Institute for Telecommunication Sciences
the research laboratory of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

ITS: The Nation’s Spectrum and Communications Lab

Our mission is to ADVANCE innovation in communications technologies, INFORM spectrum and communications policy for the benefit of all stakeholders, and INVESTIGATE our Nation’s most pressing telecommunications challenges through research that employees are proud to deliver. Learn more about ITS on our YouTube Channel or read about our research programs in the Technical Progress Report.


August 18, 2020

Presentations from the ISART 2020, the International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies: 5G Spectrum and a Zero-Trust Network are now available on the ...

April 2, 2020

The Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, signed into law on January 14, 2019, requires federal agencies to publish their information online as open data, using standardized, machine-readable...

May 9, 2019

ITS has a long history of leadership in air-to-ground propagation model development within the International Telecommunications Union – Radiocommunication Sector’s (ITU-R) Study Group 3 – Radiowave Propagation (and its...

March 10, 2019

How can we get more use out of the radio spectrum? One way is by sharing radio bands between users who have never shared before. Consider radio frequencies near 3.5 GHz. Until recently, that part of the spectrum was...

November 26, 2018

Behind every initiative to share spectrum are models of how radio waves in a particular band propagate through different environments. How far will a signal travel before it becomes too faint to be useful or...

New Publications

This Month in ITS History

January 1958: Explorer I Launched

On the 31st of January 1958, the U.S. launched the Explorer I into space. The first American satellite was a joint project between the Army's Redstone Arsenal and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the predecessor to NASA). Explorer's primary instruments were radiation detectors, developed by James Van Allen, which were intended to measure cosmic rays outside the Earth's atmosphere. Instead, the instruments detected rings of radiation in the Earth’s upper atmosphere which were named in honor of Van Allen. In Boulder, Central Radio Propagation Laboratory scientists celebrated, and used the data from Explorer along with that from the previously launched Soviet Sputniks to help understand the ionosphere, a layer of the atmosphere that reflects radio waves and allows for radio communication over long distances. For the first time, the ionosphere could be studied by looking at radio waves that had passed through it instead of reflecting off it. Soon CRPL and NASA began work on the TOPSI, or “topside sounder," project which equipped satellites with radio equipment to probe the ionosphere in order to better understand it. CRPL published ionospheric propagation predictions from January 1946 to October 1976 to assist broadcasters by providing “useful tools for effective frequency allocation, for efficient use of assigned frequencies, and for developing specifications for engineering design of high frequency communications equipment and circuits.” These prediction services and the improved understanding of the atmosphere gained through satellite sounding helped advance both commercial radio and television and public safety and military communication in the United States. Today, ITS employees continue to work to improve and safeguard satellite communications through interagency agreements with NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense.