DARPA researching inter-satellite communications

DARPA researching inter-satellite communications

With the increasing number of low-cost micro or nano satellites in orbit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking for ways to help them talk to each other.

In a broad agency announcement released this month, the DARPA is soliciting proposals for lightweight inter-satellite communications links (ISCLs) with data transfer rates greater than 1 megabit/sec and a nominal communications range of 2,000 to 4,000 kilometers – all in a package that weighs less than 2 pounds.  

Low-Earth orbit satellites have myriad uses, from improving battlefield communications to tracking ships on Earth’s oceans, because they provide greater signal strength than satellites that operate in geosynchronous orbit some 22,236 miles above Earth. Constellations of the small satellites could provide inter-satellite data relay, DARPA said, providing a highly survivable mesh of nodes capable of relaying data before downlink to ground stations.

Proposals should enable revolutionary advances in the capabilities available for inter-satellite communications, DARPA said, as it is not interested in incremental advances to existing practices.

The agency stressed that it is looking for a general-purpose design that can be easily integrated onto most microsatellite platforms.

Responses are due Aug. 3, 2015.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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