What kind of network can support future commercial and government space trips around Earth and support bigger distances to the moon and Mars?
NASA is in the process of exploring exactly what technology will be needed beyond 2022 in particular to support future space communication and navigation. The agency recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to begin planning for such a new architecture.
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NASA's RFI includes some very broad stokes about what it wants this new network to support. For example, it states: "It shall also consider future science missions with greatly increased sensitivity of sensors that are capable of large data captures as well as future missions to the Moon and Mars where surface activities require supporting communications. The cost value proposition of the future architecture must be an integral part of its design.
The future architecture must be flexible to meet dynamically changing needs between investments in operations (e.g. to lower cost) and development. The architecture must be affordable as well as sustainable within a flat or decreasing budget environment. The architecture must be extensible to address new requirements from traditional (e.g. higher data rate or ultra-precise orbit determination missions) and non-traditional markets (e.g. human deep space missions).
The resultant architecture should take into consideration the need for security and be protective of these national assets and impervious to system breach. Responders should make assumptions about user needs and data volumes for the 2022 and beyond timeframes based on representative science missions and extensions. These objectives should not limit consideration of non-traditional concepts, models and/or designs," NASA stated.
The RFI comes from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) which handles communications and navigation services