NASA Glenn Research engineers prepare the SCaN Testbed flight system hardware in Vacuum Facility 6 for rigorous thermal-vacuum testing. Image Credit: NASA
and improved ways for future space travelers to communicate will be
tested on the International Space Station after a launch later this year
from Japan. The SCaN Testbed, or Space Communications and Navigation
Testbed, was designed and built at NASA’s Glenn Research Center over the
last three years.
SCaN Testbed will provide an orbiting laboratory on space station for
the development of Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology. These
systems will allow researchers to conduct a suite of experiments over
the next several years, enabling the advancement of a new generation of
testbed will be the first space hardware to provide an experimental
laboratory to demonstrate many new capabilities, including new
communications, networking and navigation techniques that utilize
Software Defined Radio technology. The SCaN Testbed includes three such
radio devices, each with different capabilities. These devices will be
used by researchers to advance this technology over the Testbed’s five
year planned life in orbit.
software defined radio is purposely reconfigured during its lifetime,
which makes it unique,” says Diane Cifani Malarik, project manager for
the SCaN Testbed. This is made possible by software changes that are
sent to the device, allowing scientists to use it for a multitude of
functions, some of which might not be known before launch. Traditional
radio devices cannot be upgraded after launch.
developing these devices, future space missions will be able to return
more scientific information, because new software loads can add new
functions or accommodate changing mission needs. New software loads can
change the radio’s behavior to allow communication with later missions
that may use different signals or data formats.
Glenn Research Center engineers and technicians (left to right, clockwise): Joe Kerka, Tom Hudach, Andrew Sexton, and Allan Rybar transport the SCaN Testbed flight system in the West High Bay area of the Power Systems Facility on a dolly cart. The team prepares to perform weight and center of gravity tests on the flight system hardware using lift equipment suspended in the background. Image Credit: NASA
SCaN Testbed is a complex space laboratory, comprised of three SDRs,
each with unique capabilities aimed at advancing different aspects of
the technology. Two SDRs were developed under cooperative agreements
with General Dynamics and Harris Corp., and the third was developed by
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. JPL also
provided the five-antenna system on the exterior of the testbed, used to
communicate with NASA’s orbiting communications relay satellites and
NASA ground stations across the United States.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., developed communications software that resides on the JPL SDR.
led the design, development, integration, test and evaluation effort
and provided all the facilities needed to fabricate, assemble and test
the SCaN Testbed, including a flight machine shop, large thermal/vacuum
chamber, electromagnetic interference testing with reverberant
capabilities, a large clean room and multiple antenna ranges, including
one inside the clean room.
also will be the hub of mission operations for the SCaN Testbed, with
high-speed ties to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville,
Ala., for real-time command and telemetry interfaces with space station.
NASA Johnson Space Center’s White Sands Test Facility, Las Cruces,
N.M., and Goddard’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., will
provide Space Network and Near Earth Network communications.
SCaN Testbed will launch to space station on Japanese Aerospace
Exploration Agency’s H-IIB Transfer Vehicle (HTV-3) and be installed by
extravehicular robotics to the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier-3 on the
exterior truss of space station.
SCaN Testbed will join other NASA network components to help build
capabilities for a new generation of space communications for human