CommStar Space Communications to deploy next-generation hybrid data relay satellite between the Earth and the Moon by 2023
(16 June 2020 - CommStar Space) CommStar Space Communications has announced its intention to deploy an advanced, proprietary data relay satellite (CommStar-1) to be located between the Earth and the Moon by 2023.
CommStar Space is also excited that its decision to deploy CommStar-1 is a major step by the private sector in accelerating the transition of the government out of building and operating taxpayer-funded communications infrastructure in favor of a new role as customer.
Serving as an advanced network access point located in the Cislunar service area, CommStar-1 will be capable of receiving and relaying both optical and radio frequency communications between the Moon and the Earth. CommStar-1 will provide active, “always on,” advanced data services over the more than 225,000-mile distance but will be situated closer to the Moon, i.e. 41632 miles. CommStar-1 relay infrastructure will be designed as a hybrid system for both radio frequency and optical (laser) communications. CommStar-1 will be a larger communications platform than anything currently contemplated to be located on the lunar surface or in orbit around the Moon, with significant space, weight, and power (“SWaP”) dedicated for enhanced relay data transmission. Customers of CommStar-1 can design their lunar payloads for higher speed connectivity and robust bandwidth capacity on their platforms whilst avoiding the critical trade-offs of costly “SWaP” dedicated solely for ultra-long-haul communications. These returned benefits will allow critical “Price per LB to Space” costs to be reallocated away from solely communications to more valuable tasks.
“CommStar Space intends to mark another milestone in humankind’s journey off planet by stating its intention to be the first privately-funded space communications and navigation system, CommStar-1, specifically for commercial and government users on and around the Moon,” said Fletcher Brumley, President of CommStar Space Communications. “The CommStar Space Team and its international consortium members, vendors, and future customers are excited about this new opportunity to participate in humankind’s next great chapter – its expansion beyond low earth orbit and return to the Moon”.
CommStar Space seeks a new type of communications satellite to serve the anticipated needs of government and commercial ventures out of low earth orbit, into the Cislunar space, to the Moon, and ultimately beyond. CommStar-1 is designed to be the first such satellite in a family of similar systems.
Service Objective: A space-based Cislunar Network Access Point (C-NAP) with unique proprietary onboard capabilities located at a stable, diverse placement location visually accessible from multiple space communications locations and platforms, e.g. Cislunar, GEO, Moon, and with additional family of satellites deployed, Deep Space. Its primary purpose is to serve as a hybrid data communications relay between space-based platforms – Cislunar, Moon – and customer locations on the Earth, e.g. 2023.
Design Goals: Data Relay Satellite with Unique onboard service capabilities:
- Receive/distribute radio frequency & optical (laser) communications from and between Cislunar, Moon, and Earth
- Fully “On” integration and interoperability with other space and ground infrastructures – Cislunar, Moon and Earth
- Cloud-based Data Distribution, Open Architecture, Software-defined, end-to-end user management
- User to Space; Space to User via ON DEMAND SaaS or PaaS software system
- User data distributed DIRECTLY via existing interconnection between space and ground stations to diverse cloud storage facility (colo; host), corporate premise, university/lab via terrestrial fiber, subsea cable, or facilities.
A key industrial partner of the CommStar Space consortium is the design and build vendor of CommStar-1. CommStar Space has entered a Letter of Intent with Thales Alenia Space for the design of its advanced hybrid satellite (RF & Optical). This satellite is intended to be the first such satellite in a family of systems, privately owned and operated, to be deployed to serve as the primary relay infrastructure for space and lunar communications between the Moon and the Earth. CommStar-1 will have the ability to perform several data management missions, RF or Optical, between the Earth and the Moon. In the UK, Thales Alenia Space will lead the design team, drawing upon over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and partnerships with affiliates and industrial partners from across Europe. CommStar Space’s service partners will also participate in the design of CommStar-1 to ensure interoperability with their terrestrial and space-based networks.
“Thales Alenia Space is excited by the opportunity to offer our combined capabilities in telecommunications and deep space missions to provide satellites for this innovative Cislunar Service offering from CommStar Space” said Nigel Towers, Head of Strategy, Marketing and Sales at Thales Alenia Space UK.”
The provision of advanced “end-to-end” data communications services between the Earth and the Moon requires access to significant infrastructure, not only in space, but also across the Earth. CommStar Space is developing commercial, interconnection relationships with communications service providers, which will permit “On-Net” access to an existing, privately-financed, multi-billion-dollar, diverse global infrastructure – space, ground, fiber, cloud storage, hardware, and software – under industry standard terms. These service providers are owner/operators of significant global network infrastructure, such as fiber, data storage, software computing systems, and disbursed ground stations. All are currently or have been service suppliers to US & European Government departments and agencies, including NASA, ESA, USAF, of terrestrial telecommunication services. CommStar Space is simply extending their existing suite of offering to and from the Moon.
CommStar-1 is designed for the next-generation systems and entrepreneur businesses that are leading the way to the return to the Moon. These firms must design their spacecraft and their business models for the harsh realities of space travel, a possible lunar landing, and whilst pursuing their science or commercial goals. Every KG of weight carried to space must make or could break a lunar business case. Having the confidence that there will be a network access point 85% closer to them than the Earth provides greater certainty and reduces a potential unnecessary capital expenditure. That is the primary role of CommStar-1 – to relieve weight sensitive lunar ventures from having to try to connect directly to the Earth. The capabilities of CommStar-1 are being discussed today amongst new ventures in the space business community; companies planning a diverse range of commercial activities on the Moon. These space entrepreneurs have expressed initial interest in using CommStar-1 to ensure reliable and efficient communications services. In addition, these companies will certainly stimulate additional business opportunities for aerospace designers and suppliers for new communications equipment and software – lighter, more efficient, cost-effective – the primary purpose of which will be to connect with CommStar-1.
Currently, space communications have been primarily the responsibility of government owned, operated communications networks and managers. Commercial company participation has been as vendors of communications equipment, facilities, or as an O&M network manager of taxpayer funded hardware and software infrastructure for government space and defense agencies. International space agencies, such as NASA and ESA, would like to see those infrastructure costs and responsibilities transferred to the private sector, leaving government agencies free to buy communications services – as a customer, not owner/operator – from commercial providers, and focus limited taxpayer resources on space platforms and “off-planet” exploration – manned or unmanned.
NASA has publicly committed to the Trump Administration’s policy of commercialization of space communications in hopes the commercial sector – US, UK, European – will step-forward to exploit this new opportunity.
“This is an opportunity to promote U.S. industry, potentially improve the cost of service, and allow NASA to place its energy and focus on advanced capabilities which are not yet available in the commercial market,’ Badri Younes, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation, said by email.”
The entry of a diverse group of advanced communications firms – on the Earth and soon the Moon, as well as the Cislunar space between – will accelerate NASA goals of commercialization whilst also commercialization policies now affords these global firms and private capital the opportunity to enter the space communications market. CommStar Space Communications seeks to lead that transition to commercial space communications.
About CommStar Space Communications
CommStar Space Communications, LLC, was founded with the intent to transform the way space communications are delivered, operated, and made accessible. Together, with its growing group of interested service providers, and customers, it will bring the next generation networking technology to benefit companies and governments alike in their efforts to explore further the moon, planets, and ultimately deep space.
About Thales Alenia Space
Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science, and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, when offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 2.15 billion euros in 2019 and has around 7,700 employees in nine countries.