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Planet Completes Ground Tests With SES for NASA Communications Services Project

By Rachel Jewett | November 3, 2023

      An artist rendering of a NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) in orbit. Photo: NASA

      Planet has completed ground tests for its work as a subcontractor on the NASA Communications Services Project (CSP), the company announced Friday. Planet is a subcontractor for SES Space & Defense and Telesat Government Solutions.

      Planet and SES Space & Defense conducted the first ground demonstration in late August from a user terminal in Mountain View, California, and SES’ NSS-9 satellite in Geostationary Orbit (GEO). Planet used in-house designed flight representative radios, custom spread spectrum waveforms, omni, and directional antennas for this demonstration.

      Planet said it was a successful demonstration and validated the radio and antenna design, link margin, data rates, and latency. This is the first step toward offering a real-time connectivity solution with Planet’s satellites in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). Such a service would provide ubiquitous low data rate intersatellite links using Geostationary Orbit (GEO) C-band beams. 

      “This ground demonstration campaign is a major step forward in Planet’s plans to continue providing the most timely insights possible to our customers,” said Kiruthika Devaraj, vice pesident of Avionics and Spacecraft at Planet.

      The NASA CSP looks to use commercial providers to develop high-rate and high-capacity two-way communications to replace the aging Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) constellation, which provides information relay services to the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope, and other missions. The resulting satcom systems will be designed to serve both NASA mission requirements and commercial customers.

      SES and Telesat selected Planet as a subcontractor for their CSP projects in August 2022.