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The Future of NASA Satellite Communications

The Future of NASA Satellite Communications


Since the 1980s, NASA has relied on a network of geostationary satellites for space communications in low Earth orbit. Created decades ago by NASA for its space shuttle program, the well-established space network has long served NASA’s need for space relay services. Such an investment by NASA was significant because, just 20 years ago, the commercial sector had not yet developed the infrastructure to support NASA operations.

Private sector innovation in near-Earth space is accelerating rapidly and dramatically. Over the past two decades, strong market demand for things like mobile phones and streaming services has led the industry to invest heavily in developing satellite communications infrastructure. Industry efforts go beyond what governments can do, so this investment must be leveraged to the benefit of NASA and other customers. This approach is already being used to support crew and cargo en route to the International Space Station. Now is the time to take another step towards the next evolution of communication services.

Win-win situation in public-private partnership

The Communications Services Project (CSP) will pioneer the future of near-Earth space communications for NASA and, as the space network nears retirement in the next few years, will explore the feasibility of a commercial satellite communications network that will reliably support future NASA missions. I am evaluating. This includes a wide range of near-earth requirements such as launch support, early operations, regular low and high data rate missions, ground support and emergency services. Commercial satellite communications capabilities enable NASA to provide cost-effective access to ongoing industry innovation for its missions, freeing up more agency resources to focus on science and exploration.

Traditionally, content for the satellite communications industry was typically generated on the ground and transmitted to relay satellites for broadcast. The same relay could be used to increasingly deliver space-fed content. This creates a demand for new bi-directional data transmission models to accommodate space-based users.

Importantly, this commitment will strengthen U.S. industry, drive economic growth, and facilitate a new class of commercial satellite communications services that will serve diverse markets around the world.

This requires a slightly different model than how the industry currently operates, but the infrastructure is in place to adapt. NASA is one of the growing customer groups that can purchase such services, so new markets develop while all costs fall.

Space communication options and market expansion

To power that future, we partner with industry-leading vendors to demonstrate support capabilities that meet NASA requirements. The plan to eventually obtain a commercial service is carried out during the demonstration phase and includes learnings. During this time, the CSP, developed under NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Division, is working with industry partners and missions to ensure the quality of service, Ensure performance and reliability. We deal with the inevitable technical challenges that come with anything of this scale. At the same time, we must acknowledge reality and accept that the industry is innovating in technical skills and methods. This innovation provides an opportunity for NASA and other consumers of satellite communications services to take advantage of this new class of services for spacecraft, communications and navigation.

By taking advantage of this opportunity, satellite communications providers are poised to align and support NASA and the rapidly growing space industry from the ground up. Using NASA as a secure foundation to demonstrate and expand service offerings for this emerging market will help satellite communications innovators bring unique solutions to future space communications infrastructure. Of course, this is a big undertaking, but CSPs are ready to take the lead. CSPs will help foster innovation stemming from capabilities developed for space-based customers, as has been done repeatedly by NASA initiatives such as opening up early spectrum for television, satellite radio, spot beams, and cellular communications. increase. Creating new satellite communications markets will benefit NASA, industry and taxpayers by creating jobs and economic opportunities while enabling long-term space missions. We are ready and I am confident the industry is ready.

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