Space Systems/Loral (SSL), a leading provider of commercial satellites, today highlighted its role in supporting NASA's initiative to benefit from the commercial space industry. Two NASA programs, which recently reached important milestones, benefited from commercial technology contribution from SSL.
SSL provided the propulsion system for NASA's Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, which is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and currently is orbiting the moon. Additionally, SSL was awarded the next phase of hosted payload accommodation development for the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), which recently completed the important Preliminary Design Review (PDR) process.
"SSL congratulates the NASA Ames LADEE team on its tremendous successes, which included perfect insertion into lunar orbit," said John Celli, president of SSL. "We'd also like to congratulate the team from NASA Goddard on its record setting demonstration of two-way laser communications as well as completing its LCRD design review."
The LADEE spacecraft depended on the SSL-built propulsion system to reach its lunar orbit on Oct. 12. In its LADEE updates, NASA stated that the Lunar Insertion Maneuver was "very accurate, and required no course adjustments." The update continued to say, "this is impressive performance of the propulsion system..."
The propulsion system is based on the mission critical system used over many years on the geostationary satellites that SSL builds for television, radio, broadband internet, meteorology and a host of other services. There are currently 74 SSL-built satellites operating in geosynchronous orbit today that use a similar propulsion architecture.
"SSL has been an important part of the team that created the LADEE spacecraft," said Butler Hine, LADEE Project Manager at NASA Ames Research Center. "The commercial experience that SSL brought to the team really enabled an innovative approach for LADEE."
The LADEE spacecraft carries the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) on board, designed, built, and operated by MIT's Lincoln Laboratory which recently set a record for transmitting data from the moon to Earth. The test demonstrated high data rate communications that have the potential to transform communications from outer space. This successful demonstration is a vital precursor to a more comprehensive and enduring demonstration that will be facilitated by SSL.
SSL partnered with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to place a Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), as a hosted payload, on a commercial satellite to be built by SSL. Sponsored by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, LCRD is a technology demonstration that combines commercial and government developments. By hosting the LCRD payload on a commercial communications satellite built by SSL, this demonstration will be an enduring test bed that helps transition optical communications technology into operation. The LCRD project recently completed its PDR on Nov. 1, and SSL was given the authorization to finalize the design for accommodating the payload on its 1300 satellite bus.
As the optical modules and ground stations for LCRD are being developed, SSL is working with its commercial customers to identify an appropriate host satellite for the demonstration. Laser communications technology is expected to provide next generation capability for NASA exploration missions and it may also hold significant benefits for future commercial satellite communications.
"SSL's performance on the LCRD payload accommodation has met all of our accommodation criteria and exceeded all of our expectations," said Mike Weiss, LCRD Project Manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Companies with a commercial space focus, such as SSL, are helping NASA to reduce costs and maximize benefits while we continue to implement game-changing new technologies."