News, features & press releases
Current, future, past missions & launch dates
News, features & press releases
News, features & press releases
News, features & press releases

Technology Studies

NASA’s communication and navigation capability is based on the premise that communications shall enable and not constrain missions. Advancement in communication and navigation technology will allow future missions to implement new and more capable science instruments, greatly enhance human missions beyond Earth orbit, and enable entirely new mission concepts. Today our communication and navigation capabilities, using Radio Frequency technology, can support our spacecraft to the fringes of the solar system and beyond. As we move into the future, we are challenged to increase current data rates- 300 Mbps in LEO to about 6 Mbps at Mars- to support the anticipated numerous missions for space science, Earth science and exploration of the universe.

The SCaN project portfolio at GRC is currently comprised of the following technology development efforts:



New technology ideas are always welcome.  Areas of interest include optical communications, RF including antennas and ground based Earth stations, surface networks, cognitive networks, access links, reprogrammable communications systems, advanced antenna technology, transmit array concepts, and communications in support of launch services are very important to the future of exploration and science activities of the Agency. Additionally, innovative, relevant research in the areas of positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) are desirable. NASA’s Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) Office considers the three elements of PNT to represent distinct, constituent capabilities:

  • Navigation, by which we mean determining an asset’s current and/or desired absolute or relative position and velocity state, and applying corrections to course, orientation, and velocity to attain achieve the desired state.
  • Timing, by which we mean an assets acquiring from a standard, maintaining within user-defined parameters, and transferring where required, an accurate and precise representation of time, minimize the impact of latency on overall system performance.

Emphasis is placed on size, weight and power improvements. All technologies developed are to be aligned with the Architecture Definition Document and technical direction as established by the NASA SCaN Office.  Additional information is available at:

SCaN Technology Information

GRC SCaN Technology Program Manager: James Stegeman,