Challenges of integrating NASAs space communication networks
2013 IEEE International Systems Conference (SysCon)
The transition to new technology, innovative ideas, and resistance to change is something that every industry experiences. Recent examples of this shift are changing to using robots in the assembly line construction of automobiles or the increasing use of robotics for medical procedures. Most often this is done with cost-reduction in mind, though ease of use for the customer is also a driver. All industries experience the push to increase efficiency of their systems; National Aeronautics and
... Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the commercial space industry are no different. NASA space communication services are provided by three separately designed, developed, maintained, and operated communications networks known as the Deep Space Network (DSN), Near Earth Network (NEN) and Space Network (SN). The Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program is pursuing integration of these networks and has performed a variety of architecture trade studies to determine what integration options would be the most effective in achieving a unified user mission support organization, and increase the use of common operational equipment and processes. The integration of multiple, legacy organizations and existing systems has challenges ranging from technical to cultural. The existing networks are the progeny of the very first communication and tracking capabilities implemented by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) more than 50 years ago and have been customized to the needs of their respective user mission base. The technical challenges to integrating the networks are many, though not impossible to overcome. The three distinct networks provide the same types of services, with customizable data rates, bandwidth, frequencies, and so forth. The differences across the networks have occurred in effort to satisfy their user missions' needs. Each new requirement has made the networks more unique and harder to integrate. The cultural challenges, however, have proven to be a significant obstacle for integration. Over the past few decades of use, user missions and network personnel alike have grown accustomed to the processes by which services are provided by the NASA communications and navigation networks. The culture established by each network has created several challenges that need to be overcome in order to effectively integrate the networks. As with any change, there has been resistance, an apprehension to explore automation of existing processes, and a working environment that attempts to indirectly influence change without mandating compliance. Overcoming technical and cultural challenges is essential to successfully integrating the networks and although the challenges are numerous, the integration of the networks promises a more efficient space communications network for NASA and its customers, as well as potential long-term cost savings to the agency. This paper, Challenges of Integrating NASA Legacy Communications Networks, will provide a brief overview of the current NASA space communications networks as well as the an overview of the process implemented while performing the SCaN Trade Studies and an introduction to the requirements driving integration of the SCaN Networks. This paper will describe in detail the challenges experienced, both technical and cultural, while working with NASA space communications network-specific personnel. The paper will also cover lessons learned during the performance of architecture trade studies and provide recommendations for ways to improve the process.