Viasat and Rocket Lab Partner to Showcase On-Demand, Low-Lat
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Mar 7, 2024

Viasat and Rocket Lab Partner to Showcase On-Demand, Low-Latency Data Relay Services for LEO Satellites

  • Viasat selected Rocket Lab to support its NASA CSP program demonstrations of multi-band space-relay capabilities

Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global leader in satellite communications, today announced it selected Rocket Lab USA, Inc (Nasdaq: RKLB), a leading launch and space systems company, to support Viasat's hybrid space communications networks demonstrations by producing a spacecraft bus and providing mission operation support. The demonstrations will make evident Viasat's portfolio of multi-band, space-based relay communication services in support of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) space missions with substantial flexibility in managing data, with lower data latency and higher throughput in real time.

The demonstrations are part of Viasat's work across two awards, totaling $80 million, under NASA's Communications Services Project (CSP), which is evaluating commercial satellite communications services and technologies to support NASA near-Earth communications requirements as it sunsets the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS).

LEO satellites typically require direct line-of-sight to a ground station to communicate, introducing significant data latency into the mission operations. Viasat's Ka- and L-band relay solutions are designed to address this challenge with near real-time, low-data latency communications. The Real-Time Space Relay (RTSR) space-qualified Ka-band terminal will use Viasat's high-capacity Ka-band network of satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) to enable LEO operators on-demand access to critical mission data. The InCommand system will use Viasat's global L-band network to provide real-time telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) operations at any point in the spacecraft's orbit. Rocket Lab will also provide a new L-band radio for InCommand called Frontier, which will support demonstrations of various TT&C applications.

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Scheduled to launch in early 2026, the demonstration mission will also include direct-to-ground communications through Viasat's Real-Time Earth (RTE) Ground-Station-as-a-Service for S-, X-, and Ka-bands. All transports will be integrated through Viasat's Integrated Space Access Network (ISAN) to show the benefits of adaptable transport, giving LEO operators the ability to access data while balancing network availability, cost, and time-sensitive applications.

"We are proud to support NASA with this critically needed real-time space relay communications capability and excited about our continuing partnership with Rocket Lab to support Viasat's growing space missions portfolio" said Michael Maughan, Vice President of Space and Mission Systems, Viasat Government Systems. "From Earth observation and scientific missions to supporting defense operations, we designed our space relay services to be a highly flexible, cost effective and scalable solution for both government and commercial LEO operators to transport data based on application and mission needs."

Rocket Lab Vice President of Space Systems, Brad Clevenger, said: "Rocket Lab spacecraft are built on configurable, high-performance subsystems based on constellation-class manufacturing. By providing a configurable platform that can be tailored to suit even the most complex missions, our customers can focus on their own novel hardware and services and leave the development and operation of the spacecraft to us. We look forward to supporting Viasat on the NASA CSP mission, as it will also add responsive satellite communications capabilities to our configurable platform."

The Rocket Lab spacecraft will provide the power, communications, propulsion, and attitude control for the mission demonstration. Rocket Lab will incorporate its own satellite components and sub-systems into the spacecraft including star trackers, reaction wheels, solar panels, S-band radios, flight software and ground software, and the new L-band radio in development for the future InCommand service.

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