Technology Enterprise and Mission Pathfinder Office (TEMPO)
The Technology Enterprise and Mission Pathfinder Office (TEMPO) was created in October 2016 to organize, incubate, and infuse mission-enabling communications and navigation technologies and projects.
The office manages the innovation pipeline for Goddard’s space communications and navigation capabilities. TEMPO is an incubator for technologies and projects within the Exploration and Space Communications (ESC) projects division, nurturing some of NASA’s most ambitious science and technology missions.
The TEMPO team undertakes a wide variety of breakthrough efforts in communications and navigation technologies and capabilities. Their portfolio includes incubated projects, pathfinder missions, technology development, and pre-formulation studies. TEMPO leads mission-enabling concept studies, identifies cross-cutting capability gaps, initiates and oversees technology infusion, performs experiments and evaluations, and applies entrepreneurial methods to deliver results.
TEMPO ensures that ESC remains at the forefront of space communications and navigation technologies for the next generation of science and exploration.
After identifying gaps in communications and navigation capabilities, the TEMPO team invests in technologies that can close these gaps. The team gets projects off the ground by presenting the technology’s benefits, securing funding, creating a development team, and formulating a plan and schedule. The TEMPO team provides guidance and advice for these incubated projects until they have reached a maturation level to be used in operational NASA missions.
An example of a TEMPO-incubated project is the Laser-Enhanced Mission Communication Navigation and Operational Services (LEMNOS) Pipeline, which started in TEMPO to develop an optical communications terminal for the upcoming Artemis missions. After months of guidance, the LEMNOS team became its own project, independent of TEMPO.
Additionally, TEMPO recently incubated the new Lunar Communications Relay and Navigation Systems (LCRNS) project, which became its own project in January 2022. LCRNS is managing the acquisition and implementation of lunar relay services to support the Artemis Moon missions.
TEMPO also executes missions and projects that increase communications and navigation technology readiness levels. Often, these missions are further proving a capability or technology that has been studied but needs further investigation.
To prove and test Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) capabilities on the Moon, TEMPO is leading the development of the Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment (LuGRE) in partnership with the Italian Space Agency (ASI). High-altitude GNSS signals have been studied with missions like the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, but LuGRE is expected to obtain the first GNSS location solution on the lunar surface. The data gathered will be used to develop operational lunar GNSS systems for future missions to the Moon.
TEMPO’s mission is to infuse advanced technologies in mission architectures. Their work focuses on high-performance links, including enhanced radio frequency communications, optical communications, and quantum communications, as well as improved networking methods.
One of TEMPO’s original goals was to increase the technology readiness level of optical communications. The office conducted studies, wrote papers, attended conferences, and chartered a technology roadmap to infuse optical into architectures. Now, multiple NASA missions plan to use optical communications alongside radio frequency to receive more data from space.
The TEMPO team led development of NASA’s TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) system, which launched on May 25, 2022 as a hosted payload on the Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 CubeSat. TBIRD is demonstrating 200 gigabit per second downlinks - the highest optical downlink NASA has ever achieved! TBIRD will show that optical is a viable option for science missions near-Earth.
TEMPO is applying this same infusion strategy to quantum communications. TEMPO established the M2.0 study to enable an intercontinental quantum network, to help realize national strategic goals like intercontinental quantum entanglement distribution. These innovations could enable improved security, enhanced timing architectures, and serve as key infrastructure for a future quantum internet.
The TEMPO team also is championing for the implementation of Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) into NASA’s communications architecture. DTN’s Bundle Protocol will extend internet-like capabilities to space, where end-to-end links may be unavailable or limited. TEMPO is working with NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean and Ecosystem (PACE) mission, which will be the first space-based operational use of DTN through NASA’s Near Space Network.
In response to a 2019 call for lunar communications and navigation architectures, TEMPO led a multi-disciplinary study team at Goddard Space Flight Center. This study resulted in LunaNet, NASA’s plan to bring internet-like capabilities to the Moon.
The LunaNet architecture leverages Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking and other innovative capabilities to create a flexible, extensible, and interoperable lunar communications and navigation architecture. LunaNet will enable the Artemis program while providing a platform for NASA to build out network services further into the solar system.
LunaNet will provide users with four services: networking; positioning, navigation and timing; detection and information; and science. With LunaNet in place, users will experience an operational environment similar to that experienced by internet users on Earth. LunaNet is intended to be entirely interoperable and will be created by NASA, other government agencies, academic institutions, and the commercial aerospace industry.
The LunaNet effort was elevated to a NASA Headquarters-level project and is now being led out of the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program office. The TEMPO team actively participates in the LunaNet effort and is helping refine the architecture.
Version Four of the LunaNet Interoperability Specification is available now.
Download the document here.
This document is based on collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency and in that effort, we continue to seek input from others in private industry and government with an interest in lunar communications and navigation as a mission user or service provider.
Please send any feedback or questions you may have to
Your input will be reviewed and considered for incorporation into a future version of the specification.
To learn more or work with us, contact:
ESC Communications Architect
3RD GENERATION PARTNERSHIP PROJECT
The TEMPO team is actively participating in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) effort, bringing the capabilities of terrestrial networking to the lunar region. 3GPP is an umbrella organization known for the development of mobile telecommunications standards and intends to deliver “smart-device networking experiences” to remote areas, such as space.
The goal of the NASA 3GPP effort is to leverage industry expertise and experience and apply interoperable standards to lunar exploration efforts.
If you’re interested in contributing to NASA’s 3GPP effort, contact us:
Goddard Space Flight Center
Other Useful Resources: