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NASA to try SES’s O3b satellites to connect spacecraft

O3b satellite in orbit copy.jpg

NASA has signed a US$29 million deal with European operator SES that might lead to O3b mPower satellites providing services to US space missions.

The deal is designed to support the development and demonstration of near-Earth communication services in support of the agency’s future mission needs, said SES.

It will be working with Planet Labs PBC, a public Earth imaging company based in San Francisco.

The purpose is to allow NASA to phase out its own operated systems, including proprietary systems, in favour of commercial systems, such as O3b (pictured).

Retired USAF brigadier general Pete Hoene, who is now president and CEO of SES’s government solutions unit, said: “Combining the multi-orbit capabilities of SES … with that of Planet Labs, one of the world’s leading commercial imaging companies, will create the world’s first high-throughput commercial space relay service, enabling timely and data-driven decisions.”

SES will demonstrate commercial radio frequency relay networks for geostationary satellites in the C-band and medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites operating in the Ka-band connecting low Earth orbit (LEO) spacecraft.

The company said these services will include routine missions, contingency operations, launch and ascent, and early operations phase communications.

Under the agreement, SES will complete technology development and in-space demonstrations by 2025, with NASA intending to seek multiple long-term contracts to acquire services for near-Earth operations by 2030.

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