MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – NASA has awarded contracts to KSAT Inc. and SpaceLink as part of the space agency’s campaign to begin researching commercial sources for future space communications services.
NASA awarded KSAT a $162,000 contract and SpaceLink a $190,000 contract to conduct studies related to direct-to-Earth communications and lunar space relay.
The contracts result from an ongoing effort at NASA Goddard Space Center’s Commercialization, Innovation and Synergies office, in collaboration with NASA’s Near Space Network project office, to work with commercial companies to demonstrate their ability to deliver NASA communication requirements.
SpaceLink said its study will “identify the obstacles, challenges and solutions associated with integrating optical communications ground terminals into the Near Space Network architecture,” in an Oct. 11 news release.
Fortunately for SpaceLink, the NASA contract “leverages all the work we’ve been doing over the past two years to develop our ground network,” said SpaceLink CEO Dave Bettinger. SpaceNews.
SpaceLink plans to build the company’s primary gateway for optical and radio frequency communications at California’s Mojave Air & Space Port. On an approximately 20,000-square-meter parcel of land in Mojave, California, SpaceLink is building redundant, high-capacity fiber optic backhaul to connect data centers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.
SpaceLink is also establishing the Gateway Development Laboratory at the Mojave Air & Space Port.
“Before we have our satellites up there, we’ll have all the networking and simulation equipment to simulate exactly what our network will do.” “We will invite customers like NASA to come and test our end-to-end system as if it had already been launched.”
The technical demonstration consists of an end-to-end test of multi-source data moving from SpaceLink’s Mojave Gateway facility to NASA’s ground network using Amazon Web Services’ cloud infrastructure.
SpaceLink is investing in a constellation of medium Earth orbit satellites to relay communications between the ground and low Earth orbit. Initially, the constellation will transmit data via radio frequency links, but eventually it will also rely on optical communications.
In August, SpaceLink announced a partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop protocols to link commercial communications constellations with defense and military systems. Earlier in August, SpaceLink announced an agreement with the US military to explore ways to use the company’s data relay constellation to deliver commercial satellite imagery directly to troops on the ground.
“We are showing success in our business model, which includes commercial Earth observation and remote sensing satellites as well as civilian space,” Bettinger said. “NASA. it’s another one of our three market segments that we’ll be following. Now, we’ve established some NASA credibility. The last leg, of course, is the US Department of Defense and we have DARPA and the US military interacting with us.”
Kongsberg Satellite Services, the parent company of KSAT Inc., is working to build a dedicated antenna network for lunar communications.