CesiumAstro is celebrating the successful initial tests of the company’s CommPack cross-link communications payload on the NASA Starling mission’s CubeSats. With these tests complete, the CommPack system achieves TRL 9 status, the highest technology readiness level, and the NASA Starling team is set to begin communications experiments with the cross-link radios in the coming weeks.
Launched aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket in July of 2023, the Starling mission is flying a collaborative “swarm” of spacecraft that will perform coordinated activities in various areas, including in-space network communications, relative navigation between spacecraft, autonomous maneuver planning and execution, and distributed spacecraft autonomy. The mission will demonstrate how distributed spacecraft autonomy increases resilience, allowing them to continue functioning even when communication from the ground is temporarily unavailable due to distance or location.
CesiumAstro’s CommPack payload includes two S-band antennas, the SDR-1001 SDR (software-defined radio), and the company’s carrier-sense multiple access/time-division duplexed (CSMA/TDD) waveform enabling mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) in space. The satellites will use CommPack to establish and maintain the dynamic communications network between the spacecraft in the swarm.
Starling is funded by NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. Starling joins a growing list of civil, commercial, and defense missions flying CesiumAstro’s communications systems.
“We would like to congratulate NASA on the successful launch and continued operation of the Starling mission. Achieving TRL 9 status is an important milestone for our CommPack payload, and we are extremely proud to help NASA validate mobile ad hoc networking in space as a foundational technology for future formation flying and on-orbit servicing missions.” — Shey Sabripour, founder and CEO of CesiumAstro