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During 2016–2017, NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Office chartered a study of Deep Space Network (DSN) communications capacity relative to projected future mission demand over the next 30 years. In this paper, an expanded version of the one presented at SpaceOps 2018, we briefly describe the methodology used to analyze capacity versus demand over such a broad timeframe, summarize key findings emerging from the analysis, and discuss the associated recommendations . Performing the analysis entailed: identifying key factors shaping the anticipated future mission set, identifying several alternative future mission set scenarios consistent with these factors, and then analyzing each mission set scenario in terms of required antenna capacity, downlink and uplink capabilities, and spectrum as a function of time. On the basis of these aggregate requirements, DSN loading simulations were then conducted that examined how well each of the postulated mission sets could load up onto the DSN’s “in-plan” architecture. To the extent that capacity shortfalls emerged during these baseline simulations, architectural solutions to the shortfalls were then postulated and tested via additional simulations. In general, the trend analyses and baseline loading simulations indicated a significant progression in challenges over the next three decades. In the current decade, the DSN appeared to be operating very close to capacity. The first projected human exploration mission and its secondary payload launch opportunities for cubeSats traveling beyond GEO contributed to this loading. As a consequence, the main challenge appeared to be managing peak asset contention periods. In the next decade, the DSN continued to operate close to capacity but also began transitioning to more frequent human mission support. Upgrading for, and operating, a human-rated system while continuing to meet robotic mission customer requirements emerged as the key challenge. In the 2030s and beyond, simulations suggested a need for fundamentally new capability and capacity. The high data rates and long link distances characteristic of human Mars exploration drove requirements far beyond what is currently “in-plan.” The key challenge then became determining the most cost-effective combination of RF and optical assets for communicating with the postulated human Mars assets while still providing for the needs of all the other missions across the solar system. Various link budgets, visibility, and loading analyses ultimately suggested that the human Mars exploration demands of the 2030s could best be addressed with two cross-linked RF-optical areostationary relays (or an areostationary relay and deep space habitat) providing a dual “trunk link” to an array of 2-to-3 additional 34 m beam waveguide antennas and an ~8.5 m optical antenna at each DSN Complex. The dual “trunk link” would enable the same amount of total data return to Earth as a single trunk link at twice the data rate, but with only half the required array size on the ground, assuming use of Multiple Spacecraft Per Antenna (MSPA) techniques. MSPA techniques, including a Multiple Uplink Per Antenna (MUPA) technique currently under investigation, also showed promise for reducing asset contention in the decades prior to human Mars exploration.
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Abraham, D. S., MacNeal, B. E., Heckman, D. P., Chen, Y., Wu, J. P., Tran, K., et al. (2018). Recommendations emerging from an analysis of NASA’s deep space communications capacity. In SpaceOps 2018 Conference, CAN-06, Marseille, France, 30 May 2018. Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. URL https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/6.2018-2528.
Tai, W., Abraham, D., & Cheung, K.-M. (2018). Mars planetary network for human exploration era—Potential challenges and solutions. In SpaceOps 2018 Conference, CAN-03, Marseille, France, 29 May 2018 (cited pre-publication).
Abraham, D. S. (2002). Identifying future mission drivers on the deep space network. In SpaceOps 2002 Conference, T3-64, Houston, Texas, October 2002. URL https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/10.2514/6.2002-T3-64 (cited 5 January 2018).
MacNeal, B. E., Abraham, D. S., Hastrup, R. C., Wu, J. P., Machuzak, R. J., Heckman, D. P., et al. (2009). Mission set analysis tool for assessing future demands on NASA’s deep space network. In IEEE Aerospace Conference 2009, April 2009. URL http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/4839377/ (cited 5 January 2018).
Cheung, K.-M., & Abraham, D. S. (2012). End-to-end traffic flow modeling of the integrated SCaN network. Interplanetary Network Progress Report, 42-189 (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, May 15, 2012). URL https://ipnpr.jpl.nasa.gov/progress_report/42-189/title.htm (cited 5 January 2018).
Chen, Y., Abraham, D. S., Heckman, D. P., Kwok, A., MacNeal, B. E., Tran, K., & Wu, J. P. (2016). Architectural and operational considerations emerging from hybrid RF-optical network loading simulations. In Proceedings SPIE 9739, Free-Space Laser Communication and Atmospheric Propagation XXVIII, 97390P (15 March 2016). URL: https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/conference-proceedings-of-spie/9739/1/Architectural-and-operational-considerations-emerging-from-hybrid-RF-optical-network/10.1117/12.2213594.full (cited 10 January 2018).
Morabito, D., & Abraham, D. (2018). Multiple uplinks per antenna (MUPA) signal acquisition schemes. In SpaceOps 2018 Conference, CAN-09, Marseille, France, 31 May 2018 (cited pre-publication).
Abraham, D. S., Finley, S. G., Heckman, D. P., Lay, N. E., Lush, C. M., & MacNeal, B. E. (2015). Opportunistic MSPA demonstration #1: Final Report, Interplanetary Network Progress Report, 42-200 (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, February 15, 2015). URL https://ipnpr.jpl.nasa.gov/progress_report/42-200/title.htm (cited 19 February 2018).
Towfic, Z., Heckman, D, Morabito, D., Rogalin, R., Okino, C., & Abraham, D. (2018). Simulation and analysis of opportunistic MSPA for multiple cubesat deployments. In SpaceOps 2018 Conference, CAN-01, Marseille, France, 28 May 2018 (cited pre-publication).
Biswas, A., Kovalik, J., Srinivasan, M., Shaw, M., Piazolla, S., Wright, M. W., & Farr, W. H. Deep space laser communication. In Proceedings of SPIE 9739, Free-Space Laser Communication and Atmospheric Propagation XXVIII, 97390P (15 March 2016). URL https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/conference-proceedings-of-spie/9739/97390Q/Deep-space-laser-communications/10.1117/12.2217428.full (cited 2 March 2018).
- Recommendations Emerging from an Analysis of NASA’s Deep Space Communications Capacity
Douglas S. Abraham
Bruce E. MacNeal
David P. Heckman
Janet P. Wu
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