NASA’s Communications Services Project Sees Inmarsat Government Select Rocket Lab to Develop L-Band Radio


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Rocket Lab USA, Inc., a leading launch and space systems company, announced it has been selected by Inmarsat Government as partner to develop and manufacture an L-band radio in support of NASA’s Communications Services Project (CSP). CSP seeks to accelerate the development of commercial near-Earth communications services by partnering with satellite communications (SATCOM) providers. Rocket Lab will help enable Inmarsat’s InCommand, a real-time, near-Earth telemetry, command, and control (TT&C) service for satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) for the CSP with the Company’s new Frontier-L radio connecting to Inmarsat’s ELERA global L-band network in geosynchronous orbit (GEO).

As NASA prepares to decommission the agency’s owned and operated Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) system, which has provided communication for the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, and numerous NASA’s Earth-observation satellites, the CSP aims to tap into commercial satellite communications services to ensure future NASA missions have similar reliable, secure, and high-performance space relay capabilities.

Rocket Lab’s Frontier-L radio is a transmitter that will support Inmarsat Government’s demonstrations of a variety of TT&C applications, enabled by Inmarsat’s ELERA worldwide L-band network, including Launch and Early Operations Phase (LEOP), ubiquitous command and control, real-time tasking, and contingency operations for satellites in LEO orbits.

“Rocket Lab and Inmarsat Government both share a culture of innovation, pioneering technology and delivering reliable mission success, so we’re honored to be working together to support NASA in this vital project to enable major missions of the future,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “We look forward to building on the strong heritage of our Frontier radios by supporting Inmarsat’s world-renowned satellite network and leading capabilities providing satcom as a service.”

Frontier-L join’s Rocket Lab’s existing line of radios including the software-defined telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) S-band Frontier-S and X-band Frontier-X radios which can support near Earth and deep space missions. Based on the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Applied Physics Lab (APL) Frontier Radio, Frontier-L packs Deep Space Network (DSN) and other typical waveforms (SN, KSAT, SSC) into a compact package with up-screened commercial components for high reliability applications. The family of Frontier by Rocket Lab radios includes extended functionality not typically available in a low-cost radio including a coherent transponder to enable radiometric navigation methods, precision timekeeping functions, forward error correction (FEC) encoding and decoding, and a hardware based critical command decoder (CCD).

Steve Gizinski, President, Inmarsat Government, said, “Inmarsat Government has joined with major space-based industry suppliers to demonstrate the capabilities of Inmarsat’s ELERA global, reliable satellite network, including for NASA’s Communications Services Project and Rocket Lab is a key partner for us. Rocket Lab’s Frontier-L radio will leverage InCommand on the ELERA network as an important new capability for ubiquitous command and control to enhance the operation of low Earth orbit spacecraft. This will enable new communications services for industry and government alike.”

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