Communications and Navigation

DSAC: Paradigm Changer for Deep Space Navigation?

April 28, 2015

We need to improve the way we handle data tracking and deep space navigation. While the near term is always uncertain because of budgetary issues, we can still take the long view and hope that we’re going to see a steadily increasing number of robotic and human spacecraft in the Solar System. That puts a […]

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Lasers in our Future

December 31, 2013

Best wishes for the New Year! I got a resigned chuckle — not a very mirthful one, to be sure — out of a recent email from Adam Crowl, who wrote: “Look at that date! Who imagined we’d still be stuck in LEO in 2014???” Indeed. It’s hard to imagine there really was a time […]

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Laser Communications for Deep Space

December 30, 2013

A recent email from Centauri Dreams regular Carl Keller reminded me about the laser communications tests conducted aboard a NASA satellite. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer satellite (LADEE) carried a laser package that demonstrated excellent download and upload rates and successful transmission of two simultaneous channels carrying high-definition video streams to and from […]

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Finding the Galactic Internet

July 25, 2013

Greg Egan, a jewel in Australia’s science fiction crown, writes in his 1997 novel Diaspora about a mind-bending far future scenario for interstellar travel. The human race has split into those still in biological bodies, those embedded in humanoid robots, and those who choose to live as software running on central computers. I won’t get […]

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Testing Out Pulsar Navigation

June 12, 2013

Tracking spacecraft from Earth is an increasingly cumbersome issue as we continue to add new vehicles into the mix. The Deep Space Network can track a Voyager at the edge of the Solar System, but using round-trip times and the Doppler shift of the signal is a less than optimal solution for accurate tracking. What […]

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Talking Back from Alpha Centauri

January 23, 2013

Back when I was working on my Centauri Dreams book, JPL’s James Lesh told me that the right way to do communications from Alpha Centauri was to use a laser. The problem is simple enough: Radio signals fall off in intensity with the square of their distance, so that a spacecraft twice as far from […]

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Pulsar Navigation: Beacons in the Darkness

January 17, 2013

In a world of search engines, GPS and always-on connectivity, I sometimes wonder what’s happening to serendipity. Over the years, I’ve made some of my best library finds by browsing the stacks, just taking some time off and walking around scanning the book titles. Odd ideas show up, mental connections get forged, and new insights […]

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Neutrino Communications: An Interstellar Future?

April 18, 2012

The news that a message has been sent using a beam of neutrinos awakened a flood of memories. Back in the late 1970s I was involved with the Society for Amateur Radio Astronomers, mostly as an interested onlooker rather than as an active equipment builder. Through SARA’s journal I learned about Cosmic Search, a magazine […]

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An Internet Designed for Space

February 23, 2011

You would think that Internet pioneer Vint Cerf would be too busy with the upcoming transition from Internet Protocol version 4 to IPv6 — not to mention his other duties as Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist — to keep an eye on space communications. But the man behind the Net’s TCP/IP protocols never lets the human […]

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Pulsar Navigation for Deep Space

November 29, 2010

We’ve seen some remarkable feats of celestial navigation lately, not the least of which has been the flyby of comet Hartley 2 by the EPOXI mission. But as we continue our push out into the Solar System, we’re going to run into the natural limits of our navigation methods. The Deep Space Network can track […]

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