canada africa partner reservation NASA creates new record by successfully transmitting data from over 140 million miles to Earth

NASA creates new record by successfully transmitting data from over 140 million miles to Earth

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The tremendous potential of technology and science has permitted scientists and researchers to add to the scope of space exploration. While several projects have been carried out to understand the potential beyond the Earth, one of the crucial aspects was recently tested. NASA’s vibrant Deep Space team sent communications to Earth from over 140 million miles, per NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The Deep Space communications department experimented with the Psyche spacecraft and transmitted engineering data successfully. The statement mentioned that though the asteroid-bound spacecraft does not rely on optical communications to send data, the recent experiment proved that there is potential for the same.

Image Source: SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with the Psyche spacecraft onboard at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Photo by Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via Getty Images
Image Source: SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with the Psyche spacecraft onboard at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photo by Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via Getty Images

A copy of engineering data was sent from 140 million miles to the Earth, calculated as 1 ½ times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The Psyche spacecraft was designed to be launched towards an asteroid, per Space.com. However, the spacecraft also collaborated with Optical Communications to conduct the research. The success of the transmission has proven to be of vast potential in communications for future purposes. Laser communications can work faster and more flexibly compared to those researchers are currently working on.

Image Source;  Psyche project manager Henry Stone next to the Psyche mission spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Image Source; Psyche project manager Henry Stone next to the Psyche mission spacecraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA broke a record by sending communications over such a huge gap. Meera Srinivasan, the project lead at NASA JPL in Southern California, shared her views on the progress in the statement. She said, “We downlinked about 10 minutes of duplicated spacecraft data during a pass on April 8. Until then, we sent test and diagnostic data in our downlinks from Psyche. This represents a significant milestone for the project by showing how optical communications can interface with a spacecraft’s radio frequency comms system.”

Laser communications can transmit data 1 to 100 times faster than today and one can understand the gravity of the situation and how it can greatly aid in prospects. NASA has been constantly experimenting with the speeds of transmitting data for quite some time. In December 2023, a 15-second video was transmitted from 19 million miles, which showed that it was possible to transmit data at a speed of 267 megabits per second. However, since the spacecraft itself is much farther in distance, it was expected that the speed would reduce drastically.

To their luck, the data transmitted from such a long distance still showed a speed of 25 megabits per second. While the same is a big minus from the initial speed, it is far ahead of 1 megabyte per second, the speed researchers had approximated. Ken Andrews, project flight operations lead at JPL, said, “After receiving the data from the DSN and Palomar, we verified the optically downlinked data at JPL. It was a small amount of data downlinked over a short time frame, but the fact we’re doing this now has surpassed all of our expectations.”

Adding a fun fact to the entire experiment, @nasajpl shared that part of the data involved in the trial and transmission was that of an orange, furry and adorable Tater, a cat seated gloriously. Ryan Rogalin, project receiver’s electronics lead for JPL, added more about the findings and its newly discovered scope. He said, “We’ve learned a great deal about how far we can push the system when we do have clear skies, although storms have interrupted operations at both Table Mountain and Palomar on occasion.”