NASA's Near Earth Network (NEN) is a customer driven organization that provides comprehensive communications services to space assets. The NEN provides TT&C services for orbital missions and occasionally sub-orbital missions. The NEN provides services to a wide variety of mission customers with missions in low-earth orbits (LEO), geosynchronous orbits (GEO), highly elliptical orbits, Lagrange orbits, Lunar orbits, Lunar surface and transfer, sub-orbital and launch trajectories, at multiple frequency bands through all phases of a mission's lifetime.
The NEN mission is to use ground-based antennas to provide “best value” TT&C services to NASA missions operating in the near-Earth region now and in the future.
NEN objectives are:
- Providing services to customers identified in the Space Communications Mission Model
- Providing services of sufficient type, quantity and quality to meet customer mission requirements
- Providing services as efficiently (inexpensively) as possible
The NEN provides services from a diverse collection of antenna assets located around the world. Many of the NEN sites are located in prime polar locations to provide service to high-inclination polar orbiting spacecraft. Because polar orbiting spacecraft pass over the Earth's poles each orbit, stations in near polar locations, such as Norway, Alaska, and Antarctica, can provide services to polar orbiting spacecraft nearly every orbit.
NASA's mid-latitude and equatorial ground stations provide support to both low-inclination orbital missions, and to geosynchronous (GEO) spacecraft, and are located near launch ranges to provide effective launch range tracking services. The Merritt Island Launch Annex (MILA) station in Florida provides launch support to shuttle missions launching from Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The ground station assets located at Wallops Island, Virginia, are in a prime location to provide orbital support to low-inclination customers, launch tracking services to the launch range at Wallops, and provide some coverage to launches from KSC. Stations are distributed around the globe to provide mission-critical event coverage.
Currently, there are NASA owned / maintained stations that are dedicated to NASA customer missions, as well as commercially owned stations.
The stations owned by NASA include:
NASA provides a significant portion of its space communications services by contracting commercial ground station providers to support NASA missions. The commercial apertures provided by these contractors are available to NASA's NEN customers through existing contracts. Commercial data service providers currently available include:
The Universal Space Network and the Santiago Satellite Station are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Swedish Space Corporation. Additional information about commercial sites as well as ASF may be acquired on the respective provider's web site:
- Kongsberg Satellite Services
- Alaska Satellite Facility
- Universal Space Network
- Swedish Space Corporation Chile
- Swedish Space Corporation Kiruna
- Weilheim Tracking Station
- Hartebeesthoek Tracking Station