Space

July 23, 2014

NASA seeks proposals for commercial Mars data relay satellites

NASA has issued a Request for Information to investigate the possibility of using commercial Mars-orbiting satellites to provide telecommunications capabilities for future robotic missions to the Red Planet.

We are looking to broaden participation in the exploration of Mars to include new models for government and commercial partnerships, said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.† Depending on the outcome, the new model could be a vital component in future science missions and the path for humans to Mars.

The RFI details possible new business models that would involve NASA contracting to purchase services from a commercial service provider, which would own and operate one or more communication relay orbiters. The solicitation is open to all types of organizations including U.S. industry, universities, nonprofits, NASA centers, and federally funded research and development centers, in addition to U.S. government and international organizations.

NASA is interested in exploring alternative models to sustain and evolve its Mars’ communications relay infrastructure to avoid a communications gap in the 2020s. The RFI encourages innovative ideas for cost-effective approaches that provide relay services for existing landers, as well as significantly improving communications performance.

One possible area for improvement is laser or optical communications. NASA successfully demonstrated laser communications technology in October 2013 with its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer mission. LADEE made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over 239,000 miles from the moon to Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits-per-second.

Mars landers and rovers currently transmit their science data and other information to Earth either by a direct communication link or via orbiting satellites acting as relay stations. The direct link is severely limited because of mass, volume, and power limits on the rovers. To address these limits, NASA’s Mars Exploration Program currently uses relay radios on its Mars science orbiters. The spacecraft carry high-gain antennas and higher power transmitters that provide very high-rate, energy-efficient links between orbiters and surface missions as the obiters pass overhead.

NASA currently is operating two Mars science orbiters with relay capabilities — Odyssey, launched in 2001, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2005. These spacecraft enable communication links from the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers on Mars’ surface. This approach will continue with the Sept. 21 arrival of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN spacecraft, and the 2016 arrival of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars/Trace Gas Orbiter.

This Mars relay strategy has been extremely successful in providing the science and engineering data returned from the Martian surface over the past decade, said Lisa May, lead program executive for Mars Exploration Program in Washington.

Because NASA has launched science orbiters to Mars on a steady cadence, the current strategy has been cost effective. However, NASA has no scheduled Mars science orbiters after MAVEN arrives on the Red Planet in the fall. This creates the need to identify cost-effective options to ensure continuity of reliable, high-performance telecommunications relay services for the future.

Looking ahead, we need to seriously explore the possibility of the commercialization of Mars communications services, said May. This will offer advantages to NASA, while also providing appropriate return-on-investment to the service provider.

The RFI is for planning and information purposes only. It is not to be construed as a commitment by the government to enter into a contractual agreement, nor will the government pay for information solicited.

To view the complete RFI, visit http://go.nasa.gov/1kV6KYj.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 31, 2015

News: Carter: Military leaders could arm more troops at home – Following the recent fatal shooting of four Marines and a sailor in Tennessee, Defense Secretary Ash Carter is ordering the military services to consider new policies that would enhance security for troops at home, including potentially arming more personnel.   Business: DOD weighs supplier base,...
 
 

News Briefs July 31, 2015

U.S. delivering eight newer F-16 warplanes to Egypt The United States Embassy in Cairo says the U.S. is delivering eight newer F-16 warplanes to Egypt as part of an ongoing military support package. It says in a July 30 statement that the aircraft, of the current Block 52 production variant, will be flown in from...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Lockheed Martin successfully tests design changes for Orion spacecraft’s fairing separation system

Lockheed Martin photograph A protective panel for Orion’s service module is jettisoned during testing at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California facility. This test series evaluated design changes to the spacecraft’s fair...
 

 

Australian company to provide parts for initial production of Triton UAS

Northrop Grumman has awarded the first Australian supplier contract for the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system initial production lot to Ferra Engineering. Brisbane-based Ferra Engineering will manufacture mechanical sub-assemblies for the first four Triton air vehicles including structural components. “At Northrop Grumman it’s very important to not only develop...
 
 
Boeing photograph

CH-46 ‘Phrog’ makes its last hop

Boeing photograph The CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter commonly known as the “Phrog,” is set to retire and to be flown one last time by Reserve Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 774 on Aug. 1. The CH-46 Sea Knight is a med...
 
 

Insitu awarded LRIP Lot IV RQ-21A Blackjack Systems contract

Under the terms of its latest contract, Insitu will build six RQ-21A Blackjack systems for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The $78-million Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Lot IV Low Rate Initial Production contract is the latest event in the program’s progression toward the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation phase.   “This award will...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>