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NASA planning 'orbiting lab' space communications project

The SCaN Testbed is part of a project to build better communications in space for human exploration or travel.

2011 photo from NASA showing the sun, a portion of the International Space Station and Earth's horizon
2011 photo from NASA showing the sun, a portion of the International Space Station and Earth's horizon
Image: AP/NASA/PA Images

NASA IS PREPARING to launch a new ‘orbiting laboratory’ which will explore the use of communications in space.

The Space Communications and Navigation Testbed will be based on the International Space Station.

The space agency plans to launch it from Japan later this year, and it says that the lab will enable researchers to carry out a range of experiments aimed at advancing space communications.

The Testbed will contain three radios which use Software Defined Radio technology for networking and navigation.

The software can be reconfigured after its launch to introduce new functions or allow communication with different signals or data formats which may not have been known at the time of its launch, according to NASA. SCaN Testbed project manager Diane Cifani Malarik said this feature is what makes the system “unique”.

NASA says that the Testbed is part of a larger effort to build space communications for future human space exploration and travel.

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