SpaceLink and Axiom Space announced plans to undertake the first demonstration of their space data relay offering on the ISS (International Space Station) on February 17th. The ISS National Laboratory’s manager, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, has given McLean, which is a Virginia-centered SpaceLink a deal to test transmission of data from the Space Station using optical terminals at a speed of 10 gigabits for every second.
SpaceLink gave Axiom a subcontract to assist mission integration, deployment, and operations after that contract was finalized. Axiom will also act as SpaceLink’s NASA liaison, ensuring that SpaceLink gear passes the ISS’s high safety criteria.
“A good validation to demonstrate data rates to the International Space Station that I believe are possibly one or two orders of the scale higher than what they’ve experienced,” SpaceLink Chief Executive Officer Dave Bettinger said of the demonstration, which is set to take place in 2024.
OHB System AG is building four satellites for commercial and government customers, which it aims to launch into medium Earth orbit (MEO) in 2024. The anticipated service is comparable to what NASA currently provides with its geostationary orbit-based Tracking and Data Relay Satellite constellation.
“We regard it as a significant milestone for us to demonstrate to NASA and the rest of the world that we will be able to provide space services that commercial, government, and international institutions will use in the future,” Bettinger told SpaceNews.
In 2020, Axiom was awarded a NASA contract to create a commercial module for ISS (International Space Station). Axiom also has a set of commercial ISS trips in the works.
In a statement, Axiom president and CEO Michael Suffredini stated, “High-speed communication will be a vital component for the long term where individuals reside in space. Axiom is excited to partner with SpaceLink and assists its relay network, starting with this critical demonstration on the International Space Station.”
After conducting in-orbit testing of its own communications satellites, SpaceLink expects to undertake the data relay demo in the year 2024.
NASA is ready to delegate the task of supplying communications for scores of spaceflight missions, comprising the International Space Station, to the private sector. NASA envisions communications in the Earth orbit as a task that commercial businesses can take over, similar to transportation of cargo and crew to the International Space Station and freight delivery to the moon.
“NASA has done an excellent job of turning commercial when it makes sense and has saved a significant amount of money,” Bettinger said. “We think this is an excellent example. We’re ecstatic to be a member of the CASIS initiative.”