Exelis announced in its press release on Thursday that it has successfully provided communications support to NASA's Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) Mission.
The EFT-1 Mission is the first orbital test flight of the NASA Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, which is a spacecraft intended to carry a crew of astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit. The successful EFT-1 Mission marked a critical step in NASA's return to human space exploration.
Exelis, in its role as NASA's Space Communications Network Services (SCNS) prime contractor, managed the ground and space assets, which enabled communication with the Orion capsule during its mission.
Exelis conducted compatibility testing and risk-mitigation testing to ensure the NASA Space Network would seamlessly support the EFT-1 mission. Unique tests were formulated and conducted to prepare for the EFT-1 Mission and characterize expected in-flight communications performance.
In support of the EFT-1 Mission, Exelis modified the NASA Space Network to operate with the new, high-performance Orion communications signal format. The Orion signal format is based upon novel Low Density Parity Check (LDPC) codes designed and developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
LDPC codes are more power-efficient than conventional space communication codes and this translates to improved spacecraft size, weight and power characteristics. The EFT-1 Mission marked the first operational use of the NASA LDPC code and demonstrated the reliability and robustness of the signal format.