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Categories: 2016, Government Science and Communication

Commercial Services 2.0 – Repurposing multi-mission ground network infrastructure for emerging, new space applications

Access to space is becoming a reality to broader global community of students, scientists, and entrepreneurs.  The CubeSat industry is furthering this access to space by standardizing affordable components/subsystem boards.  Standards provide for clarity in design, repeatability, and risk reduction.  Space to ground communications remains open to many variables, all of which add cost and risk to the mission.  Unless the mission is designed to test some new communications method, developers need to decide on a Standard Communications Configuration. SC has been a leader in the commercial ground network market place since 2001 with the introduction of PrioraNet.   SSC is now taking a lead role in developing new methodologies including standard configurations and automated operations to provide low cost services.  This paper will present the problem of traditional approaches to satellite communications design.   The new approach is to turn the customer relationship around from providers answering requirements to customers meeting a Standard Configuration in order to gain access to a low cost communications service.   The trade space is engineering individualized configurations, more testing, increased documentation and risk.  All of these add to the cost of specialized communications.  Spacecraft designers have typically approached communications as a necessary “evil”.  The priority of communications is usually a Mission Operations function.  From the spacecraft developer side, the communications system operates as specified.  The ground systems need to match these interfaces.  Now starts the long process of engineering analysis, design, configuration, testing, and documentation.  Each of these items requires each ground station to implement and verify mission specific configurations. This is where the services provider relationship gets flipped around. The customer is still always right!  The change is in who is writing the requirements and who is implementing the requirements.  We need to identify what systems and configurations are compatible with the service being requested.   We will identify several vendors of CubeSat radios.  These radios will be pre-qualified to meet one or all of the pre-defined configurations.  By taking this approach we “reduce” the compatibility risk and eliminate the need for costly development efforts.  Using the cell phone analogy, cell phone providers provide options, however the options are developed by the cell phone companies and are closely controlled. Any deviation from these configurations reduces reliability and increases cost.

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Author: Thomas Pirrone
Topic: Government, Science and Communication

  • Commercial Services 2.0 – Repurposing multi-mission ground network infrastructure for emerging, new space applications

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