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NOAA, Partners Hail Major Space Communications Breakthrough

An illustration of the NPOESS spacecraft
Washington (SPX) Aug 11, 2004
A new, high-speed data chipset is poised to move communication in space 100 times faster than existing integrated circuits used in space. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials today said the chipset, developed as the first of its kind for space applications, will be used in the future National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System set to launch in 2009. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"This new chipset has the potential to catapult space-based communications and data transfers to a level not seen before," said Gregory W. Withee, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellites and Information Service. "Using this chipset technology aboard NPOESS spacecraft, for years to come, will give us reliable data about long-term changes in the environment."

The Integrated Program Office, which is a team of engineers from NOAA, NASA and the Department of Defense, began the development phase in February 2001, then contracted with Northrop Grumman to produce the new chipset and enabled it for use in space. Together, the IPO, Northrop Grumman and industry teammates delivered a space-qualified chipset and associated software.

The chipset, working with its software driver, can move data at speeds of 100 million bits per second. The chipset is designed to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE 1394) standard. IEEE 1394 technology is commonly used in the commercial transport of audio-visual data, including digital television, graphics-intensive video games and digital photography.

"The entire industry team worked together in a very collaborative manner to make this first-time space-qualified capability a reality," said Frederick L. Ricker, vice president and NPOESS program director for Northrop Grumman Space Technology.

"This chipset permits plug-and-play networking between sensors and the spacecraft, so it was important that all parties to this network participate fully in the design and test of the chipset hardware and software."

NPOESS will combine existing NOAA and DoD polar-orbiting satellite systems under a single national program. Polar-orbiting satellites are key in collecting data on the Earth's weather and environment, which help scientists develop long-range weather and climate forecasts.

"Hosting the NPOESS command and data handling system on a 1394 network offers real advantages beyond traditional, point-to-point data connections," said John D. Cunningham, IPO system program director. "Because 1394 technology supports a range of different speed rates for data communication, the chipset will help NPOESS stay limber and adapt easily to communication needs in the future."

NOAA Satellites and Information Service is the nation's primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. It operates the nation's environmental satellites, which are used for weather and ocean observation and forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications, including sea-surface temperature, fire detection and ozone monitoring.

The agency also operates three data centers, which house global databases in climatology, paleoclimatology, oceanography, solid Earth geophysics, marine geology and geophysics and solar-terrestrial physics.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Related Links
NOAA Satellites and Information Service
Integrated Program Office
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Breakthrough Yields Simple Way To Make Microscopic Electronics
Boston MA (SPX) Jul 22, 2004
In a breakthrough that could lead to dramatically smaller memory chips and other electronic components, Princeton scientists have found a way to mass produce devices that are so small they are at the limit of what can be viewed by the most powerful microscopes.

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