Paper Title

"Flight Test of Communications in Space via Commercial Communications Satellite Networks on-board Suborbital RLV and High Altitude Balloon: Implications for Space Traffic Management"

Presenter Information

M. Brian Barnett, SatwestFollow

Location

Jim Henderson Welcome Center, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Daytona Beach

Start Date

5-11-2014 2:00 PM

Abstract

Over the past several years, Satwest has conducted a number of near space and suborbital spaceflight tests demonstrating the effective use of commercial communication satellite networks for communication to and from vehicles and payloads in space. In June 2013, Satwest’s space communications technology was selected by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program (FOP) for test and development. Satwest has flown two successful payloads into space through the FOP thus far. This paper describes the results of these commercial tests and flight tests through FOP and their potential application to space traffic management through the National Air Space (NAS) and beyond.

In November 2013, Satwest sent the first commercial text message to a payload in space at an altitude of 67 miles at approximately Mach 3, receiving tracking coordinates from the payload, including at the launch and landing sites. This successful test of data transmission to and from the payload on a suborbital vehicle showed that using commercial satellite networks are worthy of further testing and development for commercial and government space communications and space asset tracking.

Currently space vehicle operators have proprietary tracking and telemetry systems that for the most part are incompatible with the International and NAS Automation and Surveillance environments. Standard monitoring tools used by Air Traffic Control Systems cannot currently be utilized to monitor the flight paths of space vehicles. Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) has been identified as the cornerstone of the NextGen NAS modernization effort and has been mandated in the U.S. by 2020. Onboard technology based on ADS-B could allow Air Traffic personnel to monitor Commercial Space Vehicles by providing ADS-B position reports to Air Traffic personnel via commercial satellites as demonstrated herein.

In September 2013, Satwest successfully tested that satellite communications could receive and send text messages up to an altitude of 97,000 feet. For this particular flight, Satwest wanted to test commercial satellite communications technology’s effectiveness at very high altitudes. Specific flight objectives for this high-altitude balloon flight were to test our payload's built-in tracking functionality and to test if the payload could send and receive text messages sent to it from the ground at high altitudes, in this case, +97,000 feet. All thirty of the text messages sent from Earth-based computers to Satwest’s satellite communications payload were successfully received by the payload in near space. The payload successfully sent latitude/longitude, and altitude readings every two minutes as programmed to Satwest’s ground based computer. These position reports allowed the research team to visually track the movement of the payload over the Oregon terrain using Google Maps.

In May 2011, Satwest flew a satellite communications payload into space from Spaceport America, onboard an UP Aerospace sounding rocket. The objectives of this test were to confirm the payload could endure the g-forces during the flight and to see that the payload could still function normally after returning from space. The results of both tests were positive. Satwest tested its satellite communications onboard U2 high altitude aircraft several times in the last 5 years. The U2, SR-71 Blackbird spy plane group located at Beale AFB in Sacramento, California tested Satwest’s satellite communications technology at un-classified altitudes of 70,000 feet. All systems functioned appropriately.

Satwest is an affiliate partner of the FAA’s Center of Excellence (COE) for Commercial Space Transportation at New Mexico Space University. Through this partnership, Satwest has invested in-kind funds refining their space communications and tracking technology in support of the FAA.

Area of Interest

NAS Integration

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Nov 5th, 2:00 PM

"Flight Test of Communications in Space via Commercial Communications Satellite Networks on-board Suborbital RLV and High Altitude Balloon: Implications for Space Traffic Management"

Jim Henderson Welcome Center, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Daytona Beach

Over the past several years, Satwest has conducted a number of near space and suborbital spaceflight tests demonstrating the effective use of commercial communication satellite networks for communication to and from vehicles and payloads in space. In June 2013, Satwest’s space communications technology was selected by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program (FOP) for test and development. Satwest has flown two successful payloads into space through the FOP thus far. This paper describes the results of these commercial tests and flight tests through FOP and their potential application to space traffic management through the National Air Space (NAS) and beyond.

In November 2013, Satwest sent the first commercial text message to a payload in space at an altitude of 67 miles at approximately Mach 3, receiving tracking coordinates from the payload, including at the launch and landing sites. This successful test of data transmission to and from the payload on a suborbital vehicle showed that using commercial satellite networks are worthy of further testing and development for commercial and government space communications and space asset tracking.

Currently space vehicle operators have proprietary tracking and telemetry systems that for the most part are incompatible with the International and NAS Automation and Surveillance environments. Standard monitoring tools used by Air Traffic Control Systems cannot currently be utilized to monitor the flight paths of space vehicles. Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) has been identified as the cornerstone of the NextGen NAS modernization effort and has been mandated in the U.S. by 2020. Onboard technology based on ADS-B could allow Air Traffic personnel to monitor Commercial Space Vehicles by providing ADS-B position reports to Air Traffic personnel via commercial satellites as demonstrated herein.

In September 2013, Satwest successfully tested that satellite communications could receive and send text messages up to an altitude of 97,000 feet. For this particular flight, Satwest wanted to test commercial satellite communications technology’s effectiveness at very high altitudes. Specific flight objectives for this high-altitude balloon flight were to test our payload's built-in tracking functionality and to test if the payload could send and receive text messages sent to it from the ground at high altitudes, in this case, +97,000 feet. All thirty of the text messages sent from Earth-based computers to Satwest’s satellite communications payload were successfully received by the payload in near space. The payload successfully sent latitude/longitude, and altitude readings every two minutes as programmed to Satwest’s ground based computer. These position reports allowed the research team to visually track the movement of the payload over the Oregon terrain using Google Maps.

In May 2011, Satwest flew a satellite communications payload into space from Spaceport America, onboard an UP Aerospace sounding rocket. The objectives of this test were to confirm the payload could endure the g-forces during the flight and to see that the payload could still function normally after returning from space. The results of both tests were positive. Satwest tested its satellite communications onboard U2 high altitude aircraft several times in the last 5 years. The U2, SR-71 Blackbird spy plane group located at Beale AFB in Sacramento, California tested Satwest’s satellite communications technology at un-classified altitudes of 70,000 feet. All systems functioned appropriately.

Satwest is an affiliate partner of the FAA’s Center of Excellence (COE) for Commercial Space Transportation at New Mexico Space University. Through this partnership, Satwest has invested in-kind funds refining their space communications and tracking technology in support of the FAA.