Dynamic Networking for Swarms

Launched in July 2023, NASA’s Starling mission is a collaborative “swarm” of spacecraft performing coordinated activities, including in-space network communications, relative navigation between spacecraft, autonomous maneuver planning and execution, and distributed spacecraft autonomy. The mission is demonstrating how distributed spacecraft autonomy increases resilience, allowing them to continue functioning even when communication from the ground is temporarily unavailable due to distance or location.

Our CommPack subsystem is integrated on the four Starling CubeSats to establish and maintain the dynamic communications network between the spacecraft in the swarm. The CommPack payloads include two S-band antennas, an SDR-1001 software-defined radio, and our carrier-sense multiple access/time-division duplexed (CSMA/TDD) waveform enabling mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) in space. Utilizing an adaptive modem and Reed Solomon coding, the data rate adapts in real-time to support changing channel conditions.

A wireframe of a Starling 6U CubeSat with integrated CommPack payload