NASA partners with industry on near-Earth comms network • The Register

NASA is lavishing a merged $278.5m on six US businesses for close to-Earth area conversation providers.

The money is for the advancement and demonstration of expert services that the agency will use as its existing Monitoring Facts and Relay Satellite (TDRS) fleet is decommissioned.

The geostationary TDRS satellites enable interaction involving ground stations and spacecraft in orbit these kinds of as the Hubble House Telescope or the Worldwide Area Station.

The initially was introduced at the commencing of the Place Shuttle era (the second was destroyed with the Challenger).

All instructed, 12 TDRS satellites have achieved orbit, of which two are now retired, two are in storage as spares, and 8 are energetic. The oldest of the lively sats was released on Room Shuttle Endeavour’s third flight at the beginning of 1993.

Eyeing the success of NASA’s business cargo and crew pursuits, the Communications Products and services Job (CSP) is to run more than 5 a long time and NASA expects organizations to match or exceed its own contributions.

The end line? A potential very long-time period contract from the agency for in the vicinity of-Earth functions as NASA-owned and operated methods are wound down.

The six are a blend of the regular suspects and some newish faces. Inmarsat has been awarded $26.6m for a business radio frequency-dependent relay network. SES, Telesat, and Viasat are equally going down the radio route, although with C-band and Ka-band networks, and have scored $28.96m, $30.65m, and $53.3m respectively. The networks will cling in geostationary, medium, and minimal-Earth orbit.

Dodging the radio solution is SpaceX, awarded $69.95m, and Amazon’s Kuiper Federal government Answers, awarded $67m. Equally have proposed a business optical small-Earth orbiting relay community.

Engineering improvement and in-place demonstrations to establish matters perform as promised are envisioned by 2025.

According to NASA’s Glenn Study Center: “Adopting business SATCOM abilities will empower missions to leverage non-public sector expense that far exceeds what authorities can do.

“Utilizing commercial engineering will provide NASA missions with price-preserving access to continual field innovation, saving funds that can be refocused on scientific get the job done.”

Eli Naffah, CSP task supervisor, explained: “We are pursuing the agency’s established tactic designed as a result of business cargo and commercial crew companies. By applying funded Room Act Agreements, we are capable to promote sector to exhibit conclusion-to-stop capacity main to operational company.”

With hundreds of Starlink satellites already in orbit, exploiting commercial know-how when it will come to around-Earth conversation will make a fantastic deal of sense. And with the procurement price of the very last TDRS satellite coming in at $289m (exercised in 2011), paying $278.5m in excess of 6 firms appears to be like like far better worth for money, comparatively talking. ®