Future missions will need better and more innovative communications systems for small spacecraft.
As missions look beyond the inner solar system, communications requires more powerful antennas and optical links to send data back to Earth. Current small spacecraft systems are inadequate for the demands of deep space, and will need to be rethought.
Proposed deep space missions could significantly benefit from a set of U-Class spacecraft providing a la carte or non-mission critical functions. In all envisioned exploration paradigms, high bandwidth communications systems are critical. Deep space presents more challenging environments from radiation, debris, and distance perspectives. New communications systems or architectures will need to overcome those challenges to deliver high data rate communications back to Earth through new antennas, telescopes, or new methods altogether.
Chris Baker, Small Spacecraft Technology Program Executive