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01-050
For Release: June 27, 2001

Pamelia Caswell
Media Relations Office
216/433-2901


Ohio Researchers Receive NASA Grants for Space Communications Work

NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, has selected researchers from four Ohio universities to receive grants to conduct aerospace communications research. The research will focus on next-generation space communications technologies for NASA's future missions.

"These grants are another opportunity to enhance our strong research partnerships with Ohio universities," said Glenn Center Director Donald J. Campbell. "They also indicate the breadth of the expertise in our region, not to mention the potential for the development of new, highly technical products and services right here in Ohio."

The scenario for the work assumes very fast, very robust data transfer at tens of billions of bits per second, secure local or "proximity" wireless networks and clusters of interlinked satellites around Earth or other planetary bodies. Tiny and powerful microelectromechanical system (MEMS) devices and biosensors for receiving and transmitting biological data are also part of the scenario.

"The results from these grants will take us closer to our goal of reliable, secure, Internet-like space communications," says Kul Bhasin, Space Base Technology manager at Glenn, and they could have commercial potential here on Earth in, for example, bringing us the next generation in wireless communications."

The four grants total approximately $1 million per year over three years. The principal investigators, the university and a brief description of the proposed work follow:

Frank Merat, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, and his team will investigate microelectromechanical components, digital processing chips for enabling on orbit changes to component functionality, improved protocols for deeper data compression and more efficient memory and routing, and the integration of biosensors and miniaturized wireless communications devices into miniaturized wireless bionetworks.

Philip Bos and Oleg Lavrentovich, of the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State University, Kent, OH, will work to improve the aircraft to satellite and satellite-to-satellite communications by developing a nonmechanical beam steering system that uses their liquid crystals technology. In addition to liquid crystal array development, part of the work will be done through computer simulation.

Vijaya K. Konangi, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH, will investigate several spacecraft communication network topologies (or connection schemes) and their interactions with the different protocol layers for sending, receiving and verifying blocks of data. The network topologies may include low Earth orbit satellite arrays, geosynchronous (or high) orbit satellite arrays and a terrestrial network. This work will facilitate the distribution and sharing of information among the spacecraft.

Jeffrey Johnson, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, aims to make it easier for researchers to request and receive data from one or two of a cluster of Earth-observing satellites, each with a different capability. As a part of his study he will devise templates for researchers to use to order data and other templates for the satellite cluster's main computer to use to filter, or format, the data for delivery to the researcher. His work will make it easier to use Earth observation data for weather and agriculture forecasting.

Glenn, a National research laboratory since 1941, has a long history in space communications research, focusing on technology development and demonstrations.

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