Author Topic: NASA seeks to boost Mars communication network ahead of human missions  (Read 13408 times)


Offline Lee Jay

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Interesting article.

Would it make technical sense to launch something like MRO and in the same launch have a small fleet of support craft (much smaller) that only have the capability to communicate with the surface and the main vehicle, thus providing near-global coverage all in one launch?

Online redliox

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Mentioning the NEX-SAG report here: http://mepag.nasa.gov/reports/NEX-SAG_draft_v29_FINAL.pdf

Integrating communication capable of supporting human missions is going to be a large factor for the next Mars orbiter, whatever its full mission and name are called; however it won't be the next orbiter's exclusive purpose, as it will be juggling numerous priorities at once.
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Offline AegeanBlue

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There is actually already a thread at the Space Science section:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37236.0

True, it hasn't been updated in months

Offline Lar

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This seems like a logical thing for SpaceX/CommsX to bid on, it will be interesting to see if they do and what they submit...
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline Jim

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This seems like a logical thing for SpaceX/CommsX to bid on, it will be interesting to see if they do and what they submit...

Commx hasn't orbited one spacecraft yet in LEO much less Mars.  They would not be qualified.

Offline nadreck

This seems like a logical thing for SpaceX/CommsX to bid on, it will be interesting to see if they do and what they submit...

Commx hasn't orbited one spacecraft yet in LEO much less Mars.  They would not be qualified.

Excuse me unless you are telling me that CommsX does not benefit from the SpaceX experience for some arcane reason, then they have designed 3 different spacecraft and flown 2 of those designs successfully and for paying customers.
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

Offline Jim

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Excuse me unless you are telling me that CommsX does not benefit from the SpaceX experience for some arcane reason, then they have designed 3 different spacecraft and flown 2 of those designs successfully and for paying customers.

Yes, unless those people specifically moved from Spacex to commx

Also,  it is one spacecraft with variations and it is not a comsat nor did it leave LEO.  Neither are revelant experience for a such a contract.
« Last Edit: 04/25/2016 07:52 PM by Jim »

Online redliox

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There is actually already a thread at the Space Science section:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37236.0

True, it hasn't been updated in months

That's because the Mars Telecom Orbiter was canceled some time ago; the need still exists although, because it's not everyday anything goes to Mars, NASA's at least ensuring all orbiters can play the telecom game while scientists call the shots.

Would it make technical sense to launch something like MRO and in the same launch have a small fleet of support craft (much smaller) that only have the capability to communicate with the surface and the main vehicle, thus providing near-global coverage all in one launch?

Near-global coverage is useful for a science team on Earth, but for a team at one site on Mars you have to wait for the satellite to fly over again which, depending on the exact orbit, may not happen again for days.  Regarding handling Mars, NASA will have to debate policy on whether blackouts that long without a backup (such as a direct-to-Earth link) can be tolerated.  So either a human team will have a network of low-orbiting satellites or one stationary satellite; barring the network I'd personally suggest putting the one sat in a 1/2-sol orbit as a compromise although SEP may allow shifting a stationary satellite to cover new sites, and not be bound to hover over one spot indefinitely.

I don't think we will have another MRO per say sent again; by which I mean the next generation of Mars orbiters will include SEP and optical communication more and more often, neither of which MRO had.  Even if only one orbiter is sent, it will be much better than MRO at staying in orbit and talking with Mars.  :)
« Last Edit: 04/25/2016 07:54 PM by redliox »
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Offline Lar

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This seems like a logical thing for SpaceX/CommsX to bid on, it will be interesting to see if they do and what they submit...

Commx hasn't orbited one spacecraft yet in LEO much less Mars.  They would not be qualified.
I don't know what the specs in the RFP are, so you're probably right. But SpaceX is going to be doing something like this in any case presumably, so might bid anyway. Or just do it themselves.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline AegeanBlue

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Oh please, why is this turning into an "I love SpaceX" thread again? Unless you have an actual real life plan set up by CommX/SpaceX, in which case by all means let's discuss it, they are the least likely provider to receive this contract.

My understanding and I am a learned amateur is that the plan is for an orbiter in high orbit that will be able to see the landers several hours per day, instead of a 5-10 minute pass once a day, which is the current situation with the scientific orbiters currently on Mars. If there is an RfI now, then we should have a selection in 2018 for a 2024 launch, perhaps a later selection if science is kept low as opposed to having primarily a telecom function. Historically though this has not happened, SMD prefers to have science satellites. My understanding is that we will have a bird on an orbit that is primarily for communications, but on which they can put as much science as possible, as opposed to a Martian TDRS. Knowing how things work we are more likely to see the contract go to OldSpace, such as Lockheed Martin or Orbital ATK than an unproven microsatellite provider. As for the launch vehicle, if it is labelled a critical mission it can only fly on an Atlas V or a Delta II today, other launchers do not have that certification. Then again by 2018, I have no idea

Offline Robotbeat

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So apparently you can only build a beyond-LEO spacecraft if you've already built a beyond-LEO spacecraft. Wait, what?
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Online shooter6947

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Who's paying for this:  HEOMD, or PSD?

Offline nadreck


Excuse me unless you are telling me that CommsX does not benefit from the SpaceX experience for some arcane reason, then they have designed 3 different spacecraft and flown 2 of those designs successfully and for paying customers.

Yes, unless those people specifically moved from Spacex to commx

Also,  it is one spacecraft with variations and it is not a comsat nor did it leave LEO.  Neither are revelant experience for a such a contract.

Well neither of the spacecraft they designed that flew (in space) were comms sats, but they both demonstrated the ability to communicate and maneuver, one of the two beyond leo, and the other handling fairly complicated station keeping and maneuvering tasks with an extended lifespan.

So yes the one you aren't acknowledging is the Falcon upper stage that continues to function after it has delivered its payload to either de-orbit, or in the case of the DSCOVR that managed to stay functional and communicated well beyond LEO.


The Dragon 2 hasn't flown yet but it also qualifies as a spacecraft and has made it through a lot of steps towards being a qualified design with the same customer who would be determining whether SpaceX/CommsX would be qualified to bid.  SpaceX/CommsX enthusiasm for this project isn't enough to qualify them, however this looks to be aimed at organizations who want to send Mars orbital science platforms to Mars not to comms satellite manufacturers or operators.

Does experience designing comms satellites enter into this? Not really as they don't provide interplanetary links either, this is relatively new, since NASA is soliciting interest, they are already thinking outside of the exclusive group of organizations who have craft that serve this function in Mars orbit already, and that 'edge connector' nature relaying to and from Earth to stations at Mars simply has no relevant existing services, so either no one is qualified, or anyone who demonstrates reliable spacecraft design that has a proposed approach to developing the Earth-Mars segment should be acceptable.
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

Offline AegeanBlue

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So apparently you can only build a beyond-LEO spacecraft if you've already built a beyond-LEO spacecraft. Wait, what?

When the officials evaluate the proposals, one of the things they evaluate is technical risk. Orbital did get Dawn, but that was after they had built tons of spacecraft orbiting Earth. How many full size satellites, preferably the kind that can provide heritage to a Mars satellite, has SpaceX built? How many of them will be orbiting the Earth to provide a baseline of reliability in 2018? SMD would rather pay twice for something that will actually work, the twin failures of 1999 drove that message hard

Who's paying for this:  HEOMD, or PSD?

My understanding is SMD

Online redliox

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Regarding the pseudo-SpaceX fight going on, I'm less concerned about who builds the network and more on how many satellites must be built.  I'd be pretty disappointed in a network of 1 Mars sat.  :(  That would also explain why Mark Watney had to dig up Pathfinder to establish a decent comm system...  :P
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Offline Lar

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Some crosslinking seems in order

See this thread https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=38638 ... I could see SpaceX submitting a bid that said "we don't care if we qualify under the criteria you set up... our bid is that we'll provide so much bandwidth in such and such a manner, and if we don't provide it you don't have to pay, but if we provide the capability you have to use it. Nothing down up front..."

 Not in this reality, that would be too annoying to NASA and congress, but I could see it in some alternate reality.
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Offline Robotbeat

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So apparently you can only build a beyond-LEO spacecraft if you've already built a beyond-LEO spacecraft. Wait, what?

When the officials evaluate the proposals, one of the things they evaluate is technical risk. Orbital did get Dawn, but that was after they had built tons of spacecraft orbiting Earth. How many full size satellites, preferably the kind that can provide heritage to a Mars satellite, has SpaceX built? How many of them will be orbiting the Earth to provide a baseline of reliability in 2018? SMD would rather pay twice for something that will actually work, the twin failures of 1999 drove that message hard...
There are other ways a good proposer could do risk-reduction. For instance, they may launch an actual Mars payload in the 2018 timeframe, which would provide pretty darned good argument that SpaceX is competent enough to pull this off. Another is that SpaceX may propose sending multiple spacecraft (several more than the minimum) and does a cost-sharing agreement. That would credibly provide NASA with assurance that SpaceX WILL actually succeed (ensured perhaps by some NASA insight), given that they could well afford 2 of the satellites to fail.

And SpaceX does intend to fly a couple small comms demo satellites into orbit this year, if I remember the FAA license correctly.

The evaluators would be very short-sighted to not be open to some of these alternative risk-reduction strategies.
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Online savuporo

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Oh please, why is this turning into an "I love SpaceX" thread again? Unless you have an actual real life plan set up by CommX/SpaceX, in which case by all means let's discuss it, they are the least likely provider to receive this contract.
You misunderstand. There are only like 30 commercial comsat building companies around, many of them with decades of experience and flight heritage. Most of them competing on a global telecom satellite market that is objectively measurably about 10x the size of launch market. Folks like these wouldn't have a first clue about building spacecraft or payloads for one. /s



Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Online redliox

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If I had to predict what the 2030 Mars satellite network looked like, this is my guess:
-NASA NEX-Orbiter (slightly aged)
-ESA ExoMars (definetely aged but useable)
-Insert Random Orbiter Probe Here
-Commercial Satellite
If NASA's Generous
-Second Commercial Satellite
-2 to 6 Cubesats to supplement


NASA's basically stating they know they need at least one decent satellite prior to humans.  Hopefully commercial companies inject some great ideas to increase the network, but they will need an elaborate mating dance if they expect extravagant results.

(side comment: add SpaceX logo on dancing bird = SpaceX fans here)
« Last Edit: 04/25/2016 10:05 PM by redliox »
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Offline joek

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This discussion is getting ahead of the times.  We are still very far away NASA asking for, or anyone proposing, anything concrete.  At the momemnt we have a one page JPL memo (attached for the MSFT Word averse) and a cancelled(?) FBO posting.

About the only things defined so far:
- It has a name: Next Mars Orbiter (NeMO).
- The stated desire is to use an SEP spacecraft bus.
- Concept study awards will be fixed price $400K over four months.
- There will be multiple concept study awards in the June 2016 timeframe.

Offline Jim

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So yes the one you aren't acknowledging is the Falcon upper stage that continues to function after it has delivered its payload to either de-orbit, or in the case of the DSCOVR that managed to stay functional and communicated well beyond LEO.


Because it is not worth acknowledging.  It doesn't count as a spacecraft.  It is just continuing to be a launch vehicle and just broadcasting its telemetry. 

Online redliox

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This discussion is getting ahead of the times.  We are still very far away NASA asking for, or anyone proposing, anything concrete.  At the momemnt we have a one page JPL memo (attached for the MSFT Word averse) and a cancelled(?) FBO posting.

About the only things defined so far:
- It has a name: Next Mars Orbiter (NeMO).
- The stated desire is to use an SEP spacecraft bus.
- Concept study awards will be fixed price $400K over four months.
- There will be multiple concept study awards in the June 2016 timeframe.

What I read of (what's apparently now called) NeMo implied a lot of potential.  If anything, I only disliked the thought of directly incorporating into Mars Sample Return, as it'd take a long-lived communication asset away from Mars and set the network issue back to square one.
« Last Edit: 04/25/2016 10:32 PM by Chris Bergin »
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Offline Jim

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and the other handling fairly complicated station keeping and maneuvering tasks with an extended lifespan.


Huh? The lifespan is measured in days and not years.

Again, nothing relevant to the task.

And in summary, the rest of the post is also not relevant.
« Last Edit: 04/25/2016 10:23 PM by Jim »

Online savuporo

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This discussion is getting ahead of the times.  We are still very far away NASA asking for, or anyone proposing, anything concrete.  At the momemnt we have a one page JPL memo (attached for the MSFT Word averse) and a cancelled(?) FBO posting.

About the only things defined so far:
- It has a name: Next Mars Orbiter (NeMO).
- The stated desire is to use an SEP spacecraft bus.
- Concept study awards will be fixed price $400K over four months.
- There will be multiple concept study awards in the June 2016 timeframe.

There is quite a bit more known than that, see NEX-SAG results:

http://mepag.nasa.gov/reports/NEX-SAG_draft_v29_FINAL.pdf

Or, if you like slides:
http://mepag.nasa.gov/meeting/2016-03/07_NEX-SAG_Report2MEPAG.pptx

I'm almost sure i saw a reference to LCRD being a proposed payload too. And i think it'd be awesome if they end up flying DSAC.
« Last Edit: 04/25/2016 10:42 PM by savuporo »
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Offline joek

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There is quite a bit more known than that, see NEX-SAG results:

Agree there has been more work and definition on the science side.  I was speaking primarily to the speculation about prospective bidders for the spacecraft, which IMHO is a bit premature given that this solicitation is only for conceptual design studies.

Online savuporo

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Agree there has been more work and definition on the science side.  I was speaking primarily to the speculation about prospective bidders for the spacecraft, which IMHO is a bit premature given that this solicitation is only for conceptual design studies.
If the solicitation is mostly for the Class 2 'commercial SEP' spacecraft bus ( US Only ) then there aren't that many prospective bidders. Boeing 702-SP, Lockhed A2100, SSL 1300 .. what else ? EDIT: Orbital GeoStar-3 apparently.
« Last Edit: 04/26/2016 12:39 AM by savuporo »
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Offline joek

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If the solicitation is mostly for the Class 2 'commercial SEP' spacecraft bus ( US Only ) then there aren't that many prospective bidders. Boeing 702-SP, Lockhed A2100, SSL 1300 .. what else ? EDIT: Orbital GeoStar-3 apparently.

Solicitation for these conceptual design studies is limited only to US firms.  It is not limited to those who could credibly provide a solution.  These are conceptual design contracts and should be considered little more than NASA fishing for possible answers.

Discussion as to who can provide or bid what might best be deferred until we see who wins awards for the conceptual design studies.  That said, I agree that vendors with proven SEP and deep-space capabilities are probably on the short list of eventual winners.

Online dkovacic

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I don't see any reference to laser communication terminal as a follow up to LLCD experiment. Is that option still possible? It would be a game changer for Mars exploration.

Online savuporo

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I don't see any reference to laser communication terminal as a follow up to LLCD experiment. Is that option still possible? It would be a game changer for Mars exploration.
I looked back at notes and i must have been dreaming things, not going to happen. STMD LCRD demo is only supposed to fly by 2019, and DSOC ( Deep Space Optical Communications ) wont be ready for this orbiter.

Donald Cornwell gives a thorough overview of NASA's optical communications plans here :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqdmc42IFCg&feature=youtu.be
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Offline Star One

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I don't see any reference to laser communication terminal as a follow up to LLCD experiment. Is that option still possible? It would be a game changer for Mars exploration.
I looked back at notes and i must have been dreaming things, not going to happen. STMD LCRD demo is only supposed to fly by 2019, and DSOC ( Deep Space Optical Communications ) wont be ready for this orbiter.

Donald Cornwell gives a thorough overview of NASA's optical communications plans here :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqdmc42IFCg&feature=youtu.be
I know NASA likes to be cautious about such new technologies, but I wonder if such a conservative approach is the best one in this case where it could be transformative to so many of their missions.
« Last Edit: 04/26/2016 07:27 AM by Star One »

Online dkovacic

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I don't see any reference to laser communication terminal as a follow up to LLCD experiment. Is that option still possible? It would be a game changer for Mars exploration.
I looked back at notes and i must have been dreaming things, not going to happen. STMD LCRD demo is only supposed to fly by 2019, and DSOC ( Deep Space Optical Communications ) wont be ready for this orbiter.

Donald Cornwell gives a thorough overview of NASA's optical communications plans here :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqdmc42IFCg&feature=youtu.be
I know NASA likes to be cautious about such new technologies, but I wonder if such a conservative approach is the best one in this case where it could be transformative to so many of their missions.
It does make sense to be conservative from NASA perspective because failure of optical comm would effectively be failure of the whole mission. But this mission would be ideal to introduce optical communication as an experimental setup since it will have a telescope on board which can have multiple uses (optical comm RX/TX, imaging). If switching between imaging and laser transmitting can be made fast enough, maybe even some Raman spectroscopy plus laser ranging could be done while near Phobos/Deimos. That way radio link through DSN would be primary communication path and optical comm could be used in store-and-forward mode.

Online redliox

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It does make sense to be conservative from NASA perspective because failure of optical comm would effectively be failure of the whole mission. But this mission would be ideal to introduce optical communication as an experimental setup since it will have a telescope on board which can have multiple uses (optical comm RX/TX, imaging). If switching between imaging and laser transmitting can be made fast enough, maybe even some Raman spectroscopy plus laser ranging could be done while near Phobos/Deimos. That way radio link through DSN would be primary communication path and optical comm could be used in store-and-forward mode.

Right, just introducing the optical comm as an experiment, not the primary communication per say.  Furthermore, unless the Mars 2020 Rover introduces a last-minute reflector panel (like what's on the Moon thanks to Apollo astronauts), it wouldn't even be able test orbit-to-Mars communication in a crude fashion; only Earth would have a proper counterpart to experiment with.
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Offline Lar

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Why not prototype optical comms [1] with low cost cubesat missions first to retire risk?

1 further? I'm not up on how much of this has been done already.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline A_M_Swallow

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In 2013 optical communications between Earth and a satellite in lunar orbit called LADEE were tested.
https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/scan/engineering/technology/txt_opticalcomm_start.html

In 2014 NASA issued SBIR Phase 1 development agreements covering thruster for cubesats. I do not know if any finished or are awaiting flight testing.
http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/SBIR_Phase1_ProjectsDescription_charts_2014.pdf

Offline Star One

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I don't see any reference to laser communication terminal as a follow up to LLCD experiment. Is that option still possible? It would be a game changer for Mars exploration.
I looked back at notes and i must have been dreaming things, not going to happen. STMD LCRD demo is only supposed to fly by 2019, and DSOC ( Deep Space Optical Communications ) wont be ready for this orbiter.

Donald Cornwell gives a thorough overview of NASA's optical communications plans here :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqdmc42IFCg&feature=youtu.be
I know NASA likes to be cautious about such new technologies, but I wonder if such a conservative approach is the best one in this case where it could be transformative to so many of their missions.
It does make sense to be conservative from NASA perspective because failure of optical comm would effectively be failure of the whole mission. But this mission would be ideal to introduce optical communication as an experimental setup since it will have a telescope on board which can have multiple uses (optical comm RX/TX, imaging). If switching between imaging and laser transmitting can be made fast enough, maybe even some Raman spectroscopy plus laser ranging could be done while near Phobos/Deimos. That way radio link through DSN would be primary communication path and optical comm could be used in store-and-forward mode.

Weren't they talking about using the other spare NRO telescope at Mars as that was designed to look down & something like that would produce vast amounts of data ideal for use with laser communication?

Online savuporo

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Why not prototype optical comms [1] with low cost cubesat missions first to retire risk?

1 further? I'm not up on how much of this has been done already.

What, like this Cubesat that was launched to LEO by NASA a few months ago ?

As per the video above, there are multiple optical communications technology advancement initiatives going on ( like , europe having EDRS-A in orbit just about ready to start testing), but taking it to Mars will take a while.

Quote
Furthermore, unless the Mars 2020 Rover introduces a last-minute reflector panel (like what's on the Moon thanks to Apollo astronauts), it wouldn't even be able test orbit-to-Mars communication in a crude fashion; only Earth would have a proper counterpart to experiment with.
There is a chance Mars 2020 rover will get its own optical terminal, see 23:00 in the video above.


I know NASA likes to be cautious about such new technologies, but I wonder if such a conservative approach is the best one in this case where it could be transformative to so many of their missions.
The optical comms technology development at NASA and ESA is anything but conservative. It has actually moved very rapidly, for the clear benefits and clear eventual advantages it will give to comsat industry.

EDIT: here is a pdf digest of the video/talk above:
http://ssed.gsfc.nasa.gov/IPM/PDF/1010.pdf
« Last Edit: 04/26/2016 05:28 PM by savuporo »
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Online dkovacic

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@savuporo

I would not agree that optical communication has developed very fast. What about LLCD on LADEE could not be done a decade ago? Maybe spacecraft vibration compensation. NeMO could fly exactly the same optical comm hardware as LADEE. To compensate 200-1000 larger distance, it needs to be compensated with larger ground aperture (video linked above outlined possible use of Mt. Palomar with five meter main mirror, 12x improvement over 40cm mirror used in LLCD). The rest could be compensated by lowering downlink bandwidth. Note that current bandwidth is up to 250kbit/s. This approach would be low risk to the rest of the mission. If it works even partially, even at 1Mbit/s, it would be a great improvement over current capabilities. Real issue is whether LLCD hardware could be functional after several years of exposure to space environment. I suspect that was not a goal for LLCD design.

Offline AegeanBlue

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A few notes:

There is a laser retroreflector on Schiaparelli, the lander of Exomars 2016. MarCO was not launched because it was supposed to go along with InSight. As per the April 2016 von Karman lecture, given by MarCO's builder, it will launch in 2018 with InSight.

NASA is willing to take risk especially if it is not mission critical or if the payoff is big. New Horizons and the Europa Mission have quite a bit of risk, in the first case of hibernation and having the primary mission 9 years after launch, in the latter with going to a very radiation intolerant region. In both cases they minimized risk by selecting mature scientific instruments. I do see SMD willing to take on some risk in the form of novel scientific instruments. I do not see them though taking the risk of an unproven satellite maker. So far almost all space probes have been built by Lockheed Martin which purposely bids at slightly above cost because they use the space probes as recruiting tools for aerospace engineering graduates. They make their money mostly off DoD/NRO birds. Orbital was willing to forgo profit to get Dawn and access to its ion engine technology. If one of the other satellite vendors, old and new, can produce a bird with low risk and have a cost structure lower than LM or Orbital ATK, they are free to bid. It is one thing to build an ISS launched microsatellite that will burn up in 7 months anyway and another thing altogether a probe that we want to last 15 years and design in any case for a minimum of 5

Online savuporo

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@savuporo

I would not agree that optical communication has developed very fast. What about LLCD on LADEE could not be done a decade ago? Maybe spacecraft vibration compensation. NeMO could fly exactly the same optical comm hardware as LADEE. To compensate 200-1000 larger distance, it needs to be compensated with larger ground aperture (video linked above outlined possible use of Mt. Palomar with five meter main mirror, 12x improvement over 40cm mirror used in LLCD). The rest could be compensated by lowering downlink bandwidth. Note that current bandwidth is up to 250kbit/s. This approach would be low risk to the rest of the mission. If it works even partially, even at 1Mbit/s, it would be a great improvement over current capabilities. Real issue is whether LLCD hardware could be functional after several years of exposure to space environment. I suspect that was not a goal for LLCD design.
Could be done and will get done are different, because relatively few flight opportunities. Relative to other spacecraft technologies its moving pretty fast.

Mars Telecommunications Orbiter was supposed to fly this in 2009

http://photonicssociety.org/newsletters/oct05/lasercom.html
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Online dkovacic

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A few notes:

There is a laser retroreflector on Schiaparelli, the lander of Exomars 2016. MarCO was not launched because it was supposed to go along with InSight. As per the April 2016 von Karman lecture, given by MarCO's builder, it will launch in 2018 with InSight.

NASA is willing to take risk especially if it is not mission critical or if the payoff is big. New Horizons and the Europa Mission have quite a bit of risk, in the first case of hibernation and having the primary mission 9 years after launch, in the latter with going to a very radiation intolerant region. In both cases they minimized risk by selecting mature scientific instruments. I do see SMD willing to take on some risk in the form of novel scientific instruments. I do not see them though taking the risk of an unproven satellite maker. So far almost all space probes have been built by Lockheed Martin which purposely bids at slightly above cost because they use the space probes as recruiting tools for aerospace engineering graduates. They make their money mostly off DoD/NRO birds. Orbital was willing to forgo profit to get Dawn and access to its ion engine technology. If one of the other satellite vendors, old and new, can produce a bird with low risk and have a cost structure lower than LM or Orbital ATK, they are free to bid. It is one thing to build an ISS launched microsatellite that will burn up in 7 months anyway and another thing altogether a probe that we want to last 15 years and design in any case for a minimum of 5
In this light, adding optical comm similar to LLCD satisfies both requirements: it is not mission critical and potential payoff is big. And just imagine the public relations effect if NASA would have capability to live-stream HD quality video of Mars 2020 rover EDL and initial checkout on the surface. Seven minutes of terror on Mars, broadcasting live on your favourite TV network.
« Last Edit: 04/27/2016 03:24 AM by dkovacic »

Online savuporo

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More on NeMO AO

http://nasawatch.com/archives/2016/05/next-mars-orbit.html
http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/NeMOIndustryDay.pdf

Quote
"Proposers must meet the following mandatory qualifications by time of award in order to be considered a qualified source and thereby eligible for award.
- MQ 1: Within the last 10 years, the proposer shall have successfully developed and flown a spacecraft with a solar power system of at least 10KW at 1 AU.
- MQ 2: Within the last 5 years, the proposer shall have successfully developed and flown a spacecraft that operated in deep space (beyond Earth orbit) or geosynchronous orbit (GEO).
- MQ 3: The proposer (both the prime contractor and its major lower-tier subcontractors for this effort) shall be a concern incorporated in the United States of America."
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline AegeanBlue

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I see America's partners offering tons of instruments to go with the platform. While for other mission they just had to push for a single instrument or two, in this case we have an entire spacecraft with high power and communications margins that will notionally only carry one instrument, the imager. I see the national agencies of Europe, and potentially Japan (though probably not Russia) offering to pay for a few instruments to round up the mission.

Also the three requirements mean that CommX will not be able to bid, as expected

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...
Also the three requirements mean that CommX will not be able to bid, as expected

Maybe a CommX orbiter will show up anyway. As tech demonstrator and to support their announced 2018 mission.

Offline Robotbeat

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10kW at 1AU seems like a not-very-fair constraint designed to keep it to the aerospace primes... I mean, what if it's a 7kW GSO satellite? Why would a company capable of that not be considered?
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10kW at 1AU seems like a not-very-fair constraint designed to keep it to the aerospace primes..

You mean four out of five world leaders of commercial satellite manufacturing industry ? Industry that generates about $16 billion a year in revenues and competes about 25 GSO contracts every year ?
Not sure whats so unfair about this.
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Offline Robotbeat

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10kW at 1AU seems like a not-very-fair constraint designed to keep it to the aerospace primes..

You mean four out of five world leaders of commercial satellite manufacturing industry ? Industry that generates about $16 billion a year in revenues and competes about 25 GSO contracts every year ?
Not sure whats so unfair about this.
Smaller sat builders should be allowed to at least be considered.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

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10kW at 1AU seems like a not-very-fair constraint designed to keep it to the aerospace primes..

You mean four out of five world leaders of commercial satellite manufacturing industry ? Industry that generates about $16 billion a year in revenues and competes about 25 GSO contracts every year ?
Not sure whats so unfair about this.
Smaller sat builders should be allowed to at least be considered.
Why should they, you go with people who know how to build this kind of craft and do it well all the time, there is no room for sentimentality about the little guy on such an important mission.
« Last Edit: 05/06/2016 06:03 AM by Star One »

Online savuporo

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10kW at 1AU seems like a not-very-fair constraint designed to keep it to the aerospace primes..

You mean four out of five world leaders of commercial satellite manufacturing industry ? Industry that generates about $16 billion a year in revenues and competes about 25 GSO contracts every year ?
Not sure whats so unfair about this.
Smaller sat builders should be allowed to at least be considered.

Why ? All of the major satellite manufacturers have recently started providing electric propulsion platforms for GSO comsats, hybrids with electric stationkeeping only and also full electric ones. This is the technology foundation that JPL aims to utilize here - maybe. The payload power, total mass, lifetime, operating environment, and other requirements are well in line with smaller modernized electric propulsion GSO birds.

You could also ask ACME Cubesats & Party Balloons but why would you ask for the extra overhead of not qualified proposals in an already compressed schedule and provided you already have four well qualified commercial, competitive vendors ?

That doesnt seem to make much sense
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline Star One

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10kW at 1AU seems like a not-very-fair constraint designed to keep it to the aerospace primes..

You mean four out of five world leaders of commercial satellite manufacturing industry ? Industry that generates about $16 billion a year in revenues and competes about 25 GSO contracts every year ?
Not sure whats so unfair about this.
Smaller sat builders should be allowed to at least be considered.

Why ? All of the major satellite manufacturers have recently started providing electric propulsion platforms for GSO comsats, hybrids with electric stationkeeping only and also full electric ones. This is the technology foundation that JPL aims to utilize here - maybe. The payload power, total mass, lifetime, operating environment, and other requirements are well in line with smaller modernized electric propulsion GSO birds.

You could also ask ACME Cubesats & Party Balloons but why would you ask for the extra overhead of not qualified proposals in an already compressed schedule and provided you already have four well qualified commercial, competitive vendors ?

That doesnt seem to make much sense
Precisely you're looking to decrease risk not increase it by using some small company just for the sake of it.

Offline Robotbeat

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Larger firms can have other risks, too. I just don't think that 10kW should be this hard and fast requirement, it seems like a somewhat arbitrary cut-off value designed to cull the list of viable bidders to a certain list of firms. It should be considered under risk, but it shouldn't just exclude from consideration any potential providers who may have an otherwise extremely strong bid.

But you know, that's just crazy talk from someone who has had to evaluate bids (of a different type) before.
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Online savuporo

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Larger firms can have other risks, too...
Yeah and in this case Lloyd's will tell you precisely what the risk is depending on manufacturer and satellite bus being used. You don't even need a contrived probabilistic risk assessment with a thumb on the scale. They call it Realistic Disaster Scenario evaluation and keep very close track of every type of subsystem failure ever occurred on GSO birds, too.

This is commercial market with hundreds of millions at stake in every contract, where money doesn't come free.

For every new platform or even a significant  technological evolution of one your insurance rates ( aka, risk) will go through the roof until proven.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2016 04:23 AM by savuporo »
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Offline Lar

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10kW at 1AU seems like a not-very-fair constraint designed to keep it to the aerospace primes..

You mean four out of five world leaders of commercial satellite manufacturing industry ? Industry that generates about $16 billion a year in revenues and competes about 25 GSO contracts every year ?
Not sure whats so unfair about this.
Smaller sat builders should be allowed to at least be considered.

Why ? All of the major satellite manufacturers have recently started providing electric propulsion platforms for GSO comsats, hybrids with electric stationkeeping only and also full electric ones. This is the technology foundation that JPL aims to utilize here - maybe. The payload power, total mass, lifetime, operating environment, and other requirements are well in line with smaller modernized electric propulsion GSO birds.

You could also ask ACME Cubesats & Party Balloons but why would you ask for the extra overhead of not qualified proposals in an already compressed schedule and provided you already have four well qualified commercial, competitive vendors ?

That doesnt seem to make much sense

Agree with Robotbeat. Just because you have five large conglomerate oldline vendors who are competitive with each other does not mean that there isn't a builder out there that has a radically different approach that would come in for a lot less

This seems wired to the primes. And that's just wrong, prima facie... (either you get this or you don't, it's philosophy so not really refutable)
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Agree with Robotbeat. Just because you have five large conglomerate oldline vendors who are competitive with each other does not mean that there isn't a builder out there that has a radically different approach that would come in for a lot less..

If you had a radically different approach to building GSO comsats or delivering equivalent capability, every satellite operator would be banging on your door and you'd quickly own a good slice of the global $16 billion satellite manufacturing industry revenue. Satellite operators are in this after all to deliver services to their customers and make money, as well. Thats how market works.

And it's not like there arent innovative smaller satellite builders out there, like Surrey or Dauria. They all have their niches and they keep building up their capabilities incrementally and prove their products, but they aren't consitently winning hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts for GSO deliveries every year for a good reason.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2016 07:04 AM by savuporo »
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Offline guckyfan

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If you had a radically different approach to building GSO comsats or delivering equivalent capability, every satellite operator would be banging on your door and you'd quickly own a good slice of the global $16 billion satellite manufacturing industry revenue. Satellite operators are in this after all to deliver services to their customers and make money, as well. Thats how market works.

And it's not like there arent innovative smaller satellite builders out there, like Surrey or Dauria. They all have their niches and they keep building up their capabilities incrementally and prove their products, but they aren't consitently winning hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts for GSO deliveries every year for a good reason.

So if they can't offer anyway then why explicitly exclude them?

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So if they can't offer anyway then why explicitly exclude them?

Why does anyone ever require qualifications from proposing vendors ? Simple answer is overhead and liabilities. You don't want every crazy uncle to submit his flying saucer plans, and then later be in court explaining why calling them kooks is actually justified.
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Offline Star One

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10kW at 1AU seems like a not-very-fair constraint designed to keep it to the aerospace primes..

You mean four out of five world leaders of commercial satellite manufacturing industry ? Industry that generates about $16 billion a year in revenues and competes about 25 GSO contracts every year ?
Not sure whats so unfair about this.
Smaller sat builders should be allowed to at least be considered.

Why ? All of the major satellite manufacturers have recently started providing electric propulsion platforms for GSO comsats, hybrids with electric stationkeeping only and also full electric ones. This is the technology foundation that JPL aims to utilize here - maybe. The payload power, total mass, lifetime, operating environment, and other requirements are well in line with smaller modernized electric propulsion GSO birds.

You could also ask ACME Cubesats & Party Balloons but why would you ask for the extra overhead of not qualified proposals in an already compressed schedule and provided you already have four well qualified commercial, competitive vendors ?

That doesnt seem to make much sense

Agree with Robotbeat. Just because you have five large conglomerate oldline vendors who are competitive with each other does not mean that there isn't a builder out there that has a radically different approach that would come in for a lot less

This seems wired to the primes. And that's just wrong, prima facie... (either you get this or you don't, it's philosophy so not really refutable)
And if you're going to drag philosophy into this,  just because they are primes does not automatically make them bad choices, they are primes for a reason.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2016 07:40 AM by Star One »

Offline guckyfan

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And if you're going to drag philosophy into this,  just because they are primes does not automatically make them bad choices, they are primes for a reason.

It also does not make someone else automatically a bad choice.

Offline Jim

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This seems wired to the primes. And that's just wrong, prima facie... (either you get this or you don't, it's philosophy so not really refutable)

It is refutable.  It is far from wrong, and it actually the right thing to do.  It is Basic Procurement 101.  You buy things from companies with qualifications and experience.   This is not a procurement to build experience and capabilities like COTS or LDSD.  This is just like launch vehicle certification.   Just as Antares and Falcon could not launch NASA spacecraft on their earlier missions, a novice spacecraft developer is not going a piece of crucial infrastructure for NASA.  There are other bones that can be thrown to startups, see http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-awards-venture-class-launch-services-contracts-for-cubesat-satellites
« Last Edit: 05/07/2016 12:45 PM by Jim »

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So if they can't offer anyway then why explicitly exclude them?

To reduce the number of proposals that have to be evaluated.  That is a big cost in itself.

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So which companies will be able to bid?

Offline Star One

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So which companies will be able to bid?

The major satellite builders. Boeing, LM, Northrop etc.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2016 12:57 PM by Star One »

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So which companies will be able to bid?

The major satellite builders. Boeing, LM, Northrop etc.

Thanks for the answer.

LM and Boeing I had figured.

Based on discussion upthread it sounds like there is only a handful that are eligible. Can you give a full list?

1. Boeing
2. Lockheed Martin
3. Northrop Grumman
4. Space Systems Loral?
5. ATK Orbital?

Is that an exhaustive list? Ball? SNC?

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So which companies will be able to bid?

The major satellite builders. Boeing, LM, Northrop etc.

Thanks for the answer.

LM and Boeing I had figured.

Based on discussion upthread it sounds like there is only a handful that are eligible. Can you give a full list?

1. Boeing
2. Lockheed Martin
3. Northrop Grumman
4. Space Systems Loral?
5. ATK Orbital?

Is that an exhaustive list? Ball? SNC?

With the last two looks OK to me?

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It's interesting they note Atlas 431 or F9. And launch dV of 15km/sec. 

Could F9 do this for 2000kg sat prior to 190Klbf update?

And if it could. Would NASA update requirements given added dV capability? Use it to shorten the flight time to Mars? Or keep the margin and use to cut booster cost with stage recovery?

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Thanks for the answer.

LM and Boeing I had figured.

Based on discussion upthread it sounds like there is only a handful that are eligible. Can you give a full list?

1. Boeing
2. Lockheed Martin
3. Northrop Grumman
4. Space Systems Loral?
5. ATK Orbital?

Is that an exhaustive list? Ball? SNC?


Northrop Grumman's Eagle Spacecraft only uses monopropellant, not electric
I think the same is true for Ball and their Buses are rather small

SNC doesnt build large satellites like this proposal calls for


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Lets add a bit more color

Boeing 702SP - obvious early technology leader, with ion ( XIPS-25 ) propulsion. All electric satellites in orbit since 2015
Space Systems Loral 1300 - extensive heritage with SPT-100 stationkeeping hall thrusters from Fakel/Snecma, but no all electrics yet. First order for EUTELSAT 7C, probably incorporating SPT-140 / Snecma PPS-5000.  By far the strongest platform by market orders
Lockheed A2100 - just recently getting commercial orders, strong heritage platform, currently undergoing extensive modernization. Aerojet XR-5 ( ex Busek BPT-4000 ) hall thrusters. First order JCSat 17 in 2016
Orbital GEOStar-3 - new platform under development, evolved from Geostar-2,  Aerojet XR-5 hall thrusters full electric option announced, no orders yet

I think these proposals are going to be very interesting, and JPL's choice, if any, as well.

Just for reference i'll add two tables, the longer one is a bit dated. This would fall in the 'medium' or smaller category, i.e. below 2500

Also interesting to note, Europe and CNES in particular is subsidizing faster development of all electric competitive platforms for Airbus and Thales, through Snecma PPS 5000 development
« Last Edit: 05/07/2016 06:01 PM by savuporo »
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Offline Robotbeat

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So sounds like Orbital/ATK wouldn't be considered if this was pre-Dawn but post-DS-1, even though at that point Orbital would've had unique capability of having built an operational deep-space ion propulsion spacecraft (beyond Earth orbit).
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So sounds like Orbital/ATK wouldn't be considered if this was pre-Dawn but post-DS-1, even though at that point Orbital would've had unique capability of having built an operational deep-space ion propulsion spacecraft (beyond Earth orbit).
I'm not sure why would you be saying that ? Obviously OSC was well qualified for building Dawn, partly thanks to DS-1 which was a high risk high reward technology development and maturation mission, by design. And i'm not sure, but they probably could have met the requirements listed here too even in 2007, adjusting for comsat size inflation perhaps.
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cuddihy made an interesting point regarding orbits at Mars, especially stationary orbits.  His points also came from the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla.  Here's cuddihy's stuff:

Yes, mars geostationary orbit "a" is 20,438 km, but then that can only cover abt 1/3 of the surface (like a GSO sat). If you're willing to launch 3 or 4 of them that works, but if you go to about 8500-9000 km you would get several hours coverage over a landing site per pass from a single satellite, with global mars coverage but only a few hours per site at a time.

Either one of these altitudes gets nearly full earth coverage, and with big enough antennas like they can build now you could get impressive, multi - MB coverage to earth continuously.

So in the near term the medium orbit single sat is probably the best idea, because it alone can give you hours long high bw coverage for hours for important things like EDL.
 Long term, it makes sense to put 3 MSO sats around mars.

The problem is you can't launch any of that in the same launch as red dragon 2018--it's going to get there at the same time as red dragon and aero braking or manuevering into final orbit/checkout makes it useless for EDL. So for now you're stuck with the low orbit Sats relaying...

Optimally we'd have launched a comm sat last week...

Here's a great NASA discussion of martian comm sat orbits:
http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2013/stationkeeping-in-mars-orbit.html

Looking at a map of Mars regarding stable stationary satellite positions, it looks like the eastern part of Elysium Mons and Meridiani are the regions where comsats could 'hover' stably, whereas the Tharsis Montes are very unstable.  If we're talking a com network meant to last and to support humans this would definitely be useful knowledge.
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Or:
SUN-MARS LIBRATION POINTS AND
MARS MISSION SIMULATIONS

Quote
Existing research has identified potential utility and data for Sun-Mars libration point
missions, particularly for satellites orbiting the L1 and L2 points serving as Earth-Mars communication relays.

They are more stable than the aerosync ones ... and not as hard delta-v wise, just complicated to enter.

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Or:
SUN-MARS LIBRATION POINTS AND
MARS MISSION SIMULATIONS

Quote
Existing research has identified potential utility and data for Sun-Mars libration point
missions, particularly for satellites orbiting the L1 and L2 points serving as Earth-Mars communication relays.

They are more stable than the aerosync ones ... and not as hard delta-v wise, just complicated to enter.

Possibly, but likewise why don't we use them at Earth? I'm going to guess signal strength is the other factor in addition to coverage.
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Offline Jim

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Possibly, but likewise why don't we use them at Earth? I'm going to guess signal strength is the other factor in addition to coverage.

Because they would require tracking antenna on the ground

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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If both the ground and Sat used similar phased arrays (same size and transmit power) with computation power to track multiple sources, then this could give significant gain to improve data rates significantly. With the capability to track multiple targets a sat could support multiple ground assets simultaneously and a ground item could then have a more continuous comm stream by doing a hand-off based on signal strength like cell phone towers.

A hardened 4G cell phone comm system would be an interesting starting point for a design with many of the problems for data communication already solved. If the the sat used a very large phased array or multi-narrow high gain spots the ground comm system could be literally the identical of a cell phone. This would enable comm from spacesuits direct to sat (voice, video and data simultaneously).

The only problem is NASA also wants the sat to support legacy ground assets that do not have a better (higher more software definable data rate) comm system. Its this legacy stuff that gets in the way of design of a modern style flexible SDR (software defined radio) system.

A BTW most smartphones are actually SDRs requiring only a change of the software algorithms to adapt them to new system features if the signal processor speed is high enough to execute the new algorithms.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Areosynch buys you fixed RF high gain antennas for fixed surface structures. However, due to Mars mass distribution/wobble, moon resonances -- the "wander" of the sats unless well controlled might limit gain/bandwidth due to pointing errors. Its like the effects of lunar mascons but further out, excepting moons/L points.

If we use laser communication, we have to "fine slew" steer anyways. If we have mobile deployment, we have to steer no matter. Doesn't matter for earth DBS, for the "figure 8" wander pattern is within the antenna lobe.

One thing about L1/2 relay - if you have any surface/orbital solar power, the PV points in the direction of L1, the radiator points in the direction of L2. And the slew/gimbal requirement is minimal on top of that tracking.

There is another way to use areosynch with a induced, dynamic radial resonance to minimize the effects of drift as an optimization of resonance to reduce station keeping cost. However, if you do that, you have to compensate for the positional change if you use the same sats for navigational fixes. Complexity builds in various ways.

Also, another interesting aspect of Mars is the relative locations of the L1/2 points with regard to the significant magnetic reflection surrounding Mars, which is a few hundred kilometers above the surface.  You can induce a LF RF from halo orbits to excite this spherical waveguide, which means you can have with two sats a low bandwidth (enough for significant channels of voice+data) anywhere on the surface with low power omnidirectional ground sets. A form of 911, w/o LOS issues.

Also a form of Omega navigation from timing of this, which also could be used for entry navigation possibly as well (KF don't solely require point fixes, they can use great circle locus as well - on entry to update the inertial platform, you just need to eliminate the "drift" by knowing when you cross the locus/nodal plane of timing difference). Oh, and its easy to disambiguate the two/four solutions with another unique Mars property of fields.

So you get more by structuring an architecture that fits Mars uniquely, then forcing to fit an Earth model that is unsuitable for some very good reasons. Work with the planet's capabilities instead of against them.

Online redliox

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On the topic of communication networks, there are still plans being considered for a Phobos mission.  A Phobos base is being considered, but apparently would only be used for a single mission and then effectively abandoned.  Even if unvisited again, it could serve as a relay hub.
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This never got updated here
http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-selects-five-mars-orbiter-concept-studies

Quote
The companies contracted for these four-month studies are: The Boeing Company in Huntington Beach, California; Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver; Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California; Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia; and Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California.

Four-month studies awarded in July, evaluation and further decisions should be coming pretty soon.

Relevant new thread

Also my guess above was off by one, missed Northrop which probably bid Eagle-3 platform.
« Last Edit: 10/09/2016 03:24 PM by savuporo »
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Online savuporo

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A coming communications crunch at Mars
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3257/1

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Nonetheless, in April 2016, NASA issued a solicitation seeking industry input on possible designs for the orbiter, calling on it to substantially increase bandwidth communications. By June, JPL had awarded $400,000 contracts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK, and Space Systems Loral to study concepts for the mission. In an October teleconference held by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group, Watzin highlighted ongoing studies on the potential of using a commercial spacecraft bus for the orbiter, with initial results “looking very, very encouraging.” Such an approach would allow NASA to “have a very healthy and vigorous competition to select a bus, and expect very little or limited development on that.”

Yet during that same teleconference, Watzin conceded that the agency had made little progress on the mission, saying that “somewhat disappointingly, we are still in a situation where we have no missions beyond 2020 on the books that are approved or budgeted.” While the agency was continuing to study the mission, and continuing “to work on concepts and approaches that will allow us to get that orbiter in place as quickly as possible,” he noted that “t’s a difficult environment to get new missions into the program right now.” Still, with a “focused beginning of the program,” Watzin felt it was possible to support a launch by 2022.
« Last Edit: 06/05/2017 07:21 PM by savuporo »
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

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