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Atlas Space Operations Commercial Deep Space Network Pathfinder to Launch on NASA’s First SLS Mission

By Caleb Henry | July 15, 2016
      Atlas ISCN

      Atlas ISCN graphic. Photo: Atlas Space Operations

      [Via Satellite 07-15-2016] Atlas Space Operations has commissioned a pathfinder space mission to demonstrate its Interplanetary Satellite Communications Network (ISCN). The 6U Atlas ISCN pathfinder CubeSat is scheduled to launch in 2018 aboard NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Exploration Mission 1 (EM1), as a participant in the Cube Quest Challenge with Miles Space.

      After completing the challenge objectives, the satellite will move to a storage orbit that coincides with the 2016HO3 asteroid — Earth’s newly discovered quasi-moon. The spacecraft will communicate via the Atlas ISCN at distances reaching 30 million kilometers to prove deep space capabilities are commercially available using Atlas.

      Atlas touts the ISCN as the world’s first commercially available deep space communications network, capable of providing an affordable, commercially available alternative to the established deep space communications capabilities of the world. The company chose Phoenix Arizona for the first ISCN antenna site, with more to follow. Using advances in phased-array technology, Atlas is installing a large array of electronically steered apertures to achieve the performance required to detect and track the faint radio frequency signals typical of deep space missions. The ISCN will have the similar performance attributes as NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), according to the company. Plans are in motion to establish operational deep space capability from Phoenix by July of 2017.