Invited Presentation: “NASA’S Future Communication Architecture and Approach for Cognitive Communications”

NASA is in the midst of defining the next generation space architecture for the near Earth and deep space domains in the 2025 to 2040 timeframe. For decades NASAs Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) and the ground-based Near Earth Network (NEN) and Deep Space Network (DSN) have provided a wide variety of communications and navigation services to meet the needs of NASA along with other government agencies, and international partner space agencies. As NASAs future missions and human exploration plans continue to evolve and reach new destinations and objectives, the communication systems must also evolve. The new architecture will provide communications and navigation services to conduct science and exploration activities in the years to come. New technologies such as optical communication links, inter-networking among mission, relay, and surface elements, and cognition and autonomy will help conduct space missions more efficiently and effectively. Early assessment of these new technologies is critical to understand their potential, risk, and role in the new architecture. In particular, cognition and intelligent systems offer the potential of improved efficiency and automation. However, flexible reconfigurable systems also bring a certain amount of risk and complexity as radios adjust or change themselves in response to their situation. The SCaN Testbed, a reconfigurable communications experimental system, comprised of three software defined radios, integrated into a flight system and mounted to the truss of the International Space Station has been studying SDRs for mission use and investigating the role of cognitive communications. Experiments on the SCaN Testbed include high rate communications, adaptive link changes based on variable and adaptive coding and modulation standards, on-board routing, disruptive tolerant networking, and planned experiments in cognitive decision making and automation. As the SCaN Testbed enters its fourth year of operations, emphasis on intelligent and cognitive applications will begin to demonstrate the real potential of software defined and cognitive radios. This presentation provides an overview of NASAs networks, its plans for the next generation space architecture and a discussion of the intelligent system concepts under consideration to enable greater space science, exploration, and technology advancement.


Richard Reinhart is a senior communications engineer with NASA’s Glenn Research Center, located in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the Principal Investigator for NASA’s software defined radio (SDR) flight experiment aboard International Space Station, called the Space Communications and Navigation Testbed and is leading studies and assessing technologies to define NASA’s future communications’ architecture. He has worked with space communications technology development for over 25 years on various satellite, radio and array antenna technologies. He received his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Electrical Engineering from The University of Toledo and Cleveland State University, respectively. Mr. Reinhart has published a number of technical papers and conference presentations associated with the SCAN Testbed, SDR technology, and the Ka-band Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS), one of the first Ka-band satellites. He is a principal author of the SDR Space Telecommunications Radio Standard (STRS) architecture, now a NASA-wide standard. He founded and chaired the Wireless Innovation (SDR) Forum’s Space Applications Study Group and is the Technical Chair for the 2016 AIAA International Communications Satellite Systems Conference (ICSSC-2016).