The satellite communications industry is in constant evolution, always looking for new technologies and approaches to handle the exponentially increasing traffic demand. Driven by this continuous objective, higher RF and Microwave frequency bands have been gradually introduced, initially for networks in relatively low frequencies, such as L-Band, C-Band or X-Band, then for higher frequencies like Ku-Band which is widely used nowadays. The higher the frequency, the wider the channels, so bigger data capacity is required, thus the interest in exploiting the K/Ka-Bands and Q/V Bands.

The electrical characterization of these parameters is critical to assess the system performance and provide system level engineers the right data to design their systems and link budgets. However, noise figure measurements at mm-Wave frequencies are not trivial and high uncertainties can be found during the process. This is especially critical in these modules, where every tenth of dB counts and the accuracy of the measurement itself must be minimized.

Any discussion about noise figure measurements includes a wide number of options, instrumentation and techniques each with their own advantages and limitations. In this tech brief, we focus on non-cryogenic applications, with proven performance, that can be conducted with standard laboratory equipment and easily followed by trained personnel.