NASA’s aging communications technology is getting a timely boost as a project to bring their current systems out of the ‘90s (yes, the ‘90s) begins to kick into gear. It may take eight years to accomplish but it’s severely needed as news reports indicate that, on the International Space Station for example, they currently have to make do with a “connection comparable to dial-up that’s only a week old, while the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is gobbling up over 450 gigabytes of data a day”.
Reports, Dvice.com, “A new plan by NASA will see the agency consolidating its Space Network (SN), Near-Earth Network (NEN) and Deep Space Network (DSN) into one unified system as the agency goes about replacing aging communications technology”.
As it stands right now, NASA doesn’t have a unified communication infrastructure tying all of its orbital and deep space missions together which, if we were stuck out in deep space where no one can hear you scream, would concern us greatly. This is due to the fact that each mission the agency plans is put together from the ground up, so communication equipment varies wildly.
Dvice makes the point that besides improving communication and streamlining planning, better technology in place means a higher yield of scientific data gathered per mission. “Imagine what you can accomplish with a single mission instead of several spacecraft flying over several years to collect the data,” Badri Younes told Space.com.
He’s NASA’s deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and Navigation, and it’s his job to overhaul the aging communication systems. He went on to say just about the most American thing we’ve heard all day: “It’s like driving a 1960s Chevy that’s beat up and losing paint while going at 90 mph and being pushed to convert that into a Lamborghini while driving 90 mph without losing a beat.”
The project is due in 2018 so Younes has a while to get things up to ‘Lamborghini’ standards.