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Technology Studies

NASA’s communication and navigation capability is based on the premise that communications shall enable and not constrain missions. Advancement in communication and navigation technology will allow future missions to implement new and more capable science instruments, greatly enhance human missions beyond Earth orbit, and enable entirely new mission concepts. Today our communication and navigation capabilities, using Radio Frequency technology, can support our spacecraft to the fringes of the solar system and beyond. As we move into the future, we are challenged to increase current data rates- 300 Mbps in LEO to about 6 Mbps at Mars- to support the anticipated numerous missions for space science, Earth science and exploration of the universe.

The SCaN project portfolio at GRC is currently comprised of the following technology development efforts:

Antenna Technology

Establish current state-of-the-art (SOA) for antenna arraying technologies for ground and spacecraft systems. Provide independent assessments to the SCaN Program, of emerging technologies applied to NASA DSN and NASA ground networks. The focus of this effort is on Ka-band transmit antenna arraying. The adaptive beamforming technique will be equally applicable to the Deep Space Network … Read the rest ⇢


The Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) program establishes a long-term, readily accessible communications test-bed onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Two Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus (CGBA), CGBA-5 and CGBA-4, will serve as communications test computers that transmit messages between ISS and ground Mission Control Centers. All data will be monitored and controlled at the BioServe remote … Read the rest ⇢

RF Propagation

NASA has been involved in the statistical characterization of radio frequency (RF) wave propagation through the atmosphere at locations around the world. The results of this research have been used to solve numerous communication system issues including: ground station design and availability planning for Deep Space and Near-Earth communication assets, along with the development of … Read the rest ⇢


The NASA SBIR and STTR programs fund the research, development, and demonstration of innovative technologies that fulfill NASA needs as described in the annual Solicitations and have significant potential for successful commercialization. If you are a small business concern (SBC) with 500 or fewer employees or a non-profit RI such as a university or a … Read the rest ⇢


Superconducting Quantum Interference Filter-Based Microwave Receivers This technology uses magnetic, instead of electric field detection to take advantage of highly sensitive Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID) arrays. This technology has been proven and is being used in medical and physics research, geology, etc.


NASA’s Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) Space Telecommunications Radio System (STRS) project has developed an STRS architecture standard for software-defined radios (SDRs), an open architecture for NASA space and ground radios. Currently, most missions either use hardware radios, which cannot be modified once deployed, or SDRs with an architecture that requires dependence on the radio … Read the rest ⇢

New technology ideas are always welcome. Areas of interest include optical communications, RF including antennas and ground based Earth stations, surface networks, cognitive networks, access links, reprogrammable communications systems, advanced antenna technology, transmit array concepts, and communications in support of launch services are very important to the future of exploration and science activities of NASA. Additionally, innovative, relevant research in the areas of positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) are desirable. NASA’s Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) Office considers the three elements of PNT to represent distinct, constituent capabilities:

Emphasis is placed on size, weight and power improvements. All technologies developed are to be aligned with the Architecture Definition Document and technical direction as established by the NASA SCaN Office. Additional information is available at Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN).

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