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NASA Seeks Commercial Near Space Network Services

Near Space Network: Providing missions within two million kilometers of Earth with communications and navigation services.
Near Space Network: Providing missions within two million kilometers of Earth with communications and navigation services.
Credits: NASA / Dave Ryan

NASA is seeking commercial communication and navigation service providers for the agency’s Near Space Network.

The Near Space Network provides missions within 2 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) of Earth with robust communications and navigation services. Using a blend of government and commercial assets, the network supports science, human spaceflight, and technology demonstration missions exploring our planet, the Moon, and beyond.

In February 2023, NASA issued the Near Space Network Services request for proposal (RFP) seeking relay and direct-to-Earth service providers for integration into the network’s expanding portfolio.

These services include relays, either near-Earth or at the Moon, that will allow missions without a direct connection to send critical data back to Earth. The RFP is also seeking direct-to-Earth services, which allows spacecraft to communicate with a ground station on Earth rather than a relay. Both modes of transmission allow for essential science, telemetry, and tracking data to reach Earth for investigation and discovery.

Historically, the ground antennas and relay satellite systems making up the Near Space Network have been government owned. Now, NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program office is integrating additional commercial service providers to broaden network’s capabilities.

Antennas in the foreground at NASA's White Sand Complex.
Antennas in the foreground at NASA’s White Sand Complex.

This RFP will be critical to evolving exploration activities, including the Artemis Moon missions. When NASA and its partners establish a sustained presence on the Moon, the Near Space Network will provide robust space communications and navigation support. Interoperable systems – such as lunar relays – will allow NASA to work with industry and international partners in alignment with the agency’s Moon to Mars objectives.

NASA is looking to leverage the ever-expanding aerospace industry and increase the network’s commercial communication and navigation service provider base. In doing so, the Near Space Network can support more missions conducting valuable investigations.

Missions seeking to use Near Space Network may be connected to either government, commercial, or partner provider services. The network will act as a one-stop-shop for mission teams, helping with planning and design, spectrum management, launch, operations in orbit, and more.

The award of the network services contract(s) will be based on the offeror’s ability to meet the specific technical acceptability standards set forth in the RFP. Responses to the RFP are due by 2 p.m. EDT March 29, 2023.

NASA’s Near Space Network: Enabling exploration and science missions.
Credits: NASA

The SCaN program office, under the direction of NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, provides programmatic oversight of NASA’s Near Space Network and Deep Space Network, advanced communication technologies, and other space communications requirements.

By Katherine SchauerNASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Banner Image: Artistic illustration of the Moon and Earth with Near Space Network connection lines linking the two.

About the Author

Katherine Schauer

Katherine Schauer

Katherine Schauer is a writer for the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program office and covers emerging technologies, commercialization efforts, exploration activities, and more.