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Next-Generation NASA Earth-Orbiting Relay Satellites: Fusing Optical and Microwave CommunicationsNASA is currently considering architectures and concepts for the generation of relay satellites that will replace the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) constellation, which has been flying since 1983. TDRS-M, the last of the second TDRS generation, launched in August 2017, extending the life of the TDRS constellation beyond 2030. However, opportunities exist to re-engineer the concepts of geosynchronous Earth relay satellites. The needs of the relay satellite customers have changed dramatically over the last 34 years since the first TDRS launch. There is a demand for greater bandwidth as the availability of the traditional RF spectrum for space communications diminishes and the demand for ground station access grows. The next generation of NASA relay satellites will provide for operations that have factored in these new constraints. In this paper, we describe a heterogeneous constellation of geosynchronous relay satellites employing optical and RF communications. The new constellation will enable new optical communications services formed by user-to-space relay, space relay-to-space relay and space relay-to-ground links. It will build upon the experience from the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration from 2013 and the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration to be launched in 2019.Simultaneous to establishment of the optical communications space segment, spacecraft in the TDRS constellation will be replaced with RF relay satellites with targeted subsets of the TDRS capabilities. This disaggregation of the TDRS service model will allow for flexibility in replenishing the needs of legacy users as well as addition of new capabilities for future users. It will also permit the U.S. government access to launch capabilities such as rideshare and to hosted payloads that were not previously available.In this paper, we also explore how the next generation of Earth relay satellites provides a significant boost in the opportunities for commercial providers to the communications space segment. For optical communications, the backbone of this effort is adoption of commercial technologies from the terrestrial high-bandwidth telecommunications industry into optical payloads. For RF communications, the explosion of software-defined radio, high-speed digital signal processing technologies and networking from areas such as 5G multicarrier will be important. Future commercial providers will not be limited to a small set of large aerospace companies. Ultimately, entirely government-owned and -operated satellite communications will phase out and make way for commercial business models that satisfy NASA's satellite communications requirements. The competition being provided by new entrants in the space communications business may result in a future in which all NASA communications needs can be satisfied commercially.
Document ID
20180001852
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Israel, David J.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Shaw, Harry
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
March 9, 2018
Publication Date
March 3, 2018
Subject Category
Space Communications, Spacecraft Communications, Command And Tracking
Report/Patent Number
GSFC-E-DAA-TN51177
Meeting Information
IEEE Aerospace Conference 2018(Big Sky, MT)
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
Keywords
Space Communications

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