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Oct 25, 2020

New Receiver Will Boost Interplanetary Communication

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, space

If humans want to travel about the solar system, they’ll need to be able to communicate. As we look forward to crewed missions to the Moon and Mars, communication technology will pose a challenge we haven’t faced since the 1970s.

We communicate with robotic missions through radio signals. It requires a network of large radio antennas to do this. Spacecraft have relatively weak receivers, so you need to beam a strong radio signal to them. They also transmit relatively weak signals back. You need a large sensitive radio dish to capture the reply. For spacecraft beyond the orbit of Earth, this is done through the Deep Space Network (DSN), which is a collection of radio telescopes custom designed for the job.

The only major crewed mission we currently have is the International Space Station (ISS). Since the ISS orbits only about 400 kilometers above the Earth, it’s relatively easy to send radio signals back and forth. But as humans travel deeper into space, we’ll require a Deep Space Network far more powerful than the current one. The DSN is already being pushed to its data limits, given the large number of active missions. Human missions would require orders of magnitude more bandwidth.

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