As our understanding of this solar system, galaxy and the Universe expands, so too does the amount of data we collect during our research and study. One challenge we have is getting all that data back to Earth from our space probes, rovers, and asteroid visiting missions. Sending information from space probes and space craft to satellite to other space based equipment is much easier than to sending that information back to our rotating planet while it travels around our nearest star.
Currently, we are getting the job done, but hardly in the robust way required as we significantly increase the volume of information and the speed in which we collect it, and/or need it in order to crunch that data for imaging, or understanding what we are viewing.
There was an interesting article in Aerospace and Technology’s ‘Tech Briefs’ published on April 2018 edition titled; “Communications In Space: A Deep Subject” which noted that;”
“The DSN (Deep Space [communications] Network) consists of 3 transmission and reception facilities: Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex near Barstow, CA; Madrid (Spain) Deep Space Communication Complex; and Canberra (Australia) Deep Space Communication Complex. Each spaced 120 degrees apart on the globe for continuous coverage. To meet increasing demand, NASA says DSN must increase its capability by more 10’Xs in each of next 3-decades to achieve data rates of 200 Mb/s by 2022 and 20 Gb/s by 2030.”
If we have these receivers and transmitters (3) x’s 120-degrees apart (equaling 360-degrees), then we end up going through too much atmosphere at those shallow angles as they switch to the next station. This causes hardships that slow down communication speeds at a critical switching point, causing severe challenges. The closer to vertical angle the least amount of Earth’s atmosphere the communication waves have to travel, less static, fewer mistakes, faster speeds. In the best of all world’s it would be good to add 3-more stations in-between the current stations, and this would help us a long way into reaching the goals set by NASA for necessary data speeds.
Even if we were to have more orbiting communication satellites to relay data, we still have to get it through the atmosphere, slowing down transmission. Think of the huge amount of data? Video from Mars rovers, Space Telescope Images, Deep Space Probes videoing NEOs, other planets, Solar Activity, and even beyond our solar system. The article notes that we need optical data transfer (sending information by light) to increase the amount of data and speed, still, we need the receivers in the right place at the right time, see my point?
It doesn’t matter if we are using RF, Microwave or in the future lightwaves, we still need uninterrupted receivers and transmitters here on Earth or more orbiting relay satellites, or a combination of such. Please consider all this and think on it.