• August 2012
    M T W T F S S

Mars Rover Curiosity Will Phone Home on NASA’s Interplanetary Internet

Government Computer News (08/06/12) Kevin McCaney

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Deep Space Network (DSN) will be key to what scientists learn about Mars.  DSN, which functions like an interplanetary Internet, carries the data collected by the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover about 139 million miles back to Earth.  DSN comprises large dish antenna arrays at three locations approximately 120 degrees apart on Earth.  Each complex has a 70-meter antenna and several 34-meter antennas that give strong signals and the ability to send and receive large quantities of information.  Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will communicate with Curiosity primarily via orbiters about 250 miles above Mars.  The rover can more easily connect with the orbiters using UHF software-defined radio.  It also could send signals directly to Earth via its X-band transmitter but power limitations would limit this approach to about three hours a day.  During an eight-minute period, Curiosity will be able to transmit about 60 megabits of data to the orbiter, which can then relay the information to Earth.  NASA is working to improve transmission speeds through space and plans to use arrays of smaller antennae to achieve the highest possible data rates.


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