NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's (GSFC) Exploration and Space Communications Division, is leading a study on behalf of the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program to identify future space-based relay communication and navigation architectures that will support NASA missions in the 2022 and beyond timeframe. The future architecture will leverage the significant success that NASA has had over the past 30 years in supporting a wide variety of customers with the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS), but the Space Based Relay Study (SBRS) is not bound by prior practice.
The team is charged with thinking outside the box, architecting broadly to reflect future capability in technology and operations, striving for scalable, interoperable, and cost-effective solutions that will meet future user needs. The traditional approach of a monolithic relay built through traditional acquisition processes is only one reference architecture. The team is studying both technological and acquisition scenarios including use of commercial services, hosted payloads, services distributed amongst swarms of smaller satellites, etc. In addition, interoperability with other US civil Government, commercial, and international relay assets, mindful of the current budgetary environment, will be an area of emphasis in the study.
The study is designed to leverage NASA expertise from Goddard Space Flight Center, Glenn Research Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and other NASA Centers, as well as, outside subject matter experts from academia and other federal agencies. A blue ribbon panel of experts has been formed to address the needs of the study.
This study team has begun a twelve-month, government-only, intense architecting effort. The kickoff workshop to engage other subject matter experts was held December 18-19, 2012 at GSFC. Additional workshops are planned over the next six months. In 2013, the study team plans to release a Request for Information (RFI) on issues related to future architectures and business models and a Request for Proposal (RFP) to conduct Phase A formulation studies in Fiscal Year 2014. The objective of this study is to think broadly, and to incorporate advanced and emerging technologies, such as optical communications and space internetworking, into the architecture trade space. Additionally, the new NASA Relay Architecture will have to service the needs of users from destinations beyond Earth, as NASA's Human Space Flight Exploration Program takes shape.