NASA is taking Cisco Webex to space

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Lockheed Martin, Amazon and Cisco have announced a new collaboration that will see Cisco Webex and Amazon's Alexa integrated into NASA's Orion spacecraft.

This innovative payload, dubbed Callisto, will fly on board the Orion spacecraft which was built by Lockheed Martin for the US space agency's Artemis 1 uncrewed mission around the Moon. Callisto will use Alexa and Webex to test and demonstrate how commercial technology can be used for deep space voice, video and whiteboarding communications.

According to Lisa Callahan, VP and general manager of Lockheed Martin's Commercial Civil Space division, Callisto will show how these technologies can enable astronauts to be more self-reliant as they explore deep space.

Named after a favorite companion of the Greek goddess Artemis, Callisto features a custom hardware and software integration developed by engineers at all three companies that will allow Alexa to work without an internet connection and Webex to run on a tablet using NASA's Deep Space Network.

Virtual crew experience

As Artemis 1 is an uncrewed mission, Lockheed Martin, Amazon and Cisco have also built a virtual crew experience at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas that will allow operators to interact with Callisto from the Mission Control Center.

Through these remote interactions, Callisto partners and NASA will be able to test and demonstrate how voice and video collaboration technologies can help astronauts improve efficiency and situational awareness during their mission by enabling them to access flight status and telemetry data with the ability to control connected devices onboard Orion.

At the same time, video and audio of these interactions will be transmitted back to Earth throughout the duration of the Artemis 1 mission so that engineers can analyze the performance of onboard systems while also sharing interactions with the public. 

In fact, students, families and space enthusiasts will be able to engage with and virtually “ride along” with the mission on Alexa-enabled devices by saying “Alexa, take me to the Moon” while Webex video collaboration capabilities will provide opportunities for STEM education and remote classroom teaching events.

Artemis 1 is scheduled to launch in the beginning of this year from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida for a multi-week journey around the Moon and back. We'll likely hear more from Cisco and Amazon regarding how their technologies are being used in space once the mission begins.

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