2000 bps for 16 months
is something like 9.7GB. Let's hope they release it as a two-DVD boxed set :-)
NASA's Pluto-skimming podule, New Horizons, is now within a million miles of its freezeworld target - but we won't get the data 'til later. While the spacecraft and the dwarf planet are a mere skip from each other in galactic terms, the flyby is far from settled for NASA's IT staff, who used a well-deserved coffee break to …
"Where are the relay stations doing long elliptical orbits past Saturn?"
Unless they have dishes that are about half the (linear) size of the receiving dish on Earth, they wouldn't help. (Actually, that's the break-even point. To *help*, they'd need to be even bigger.) Also bear in mind that anything on a long elliptical orbit spends most of its time in a totally unhelpful location. You'd need *lots* of *big* dishes. Similar considerations apply to any interplanetary internet you care to imagine.
It seems to me that what we actually need is a better power source, so that the original signal can be several orders of magnitude larger. Or maybe some very carefully steered laser link, so that the limited power is directed more efficiently in the right direction.
A laser link would not be effective - there is too much background radiation at optical wavelengths and the maximum size for an optical telescope is far smaller than the maximum size for a radio telescope so less energy would be collected by the receiver on Earth. Unfortunately the only way at present to improve the data rate is to increase the power received on Earth which means more electrical power for the transmitter and/or a larger transmitting antenna and/or larger receiving antennas.
Unfortunately the power is constrained for a number of reasons (not least the desire to limit the radiation release if the launch vehicle explodes!!).
The transmitting antenna size is constrained by the dimensions of the launch vehicle.
If enough money was available then it would be possible to construct additional receiving antennas - replacing each individual receiving antenna with 4 identical antennas linked together would allow for a doubling of the transmission rate
Guess we'll just have to move Pluto closer for the next mission.
(space is just so damn big and empty that, per Hofstadter's Law, it boggles me to contemplate even when I think I've pre-boggled myself. Unless wormholes and ansibles come to save us I fear humanity will live and die out here in the solar system, just possibly managing to exchange very slow postcards with alien penpals)
Just pack a small monolith!!!
A hundred million miles beyond Mars, in the cold loneliness where no man had yet traveled, Deep Space Monitor 79 drifted slowly among the tangled orbits of the asteroids. For three years it had fulfilled its mission flawlessly – a tribute to the American scientists who had designed it, the British engineers who had built it, the Russian technicians who had launched it. A delicate spider's-web of antennas sampled the passing waves of radio noise – the ceaseless crackle and hiss of what Pascal, in a far simpler age, had naively called the "silence of infinite space." Radiation detectors noted and analyzed incoming cosmic rays from the galaxy and points beyond; neutron and X-ray telescopes kept watch on strange stars that no human eye would ever see; magnetometers observed the gusts and hurricanes of the solar winds, as the Sun breathed million-mile-an-hour blasts of tenuous plasma into the faces of its circling children. All these things, and many others, were patiently noted by Deep Space Monitor 79, and recorded in its crystalline memory.
One of its antennas, by now unconsidered miracles of electronics, was always aimed at a point never far from the Sun. Every few months its distant target could have been seen, had there been any eye here to watch, as a bright star with a close, fainter companion; but most of the time it was lost in the solar glaze.
To that far-off planet Earth, every twenty-four hours, the monitor would send the information it had patiently garnered, packed neatly into one five-minute pulse. About a quarter of an hour late, traveling at the speed of light, that pulse would reach its destination. The machines whose duty it was would be waiting for it; they would amplify and record the signal, and add it to the thousands of miles of magnetic tape now stored in the vaults of the World Space Centers at Washington, Moscow, and Canberra.
Since the first satellites had orbited, almost fifty years earlier, trillions and quadrillions of pulses of information had been pouring down from space, to be stored against the day when they might contribute to the advance of knowledge. Only a minute fraction of all this raw material would ever be processed; but there was no way of telling what observation some scientist might wish to consult, ten, or fifty, or a hundred years from now. So everything had to be kept on file, stacked in endless air-conditioned galleries, triplicated at the three centers against the possibility of accidental loss. It was part of the real treasure of mankind, more valuable than all the gold locked uselessly away in bank vaults.
And now Deep Space Monitor 19 had noted something strange – a faint yet unmistakable disturbance rippling across the Solar System, and quite unlike any natural phenomenon it had ever observed in the past. Automatically, it recorded the direction, the time, the intensity; in a few hours it would pass the information to Earth.
As, also, would Orbiter M 15, circling Mars twice a day; and High Inclination Probe 21, climbing slowly above the plane of the ecliptic; and even Artificial Comet 5, heading out into the cold wastes beyond Pluto, along an orbit whose far point it would not reach for a thousand years. All noted the peculiar burst of energy that had disturbed their instruments; all, in due course, reported back automatically to the memory stores on distant Earth.
The computers might never have perceived the connection between four peculiar sets of signals from space-probes on independent orbits millions of miles apart. But as soon as he glanced at his morning report, the Radiation Forecaster at Goddard knew that something strange had passed through the Solar System during the last twenty-four hours.
He had only part of its track, but when the computer projected it on the Planet Situation Board, it was as clear and unmistakable as a vapor trail across a cloudless sky, or a single line of footprints over a field of virgin snow.
Some immaterial pattern of energy, throwing off a spray of radiation like the wake of a racing speedboat, had leaped from the face of the Moon, and was heading out toward the stars.
(One may notice that Arthur C. Clarke didn't exactly get the idea and utility of "hard money". He might have, had he lived till 2015.)
Pluto just passed its closest to Earth for the next couple centuries a while back (remember when Neptune was briefly the further planet?) By the time it is closer than it is today, we might be able to take a vacation there. Well, probably not, but it would be nice to have the option!
16 km/sec --> fastest object to leave Earth.
That's roughly 0.000053 c
Getting to the next star system at that speed is going to take a long time. :(
Looks like the only serious chance is with the fission fragment rocket.
On an IT note. Look at how much practice and planning is done before the event.
Should be SOP for all major 1 shot events (system cut overs of various kinds mostly).
But is it?
One question I've often wondered. At our current technology level, what speeds would be be able to achieve if the motivation and cash was there? I don't mean concept or drawing board technologies, but rather what we can build right now practically.
Well, they did test the "throw nukes out the back and ride the shockwave" idea, but with conventional explosives. If the world's nuclear weapons arsenal was appropriated for a spaceship, it could send a toddler to Alpha Centauri before the toddler's retirement age.
"Well, they did test the "throw nukes out the back and ride the shockwave" idea, but with conventional explosives. If the world's nuclear weapons arsenal was appropriated for a spaceship, it could send a toddler to Alpha Centauri before the toddler's retirement age."
Orion uses much smaller propulsion packages (in the kiloton range) than most nuclear weapons.
You could built a lot of them them from the worlds nuclear arsenals.
"One question I've often wondered. At our current technology level, what speeds would be be able to achieve if the motivation and cash was there? I"
With no new technology you're basically looking at hooking a nuclear reactor to a cluster of ion thrusters, possibly boosted by a booster stage that takes beamed microwave power from solar cells in LEO while inside the solar system. Biggest space nuke however was Russian at about 5Kw.
Once outside this you're looking at solar sails going in close to the sun behind an asteroid then accelerating hard.
The best I've seen with known physics IE not fusion, is the fission fragment rocket. That's a pulsed nuclear reactor whose fuel is made in layers < 10 micrometres thick. At that level fission fragments made when a U235 atom fissions can leave the surface of the fuel and using a magnetic field be pointed out the back.
The fragments are moving at between 3 and 5% of the speed of light versus something like the 0.001% of the speed of light of ion thruster streams.
The Deep Space Network has complexes in the US, Australia and Spain.
There's a really cool page here that shows you what all of the different dishes are talking to right now. For example right now at 0816UTC one dish in Spain is listening to Rosetta, while another is communicating with Mars Odyssey. Most of the US and Aussie dishes are listening to New Horizons.
NASA is finally ready to launch its unmanned Orion spacecraft and put it in the orbit of the Moon. Lift-off from Earth is now expected in late August using a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
This launch, a mission dubbed Artemis I, will be a vital stage in the Artemis series, which has the long-term goal of ferrying humans to the lunar surface using Orion capsules and SLS technology.
Earlier this week NASA held a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) for the SLS vehicle – fueling it and getting within 10 seconds of launch. The test uncovered 13 problems, including a hydrogen fuel leak in the main booster, though NASA has declared that everything's fine for a launch next month.
NASA has chosen the three companies it will fund to develop a nuclear fission reactor ready to test on the Moon by the end of the decade.
This power plant is set to be a vital component of Artemis, the American space agency's most ambitious human spaceflight mission to date. This is a large-scale project to put the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, and establish a long-term presence on Earth's natural satellite.
NASA envisions [PDF] astronauts living in a lunar base camp, bombing around in rovers, and using it as a launchpad to explore further out into the Solar System. In order for this to happen, it'll need to figure out how to generate a decent amount of power somehow.
Sadly for NASA's mission to take samples from the asteroid Psyche, software problems mean the spacecraft is going to miss its 2022 launch window.
The US space agency made the announcement on Friday: "Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft's flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on October 11."
While it appears the software and testbeds are now working, there just isn't enough time to get everything done before a SpaceX Falcon Heavy sends the spacecraft to study a metallic-rich asteroid of the same name.
Rocket Lab has sent NASA's Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft on its way to the Moon atop an Electron rocket launched from New Zealand.
The launch had been subject to a number of delays, but at 09.55 UTC today, the Electron lifted off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand.
Pic When space junk crashed into the Moon earlier this year, it made not one but two craters on the lunar surface, judging from images revealed by NASA on Friday.
Astronomers predicted a mysterious object would hit the Moon on March 4 after tracking the debris for months. The object was large, and believed to be a spent rocket booster from the Chinese National Space Administration's Long March 3C vehicle that launched the Chang'e 5-T1 spacecraft in 2014.
The details are fuzzy. Space agencies tend to monitor junk closer to home, and don't really keep an eye on what might be littering other planetary objects. It was difficult to confirm the nature of the crash; experts reckoned it would probably leave behind a crater. Now, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has spied telltale signs of an impact at the surface. Pictures taken by the probe reveal an odd hole shaped like a peanut shell on the surface of the Moon, presumably caused by the Chinese junk.
NASA engineers had to work fast to avoid another leak affecting the latest Artemis dry run, just hours after an attempt to reboost the International Space Station (ISS) via the Cygnus freighter was aborted following a few short seconds.
The US space agency on Monday rolled the huge Artemis I stack back to its Florida launchpad having worked through the leaks and problems that had beset its previous attempt at fueling the beast in April for an earlier dress rehearsal of the final countdown.
As propellant was loaded into the rocket, controllers noted a hydrogen leak in the quick-disconnect that attaches an umbilical from the tail service mast on the mobile launcher to the core stage of the rocket.
The SOFIA aircraft has returned to New Zealand for a final time ahead of the mission's conclusion later this year.
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft, designed to carry a 2.7-meter reflecting telescope into the stratosphere, above much of Earth's infrared-blocking atmosphere.
A collaboration between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), development began on the project in 1996. SOFIA saw first light in 2010 and achieved full operational capability in 2014. Its prime mission was completed in 2019 and earlier this year, it was decided that SOFIA would be grounded for budgetary reasons. Operations end "no later than" September 30, 2022, followed by an "orderly shutdown."
Over recent years, Uncle Sam has loosened its tight-lipped if not dismissive stance on UFOs, or "unidentified aerial phenomena", lest anyone think we're talking about aliens. Now, NASA is the latest body to get in on the act.
In a statement released June 9, the space agency announced it would be commissioning a study team, starting work in the fall, to examine unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs, which it defined as "observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena."
NASA emphasized that the study would be from a "scientific perspective" – because "that's what we do" – and focus on "identifying available data, how best to collect future data, and how NASA can use that data to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward."
Pondering what services to switch off to keep your laptop going just that bit longer? NASA engineers can relate, having decided the Mars InSight lander will go out on a high: they plan to burn through the remaining power to keep the science flowing until the bitter end.
The InSight lander is in a precarious position regarding power. A build-up of dust has meant the spacecraft's solar panels are no longer generating anywhere near enough power to keep the batteries charged. The result is an automatic shutdown of the payload, although there is a chance InSight might still be able to keep communicating until the end of the year.
Almost all of InSight's instruments have already been powered down, but the seismometer remains active and able to detect seismic activity on Mars (such as Marsquakes.) The seismometer was expected to be active until the end of June, at which point it too would be shut-down in order to eke out the lander's dwindling supply of power just a little longer.
Interview NASA has set late August as the launch window for its much-delayed Artemis I rocket. Already perched atop the booster is the first flight-ready European Service Module (ESM). Five more are in the pipeline.
Airbus industrial manager Siân Cleaver, whom The Register met at the Goodwood Festival of Speed's Future Lab, has the task of managing the assembly of the spacecraft, which will provide propulsion, power, water, oxygen and nitrogen for the Orion capsule.
Looking for all the world like an evolution of the European Space Agency's (ESA) International Space Station (ISS) ATV freighter, the ESM is not pressurized and measures approximately 4 meters in length, including the Orbital Maneuvering System Engine (OMSE), which protrudes from the base.
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