May 28, 2018
Christopher J. Roberts, David R. McCormick, Robert N. Tye, Eric J. Harris, David L. Carter, John J. Hudiburg, Patricia H. Peskett, Peter B. Celeste, Patricia R. Perrotto

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Near Earth Network (NEN) Project is implementing a new launch communications ground segment to provide services for the next generation of human and robotic space exploration systems. It will deliver unique and advanced capabilities to accelerate the transformation of Kennedy Space Center into a multi-user spaceport in cooperation with the United States Air Force (USAF). The project has leveraged commercial technologies and remote operations concepts matured in NASAs orbiting satellite ground systems to achieve dramatic lifecycle cost efficiencies as compared to the space shuttle-era ground segment. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the development history, capabilities and anticipated use cases of the NEN Launch Communications Segment (NEN LCS).The NASA Kennedy Space Center is co-located with the USAF Eastern Launch Range at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The USAF operates two launch communications ground stations, but they are not designed to transmit voice, commands or other data to the launch vehicle or astronauts. The bi-directional uplink-downlink communications responsibility for human missions has historically resided with the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Several market analyses and feasibility studies investigating concepts to provide NASAs next generation launch communications services were performed during the Constellation Program prior to its cancellation in 2009, and as part of the Kennedy Space Centers follow-on efforts to transform itself into a 21st century multi-user spaceport. In 2012, the Kennedy Space Center and the USAF 45th Space Wing jointly led a study to analyze the market needs of current and future launch systems and assess the operational deficiencies of the Eastern Range infrastructure. The study team issued several recommendations, two of which ultimately became driving operational capability requirements for the NEN LCS: increased telemetry data rates of at least 20 Mbps, and S-band uplink capability. Additional capabilities identified in the requirements development process include spread spectrum modulation support, LDPC 12 and 78 error correction codes, support for IRIG-106 and CCSDS data formats, automated best source selection, and Space Link Extension (SLE) services for data distribution. The NEN LCS is comprised of two permanent ground stations, the new Kennedy Uplink Station (KUS) and refurbished Ponce de Leon (PDL) station. Both stations are remotely operated from the Global Monitor and Control Center at Wallops Flight Facility. This core architecture is extensible through host-tenant arrangements with the U.S. Air Force and deployable assets, enabling agile, tailored and robust solutions to meet the needs of civil, commercial or military customers. The NEN LCS has three use cases:1.To provide agile, tailored and robust launch communications solutions to Florida spaceport customers2.To provide orbital communications services to near-earth customers 3.To provide an experimental proving ground for Space Mobile Network concepts and technologies The NEN LCS driving mission is to support the bi-directional link with the Orion crew capsule and two 20 Mbps telemetry links from the Space Launch System core stage on Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of NASAs flagship human exploration systems.