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Amazon, Cisco, Lockheed Martin team up to bring collaboration tools to space

The makers of Alexa and Webex are working with Lockheed Martin to deploy Callisto, a tech demo payload onboard NASA's Orion spacecraft.
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Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Staff Writer on
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James Watkins

Cisco and Amazon are teaming up with Lockheed Martin to learn how astronauts in space could use collaboration and communication tools like Webex and Alexa. The three companies plan to deploy Callisto, a tech demonstration payload, onboard NASA's Orion spacecraft during its Artemis I unmanned mission around the Moon. 

The Callisto payload features a custom hardware and software integration developed by Lockheed Martin, Amazon, and Cisco engineers. It includes technology that allows Alexa to work without an internet connection, while Webex will run on a tablet using NASA's Deep Space Network.

Since Artemis I is an uncrewed mission, the Callisto demo also includes a virtual crew experience at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. This will allow operators to interact with Callisto from the Mission Control Center. Callisto will provide access to flight status and telemetry, as well as the ability to control connected devices onboard Orion.

The idea is to test how voice and video collaboration technologies can help astronauts improve efficiency and situational awareness during their mission. Video and audio of the interactions will be transmitted back to Earth many times throughout the Artemis I mission so engineers can analyze the performance of the onboard systems. 

"Callisto will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind technology that could be used in the future to enable astronauts to be more self-reliant as they explore deep space," Lisa Callahan, Lockheed Martin VP and GM of Commercial Civil Space, said in a statement. "Callisto is a shining example of how new partnerships with commercial technologies can be flown on Orion to benefit future human deep space missions."

The Callisto demo will also give the mission an opportunity for public engagement. People interested in the mission can follow along on Alexa-enabled devices by saying, "Alexa, take me to the Moon." Additionally, the Webex video collaboration capabilities will offer opportunities for STEM education and remote classroom teaching events.

While Cisco has partnered with NASA before, the project marks the first time Webex has worked directly with the space industry. Amazon, for its part, has been eyeing significant business opportunities in space. Last year, its cloud division established a new business unit dedicated to the global aerospace and satellite industry.

The Artemis I mission is currently scheduled for March. It's the first of three missions that will culminate with NASA landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon. 

Lockheed Martin designed and built the Orion spacecraft for NASA and is leading the development and integration of the Callisto payload. Callisto is named after a favorite companion of the Greek goddess Artemis.

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James Watkins

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