Nasa Leadership Program

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Academy of Program / Project & Engineering Leadership Space-to-Space Communications System (SSCS)



When Johnson Space Center’s Matt Lemke showed up for work as the project manager of the Space-to-Space Communications System at the tail end of 1994, he discovered that the project he had inherited was not the one he expected. On his second day on the job, Lemke, an experienced avionic engineer but newly assigned project manager, attended a kickoff meeting with Litton Industries, who had recently been selected as the project’s prime contractor. Lemke had read the contract beforehand and understood the terms of the agreement. He planned to hand the Litton team a set of engineering drawings that had been developed before his arrival so they could get started. After handshakes and introductions, he turned to his NASA colleague who had supported the contract agreement with Litton just weeks before, and asked her for the drawings. Her response stunned Lemke: “What drawings?” A First-of-Its-Kind Radio System The Space-to-Space Communications System (SSCS) is a sophisticated two-way data communication system designed to provide voice and telemetry among three on-orbit systems: the Space Shuttle orbiter, the International Space Station (ISS), and the Extra Vehicular Activity Mobility Unit (EMU). (An EMU is a space suit worn by an astronaut during a space walk, or Extravehicular Activity.) SSCS is designed to allow simultaneous communication among up to five users. The system comprises three product lines: space suit radios (SSER), the Shuttle orbiter radio (SSOR), and the Space Station radio (SSSR). All three share some commonalities, but have unique features and different designs. (See Appendices 1.1 and 1.2.) This networked…...

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