NASA pushes for enhanced space comms

NASA wants a “smooth” transition to fully commercialized near-Earth communications and has picked four companies to help it achieve its goal.

The four companies selected by the space agency will perform capability studies in three areas: wideband satellite communications, phased array ground systems, and constellation topology analysis.

NASA said the studies would help it to enhance its space communication and navigation services and further a long-term goal of “a smooth transition to fully commercialized communications services for near-Earth users.”

The selected companies – Cesium Astro, Swedish Space Corporation, Intuitive Machines, and MTI Systems – will each focus on a different research area.

Cesium Astro will carry out a study in wideband terminal design. Swedish Space Corporation, whose US operation has been selected by NASA, will be supported by Celestia Technologies Group as it conducts an in-depth study of phased array technologies and explores viable lower-cost network solutions.

Meanwhile, Intuitive Machines and MTI Systems will provide NASA with insights from satellite constellation crosslink topology studies.

Greg Heckler is a commercialization leader for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation, or SCaN, which manages the agency’s Deep Space Network for distant missions and the Near Space Network for missions closer to Earth.

He said: “The agency’s overarching goal is to create a reliable, robust, and cost-effective set of commercial services for space communications and navigation in which space mission users can seamlessly ‘roam’ between an array of space-based and ground-based networks.”

The fixed-price, milestone-based, contracts were awarded under the space agency’s NextSTEP private-public model that seeks commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities.