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SDA, General Atomics Mulling Options After Communications Issues Beset LINCS Experiment

Mission challenges

SDA, General Atomics Mulling Options After Communications Issues Beset LINCS Experiment

The Space Development Agency and satellite manufacturer General Atomics are mulling their next move after an experiment that began over six months ago has yet to produce positive results. On June 30, GA’s Electromagnetic Systems business launched two CubeSats for the SDA but has, so far, been unable to contact the satellites in orbit, SpaceNews reported Sunday.

The experiment, known as the Laser Interconnect and Networking Communications System, is intended to demonstrate optical communications in space. The pair of CubeSats carrying optical communications terminals and infrared payloads flew to orbit on the SpaceX Transporter-2 rideshare mission.

In a statement on Friday, the SDA admitted that there were “challenges communicating with the LINCS sats,” but added that it was working with GA to find a way to establish links with the spacecraft. The agency gave no insights as to the reason behind the malfunction.

However, Gregg Burgess, vice president of space systems at General Atomics, said during a podcast on Saturday that the problem occurred during launch. Specifically, the executive traced the problem to an issue with the launch vehicle.

In a press release immediately following the satellites’ launch, GA claimed that the satellites were successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The company said that the “two 12U CubeSats that make up the LINCS system were successfully deployed into orbit and have begun satellite commissioning and operations.”

SpaceNews further reported that the LINCS experiment was internally funded by GA. Burgess was quoted as saying that the company is moving forward and building a next-generation set of laser communication terminals that are slated for launch sometime in 2023.

For its part, the SDA said it is weighing options, including launching other experiments. Meanwhile, SpaceX has not responded to a request for comment on the LINCS deployment.

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Category: Space