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Initial Flight Test of a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Transmitter Prototype for Commercial Space Transportation Using a High-Altitude Balloon

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Initial Flight Test of a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Transmitter Prototype for Commercial Space Transportation Using a High-Altitude Balloon
This proposal is to request a flight opportunity upon a high-altitude balloon operated by the Near Space Corporation (NSC) to evaluate a prototype UAT-based ADS-B transponder developed to support commercial space transportation. Given the prototypes size and dimensions it would be suitable for NSCs Nano Balloon System (NBS) or its Small Balloon System (SBS). The prototype is developed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), Daytona Beach, FL, based upon a licensed design from MITRE for the UAT Beacon Radio Transmit Only (or UBR-TX). To differentiate between the two units, the ERAU prototype for this flight opportunity will be named the UBR-ERAU. Developed under a contract with the FAAs Commercial Space Transportation Office (AST), the UBR-ERAU upgrades the design of the UBR-TX in order to support some of the constraints of space flight. The previous designs commercial GPS receiver has been replaced with a high-end GPS capable of supporting space velocities and altitudes (which are typically restricted under International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR)). The firmware for the UBRs main board was upgraded to support the new GPS and its binary data protocol. A daughter board was produced in order to physically integrate the new GPS with the legacy board design. Lastly, components on the legacy board design were upgraded to their MIL-spec equivalents to allow for the environment of space flight. The benefits of developing the UBR-ERAU to support commercial space transportation is very compelling. To support the periodic launch of reusable launch vehicles, some sanitization of the airspace must occur to ensure that the area around the launch and landing sites are clear of air traffic. One of the major concerns is the uncertainty of the vehicles descent path, especially while flying under parachute. A UAT-based ADS-B receiver will provide the same capabilities that an ADS-B receiver provides for manned space flight. It broadcasts to ground-based and airborne receivers the current altitude and position of the vehicle once per second. It is anticipated that the developed prototype will become a standard payload on any flight of reusable launch vehicles once it has been proven robust and reliable. The proposed flight opportunity is a necessary and logical step toward the utilization of the UBR-ERAU onboard a rocket reusable launch vehicle. In order to raise the technical readiness level (TRL) of the system, a rocket-based flight will allow the system to demonstrate its capabilities of 1) operating above the current altitude restrictions of commercial GPS units and 2) operating under the extreme atmospheric conditions of near-space operations. It is desired that the flight time would be at a minimum 30 minutes and exceed an altitude of 100,000 ft MSL. The result of this flight opportunity will be that the system as a whole will be raised from TRL 4 (a laboratory tested prototype) to TRL 5 or 6 (a field demonstrated prototype). More »

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Technology Maturity (TRL)

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