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NASA awards contracts to six companies for its future orbital communications

Capitalism in space: NASA has awarded development contracts to six different companies to test the technology for providing the agency orbital communications for its manned missions, replacing the NASA-built TDRS satellite constellation.

In addition to SpaceX and Project Kuiper, the contractors include U.S.-based ventures representing Inmarsat, SES, Telesat and Viasat. Each venture will be required to complete technology development and in-space demonstrations by 2025 to prove that its system can deliver robust, reliable and cost-effective services — including the ability for new high-rate and high-capacity two-way links.

NASA would follow up by negotiating long-term contracts with multiple vendors to acquire services for near-Earth operations by 2030, while phasing out satellite communications systems owned and operated by the space agency.

Because NASA’s own station will likely be gone when these new in-space communications constellations become operational, their likely customers will not be NASA but the private space stations now under development. NASA is thus accepting responsibility for paying the cost for getting this communications need developed, for all the private companies. While the private space stations should eventually pay for using and building these constellations, it makes sense for NASA to get this started. No one company could likely afford or even be willing to pay the entire cost, and getting them all to work out an arrangement now would be difficult. NASA in turn can get it done now, and then later negotiate contracts with the private stations to pay for its construction and use.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

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Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

2 comments

  • craig

    It doesn’t really have anything to do with private space stations. Some of them might eventually be users of the system, but not necessarily.

    NASA has launched, operated, maintained, and replaced the fleet of TDRSS relay satellites since the 1980s. They are used by many separate missions — NASA’s as well as others’. This award looks to be doing for TDRSS what the ISS Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs did for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the ISS: taking a well-defined requirement for services with ongoing demand, and outsourcing it to private industry.

  • Edward

    Craig thought: “It doesn’t really have anything to do with private space stations.

    Actually, it almost certainly does have to do with the future private space stations. From the GeekWire article:

    The Communications Services Project is intended to smooth the transition from NASA’s constellation of dedicated communication satellites, known as Tracking and Data Relay Satellites or TDRS, to a commercially operated network that draws upon multiple providers.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._tracking_and_data_relay_satellite

    the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) used by NASA and other United States government agencies for communications to and from independent “User Platforms” such as satellites, balloons, aircraft, the International Space Station, and remote bases like the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

    Once ISS is decommissioned, NASA will only have the future private space stations as places to do continuous manned spaceflight. With TDRS being replaced by these commercial communication services, NASA will only have these service providers in order to communicate with their astronauts on the private space stations. I cannot imagine that the private space stations would have their own continuous communication systems when these providers would be able to do the job inexpensively.

    “We’re designing Project Kuiper to deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband service to a wide range of customers, and this award is an additional vote of confidence that we’re on the right path,” Thomas said. “We’re excited to provide our government customers with a secure, reliable and resilient communications network, and proud to support future NASA missions requiring advanced space-to-space communications.”

    “A wide range of customers” most likely includes these private space stations.

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