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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:

High Rate Delay Tolerant Networking (HDTN)

Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) is developing new communications technology’s that can be used to increase the amount of science data returned on future space missions. In an effort to satisfy growing user requirements on data return and expand the capabilities of NASA’s exploration and science missions, there is a drive to accelerate the infusion … Read the rest ⇢

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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at NASA encourages small businesses and non-profit research institutions to explore their technological potential by providing them with the opportunity to partner with NASA to develop federally funded R&D projects. The SBIR program aims to stimulate technological innovation, encourage participation in entrepreneurship, and increase private sector commercialization of … Read the rest ⇢

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Space Telecommunications Radio System (STRS)

The Space Telecommunications Radio System (STRS) is a project, a standard, and an idea that allows NASA to enhance reusability of information thereby reducing risk and increasing confidence in communication systems.

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Wideband User Terminal

As commercial companies evolve space communications services and infrastructure in near-Earth orbit, NASA has identified a need to develop commercially led satellite communications for future missions. For almost 40 years, NASA has relied on its Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) system to provide near-constant communication links between the ground and satellites in low-Earth orbit, … 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 the Agency. 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:

  • Navigation, by which we mean determining an asset’s current and/or desired absolute or relative position and velocity state, and applying corrections to course, orientation, and velocity to attain achieve the desired state.
  • Timing, by which we mean an assets acquiring from a standard, maintaining within user-defined parameters, and transferring where required, an accurate and precise representation of time, minimize the impact of latency on overall system performance.

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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