[amsat-bb] NASA plans improved ‘Internet in space’ - references SDR's

h05ram-k9ldw@usa.net h05ram-k9ldw at usa.net
Mon Mar 16 09:22:18 PDT 2009

NASA plans improved ‘Internet in space’

    * By Sean Gallagher
    * Mar 09, 2009

NASA’s Deep Space Network is on the way toward becoming a true Internet in
space, thanks to the agency’s research and investment in software-defined
radios (SDRs). Also, the agency is preparing an SDR test module for the
International Space Station that will 
be capable of connecting the station with an uplink of 100 megabits per

Pat Elben, the chairman of NASA’s software defined radio architecture and
technology team (SAT) at NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation
directorate, told attendees at the IDGA’s Software Radio Summit that the
agency is setting up a new test platform. 
The platform, named the Communication Navigation and Networking Reconfigurable
Testbed (CoNNeCT) will help NASA test waveforms based on the agency's Space
Telecommunications Radio System (STRS), NASA's own standard for space-rated
software-defined radio systems.

CoNNeCT will be added to the International Space Station in 2011, and
demonstrate communications between the space station and the Tracking and Data
Relay Satellite constellation that makes up the backbone of NASA’s network
with three radio systems -- the Electra radio that flew aboard MRO, the
General Dynamics Starlight radio, and the Orion radio -- the system being
designed for NASA's follow-on to the space shuttle.

NASA developed its own standard because of the demanding requirements of
space, where reprogramming a radio often has to be done remotely while the
radio is on a spacecraft traveling through the solar system.

That was the case, Elben said, when the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) was
launched. Technicians discovered the Electra radio aboard MRO, a
software-defined radio that was to act as the communications link to the two
Mars rovers on the surface, was getting interfered with by something else on
the spacecraft just before launch. NASA was able to launch the MRO and create
a software patch and upload it to the Electra radios aboard it while the
spacecraft was en route to Mars, he said.

Some observers have expressed concerns that suppliers might be reluctant to
write software to yet another SDR architecture — the Defense Department’s
Joint Tactical Radio System uses the Software Communications Architecture,
which has been adopted by the Software Defined Radio Forum along with its own
SW Radio standard. Elben said NASA plans on buying more than 1,000 STRS-based
radios between now and 2025, but the price of these radios — between $1
million and $5 million — makes STRS radios a potentially $1 billion market
for radio developers.

Although NASA has deployed software-defined radios for years, starting with
the “Blackjack” global positioning system receiver on spacecraft in 2000,
STRS will be part of the basis of an ambitious revamp of the agency’s Deep
Space Network. The re-engineering will be based on SDRs and on high-bandwidth
optical links, Elben said. It will also entail the use of software-defined
systems and a move to less-expensive arrays of dish antennas instead of the
old larger dishes. The new approaches are expected to make the network more
automated and less expensive.

In the 1960s when NASA first created what became its Deep Space Network,
“there was no grand vision,” Elben said. “NASA’s goal for 2024 is a
highly integrated, IP-based disruption resistant network.”

Last November, NASA successfully tested Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN),
an Internet Protocol-based network using store-and-forward technology to
ensure that packets of data would not be lost when being passed through the
Deep Space Network. The agency will begin testing DTN aboard the International
Space Station this summer.



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