NewsNASA Joins Private SATCOM Providers to Upgrade Space Network

NASA Joins Private SATCOM Providers to Upgrade Space Network

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NASA in the last month has selected the six U.S. satellite communications (SATCOM) service providers to design and demonstrate near-Earth satellite services that could help in the future mission of NASA.

NASA is planning to make use of commercial SATCOM networks and to decommission their own fleet of satellites to spend more effort and money on exploring deep space as well as scientific missions.

Under its Communications Services Project (CSP), NASA plans to kick in $278.5 million during a five-year development-and-demonstration period, while the six contractors would provide more than $1.5 billion in investments.

“We follow the agency’s established strategy that was developed using commercial services for cargo as well as commercial crew. With the help of Space Act funding agreements, we’re able invigorate industry and demonstrate end-to end capability, which will eventually lead to operational services,” said Eli Naffah, CSP project manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

The private companies seek to reduce costs, improve flexibility, and increase efficiency for a variety of missions. The objective is to design solutions that can satisfy NASA’s mission needs in the future and support each company’s business model, customers in the future as well as a growing national commercial SATCOM market.

The six companies contracted include Inmarsat Government Inc., Kuiper Government Solutions, SES Government Solutions, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Telesat U.S. Services along with Viasat Incorporated.

Each company will finish research and development in space demonstrations in 2025 to demonstrate that the proposed solutions can provide robust, reliable and cost-effective operation, which includes the ability to create new high-rate and high capacity two-way communications. NASA plans to pursue various long-term contracts for services for operations in the near-Earth region by 2030, and will gradually phase off NASA controlled and operated equipment.

“What we’re trying to do is get what industry can and wants to do,” Naffah stated during an interview to EE Times. The goal CPS’s goal CPS will be to take over the tracking satellite for data relay (TDRS) capabilities that NASA currently has in geosynchronous orbit which will end in the next couple of years.

The NASA constellation began operations in the late 1980s as part of the Space Shuttle program. Space Shuttle, the International Space Station and other missions rely on these services to this day. NASA launched its final TDRS satellite back in the year 2017 and isn’t planning to launch any further.

“We are looking to demonstrate the feasibility of commercially provided services and to develop an acquisition strategy for going forward and implementing those services, eventually leading to us weaning ourselves off of the government owned-and-operated systems,” Naffah explained. “We’re looking at focusing our people and our talents and our resources on science and exploration and on things that the commercial sector cannot do.”

When NASA constructed the TDRS constellation There were only a handful of commercial service companies that the space agency had to choose from.

“We had to build the system then, but the industry over the last 20 years or so has far outpaced NASA and investments in geosynchronous earth orbit and below,” Naffah explained. “You’re beginning to see middle-earth orbit and low-earth orbit constellations. So, companies are now able to benefit from the infrastructure to serve the terrestrial market as well as the SATCOM market as well. I believe that we can utilize that infrastructure for space-based users. This is the aim here.”

NASA have identified six potential use scenarios that are using the relay and direct-earth service they currently use. The scenarios include telemetry in launch services and the use of low earth orbit (LEO) activities, as well as the return of scientific data.

“When we look at what industry is doing, there’s a lot of innovation going on,” Naffah explained. “We’re hoping to tap that innovation and those newer technologies to really benefit the NASA missions.”

NASA hopes to in the future become one of the many consumers of commercial services that aid in reducing the costs of government agencies. Another area that could be improved is automation. It can take several weeks for NASA to plan for the utilization of their resources. It’s a time-consuming process, in the words of Naffah.

“The systems that we’re looking at on the commercial side are more automated,” he added. “We should hopefully be able to have ubiquitous coverage where we’ve got coverage on demand in certain instances.”

Commercial service providers could make more use of K a band, which could enhance the speed of data transmission He added.

In satellite communications the K band in satellite communications band permits higher bandwidth communication. It is currently utilized to provide high-speed satellite internet access through in the Inmarsat I-5 system, as well as for high-speed internet access in LEO via SpaceX Starlink. SpaceX Starlink system. The future satellite projects that are planned to use the K theband includes the Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite internet constellation in LEO the multi-orbit satellite of SES internet system, which is part of the SES-17 satellite , which is geosynchronous earth orbit, as well as the O3b mPOWER satellite constellation in middle earth orbit that will be launched in 2022-2024.

NASA’s acquisition of these services will result in a free and open competition for the companies who are conducting the demonstrations as well with other organizations who have services they’d like to provide, According to Naffah.

“If you examine the cost share and the cost share, you’ll see that NASA costs share will be quite low. We’ll be investing around $ 278 million for the next 4 years, and the private sector will be match this with approximately $1.5 billion.”

In the year 2030 NASA plans to supply the services of a commercial company to space missions.

The post NASA Joins Private SATCOM Providers to Upgrade Space Network appeared first on EETimes.

Michal Pukala
Electronics and Telecommunications engineer with Electro-energetics Master degree graduation. Lightning designer experienced engineer. Currently working in IT industry.