To address the NASA need for enabling communication and navigation technologies for distributed small spacecraft beyond low Earth orbit, Intellisense Systems Inc. (Intellisense) proposes to develop a new Multi-Beam Autonomous Multi-Aperture Transceiver (M-BEAMAR) for optical navigation of distributed CubeSats. The proposed free-space-optical (FSO) navigation transceiver for inter-CubeSat and/or lunar surface communication is based on multi-aperture tiling of wide field-of-view (FOV) multi-beam transceiver modules with no moving parts. The innovations in the use of wide FOV optics and digital micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) switching with IR focal plane array (FPA) tracking and avalanche photodiode array detection will enable a modular compact integration of the proposed system capable of scanning multiple, simultaneous laser beams for providing robust connectivity between CubeSats and/or from CubeSats to the lunar surface. In Phase I, Intellisense will develop a viable conceptual design of M-BEAMAR that satisfies NASA’s communication and navigation requirements, including SWaP-C, relative and absolute position, timing, FOV, pointing and tracking, and link power budget, demonstrate the design’s feasibility by prototyping and testing key enabling technologies, and develop a Phase II plan. In Phase II, Intellisense will develop a prototype of the M-BEAMAR system that will be integrated with a commercial off-the-shelf or government off-the-shelf FSO modem to support laboratory testing and field demonstration towards development into space-qualifiable and commercially available CubeSat communication payloads.
With its low SWaP-C design, M-BEAMAR will be applicable to many NASA applications including lunar and deep space distributed science missions, distributed aperture virtual telescope, small spacecraft swarm for gravimetry and transient phenomena observation, and proximity operations for inspection of space assets. Additional applications include high-altitude, balloon-to-balloon relay, UAV-to-UAV, UAV-to-manned platform, and satellite-to-satellite and ground-to-satellite optical communications.
Government and commercial (dual-use) applications of M-BEAMAR include high data rate FSO communication in near-all-weather operation, FSO nodes on UAV platforms, deconfliction of RF spectrum allocations, and low-cost, on-demand communication. The multi-beam spatial diversity of M-BEAMAR could also enable the scientific community to exchange large amounts of data without having to run fiber.