only dependent on t,, the area of the
resolution cell also depends on t, only. Furthermore, the vari-
$ = sin-
((R, + h) - RT + (ctd/2) ation of the angle $ within the swath is usually negligible;
R4d therefore the area is approximately directly proportional to the
distance from the radar. From (l), it then turns out that the
received power is approximately inversely proportional to the
(A4) cube of the distance.

REFERENCES Sergio Barbarossa (S82-M86) graduated in

electronics engineering from the University of
L. J. Cutrona, Synthetic Aperature Radar, in Radar Hand- Rome (Italy) in 1984, and received the Dotto-
book, M. I. Skolnik, Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990. rat0 di Ricerca degree in 1989.
C. Elachi, T. Bicknell, R. Jordan, and C. Wu, Spaceborne Syn- In 1984 he joined Selenia S.p.A., where he
thetic Aperture Imaging Radar: Applications, techniques, and worked in the Radar System Analysis Group.
technologies, Proc. IEEE, vol. 70, pp. 1174-1209, Oct. 1982. In 1986 he joined the Information and Com-
t31 S. Barbarossa, G. Levrini, and G. Picardi: The sensitivity prob- munication Department of the University of
lem in the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Alta Freq., vol. Rome. In 1988 he worked as a Research En-
LV, no. 6 , pp. 337-348, Nov.-Dec. 1986. gineer at the Environmental Research Institute
R. W. Bayma and P. A. McInnes, Aperture size and ambiguity of Michigan (Ann Arbor). Since 1989 he has
constraints for a Synthetic Aperture Radar, in Proc. 1975 IEEE been teaching signal theory at the University of Perugia, Italy.
Int. Radar Conf.,Apr. 21-23, 1975, pp. 499-504.
[ 5 ] F. K. Li and W. T K Johnson, Ambiguities in spaceborne
Synthetic Aperture Radar systems, IEEE Trans. Aerosp. Elec-
tron. Syst., vol. AES-19, pp. 389-397, May 1983.
[6] J. G . Mehlis, Synthetic Aperture Radar range-azimuth ambi-
guity design and constraints, in Proc. IEEE Int. Radar Conf.,
1980, pp. 143-152. Guido Levrini graduated in electronics engi-
[7] A. M. Jha, A Majmudar, and N S. Pillai, Design of a space- neering from the University of Rome (Italy) in
borne SAR at higher incidence angle using alternate transmitted 1983.
chirp slope reversal technique, in Proc. IGARSS 89 (Vancou- Since 1983 he has been with Selenia Spazio
ver, BC, Can.), pp. 2282-2284. S.p.A., in the Communication and Sensors De-
[8] R. 0. Harger, Synthetlc Aperture Radar Systems. New York: partment. He has been engaged in the ERS-I
Academic, 1970. Radar Altimeter and X-SAR projects, respon-
[9] D. Slepian and H. 0. Pollack, Prolate spheroidal wave func- sible for system performance. He is currently
tions, Fourier analysis and uncertainty-I, Bell Syst. Tech. J., Project Leader of the radar altimeter for the
vol. 40, pp. 43-63. European Polar Platform. During 1990 he has
[lo] L. Brennan and I. Reed, Theory of adaptive radar, IEEE been teaching radiotechnique at the University
Trans. Aerosp. Electron. Syst , vol. AES-9, Mar. 1973. of Perugia.