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TT and C - First TDRSS, Then Commercial GEO and Big LEO and Now through LEOThe advent of low earth orbit (LEO) commercial communications satellites provides an opportunity to dramatically reduce Telemetry Tracking and Control (TT&C) costs of launch vehicles and Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) by reducing or eliminating ground infrastructure. Personnel from the Goddard Space Flight Center Wallops Flight Facility (GSFC/WFF) in Virginia have successfully used commercial GEO & Big LEO communications satellites for Long Duration Balloon flight TT&C. In addition, TDRSS capability for these balloons has been developed by WFF for the Ultra Long Duration Balloons with the first test flight launch in January 2001 for one global circumnavigation at 120,000 feet altitude launched from Alice Springs. Australia. Numerous other low cost applications can new utilize the commercial LEO satellites for TT&C. The Flight Modern became a GSFC/WFF Advanced Range Technology Initiative (ARTI) in an effort to streamline TT&C capability to the user community at low cost. Phase I ground tests of The Flight Modem verified downlink communications quality of service and measured transmission latencies. These tests were completed last year, Phase II consisting of aircraft flight tests provide much of the data presented in this paper. Phase III of the Flight Modern baseline test program is a demonstration of the ruggedized version of the WFF Flight Modem flown on one sounding rocket launched from Sweden. Flights of opportunity have been and are being actively pursued with other centers, ranges and users at universities. The WFF goal is to reduce TT&C costs by providing a low cost COTS Flight Modem with a User Handbook containing system capability and limitation descriptions. Additionally, since data transmission is by packetized Internet Protocol (IP), data can be received and commands initialed from practically any location with no infrastructure. The WFF, like most ranges, has been using GPS receivers on sounding rockets and long duration balloons for several years, The WFF Flight Modem contains a GPS receiver to provide vehicle position for tracking and vehicle recovery. The system architecture which integrates antennas, GPS receiver, commercial satellite packet data modem. and a single board computer with custom software is described and a number of technical challenges are discussed along with the plan for their resolution. These include antenna development, high Doppler rates, reliability, environmental ruggedness, hand over between satellites and data security. An aggressive test plan is included which in addition to environmental Testing measures bit error rate latency and antenna patterns. Additional flight tests are planned far the near future on aircraft, long duration balloons and sounding rockets and these results as well as the current status of the project arc reported. Use of the WFF Flight Modem on small satellites is also being pursued. The LEO satellite constellation altitude above 1400 km is not an obstacle because most spacecraft do not require continuous Communications. The challenge is scheduling where store and forward techniques for command are required and downlink when the communications link allows connection (above 60 percent of the time depending on the satellite altitude). Sophisticated scheduling techniques utilizing 2-line orbital element sets available on the NASA/NORAD Internet site could be implemented for rare special cases. The current 9600 baud rate of the LEO communications link may be increased With special techniques that are planned for development in the WFF Flight Modem project.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Morgan, Dwayne (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Bull, Barton (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Grant, Charles (Computer Sciences Corp. United States)
Streich, Ronald (Computer Sciences Corp. United States)
Powers, Edward I.
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2001
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing and Performance
Meeting Information
Reducing the Cost of Spacecraft, Ground Systems and Operations
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.