Author Topic: NASA seeks to boost Mars communication network ahead of human missions  (Read 15028 times)

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. 

Offline 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.

Offline 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 »
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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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