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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program is responsible for providing communications and navigation services to space flight missions throughout the solar system. Astronauts, mission controllers, and scientists depend upon the reliable transmission of information between Earth and spacecraft, from low-Earth orbit to deep space. The SCaN Testbed is an advanced integrated communications system and laboratory facility to be installed on the International Space Station (ISS). Using a new generation of Software Defined Radio (SDR) technologies, this ISS facility allows researchers to develop, test, and demonstrate new communications, networking, and navigation capabilities in the actual environment of space. The SCaN Testbed advances space communication technologies in support of future NASA missions and other U.S. space endeavors.
During its development at NASA Glenn Research Center, the SCaN Testbed was also known as the Communications, Navigation, and Networking reConfigurable Testbed (CoNNeCT) project.
SCaN Testbed Value for Space Missions
The growth of Software Defined Radios (SDRs) offers NASA the opportunity to improve the way space missions develop and operate space transceivers for communications, networking, and navigation. Reconfigurable SDRs with communications and navigation functions implemented in software provide the capability to change the functionality of the radio during a mission and optimize the data capabilities (e.g. video, telemetry, voice, etc.). The ability to change the operating characteristics of a radio through software once deployed to space offers the flexibility to adapt to new science opportunities, recover from anomalies within the science payload or communication system, and potentially reduce development cost and risk through reuse of common space platforms to meet specific mission requirements. SDRs can be used on space-based missions to almost any destination.
SCaN Testbed Project Mission Objectives
The SCaN Testbed Project provides NASA, industry, other Government agencies, and academic partners the opportunity to develop and field communications, navigation, and networking technologies in the laboratory and space environment based on reconfigurable, software defined radio platforms and the STRS Architecture. The SCaN Testbed Project Experiments Program will devise, solicit, and conduct on-orbit experiments to validate and advance the open architecture standard for SDRs; advance communication, navigation, and network technologies to mitigate specific NASA mission risks and to enable future mission capabilities.
Identified below are several research and technology areas the SCAN Testbed was designed to support.
Software Defined Radios operating at S, L, and Ka-band.
On-board data management function and payload networking.
Radio Science experiments using the unique capabilities of the SDRs
Precise Navigation and Timing
NASA’s Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) Office has developed an architecture standard for SDRs used in space and ground-based platforms to provide commonality among radio developments to provide enhanced capability and services while reducing mission and programmatic risk. The Space Telecommunications Radio System (STRS) architecture standard defines common waveform software interfaces, methods of instantiation, operation, and testing among different compliant hardware and software products. These common interfaces within the architecture abstract, or remove, the application software from the underlying hardware to enable technology insertion independently at either the software or hardware layer.
SCaN Testbed Location on ISS
The SCaN Testbed launched to the ISS on a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (JAXA HTV3), and was transferred and installed via Extravehicular Robotics (EVR) to the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier-3 (ELC3) in the inboard, Ram-facing, Zenith-facing payload location on an exterior truss of the ISS. Figure 1 illustrates the location of the SCaN Testbed on the ISS.