NASA looking for a little help to build out of this world network

NASA wants help designing the outer space network it will use to back up future trips to the moon and perhaps beyond.

The space agency this week issued a broad Request for Information or RFI to solicit ideas from private companies and researchers interested in potentially providing communications and navigation services that would support the development of exploration, scientific and commercial capabilities on the moon over the next 25 years.

NASA is looking to define what will ultimately be the essential communication and navigation network requirements as well as identify network architecture options including: terrestrial network services, Earth-based ground stations, Earth- and lunar-orbiting satellites and lunar surface equipment

According to NASA, these networking services may include terrestrial network services, terrestrial ground stations, Earth-orbiting capabilities, lunar orbiting capabilities, and lunar surface capabilities. They may be complete turn-key services, subsystems or components; applications for specific functions; or other capabilities believed to be necessary to meet a portion of anticipated needs, NASA stated.

In a white paper, NASA last month said that its Deep Space Network (DSN) will be modified to meet new performance and interoperability requirements. NASA stated: A small constellation of Lunar Relay Satellites (LRS) will be placed into orbits with long term stability that provide periodic coverage of the entire surface of the Moon as well as Low Lunar Orbit (LLO). Two LRSs provide periodic coverage of the entire Moon for sortie support. Medium and high rate links will be provided between the LRS and Lunar Communication Terminals (LCT) at the Outpost. Lunar surface communications will use commercial IP network technologies running for interplanetary communications based on an open, standards-based architecture. S- and Ka-bands are employed for both the Earth-Moon long haul links and the lunar orbit-to-surface links. S-, K- and Ka- bands are used for primary surface-to-surface links while S-band is used for contingency voice channels. Standards will be coordinated with other national space agencies to ensure international interoperability.

It is in part to the DSN plan that the future RFI data will apply to.

The RFI is part of the space agency's ramp up to get ready for future trips to the moon. In June NASA said it was looking for a few good lunar research ideas and is willing to pay $8 to $10 million for the effort.  NASA's Lunar Science Institute will handle the research proposals which should address the institute's core interests: science of the moon including objectives that meet NASA's future lunar exploration needs. NASA anticipates making five to seven awards, including one focused on exploration objectives. 

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