Now imagine you’re in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and you need to perform different types of research and experiments that will pave the way for future missions to Mars or even deep space; you would expect internet speed to be super-fast.
Well, NASA has recently upgraded the International Space Station’s (ISS) connection, effectively doubling download and upload speeds.
This will also pave the way for other similar upgrades and improvements that will be implemented to NASA’s new spaceship, Lunar Gateway.
George Morrow, who’s the acting centre director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said:
NASA’s communications networks play a pivotal role in every NASA mission, enabling data from human spaceflight, space and Earth science research missions and technological demonstrations to reach Earth for the benefit of humanity. This increase in data rate capability for the International Space Station underlines our commitment to provide high-quality operational services for NASA exploration missions today and in the future.
The ISS has provided a unique environment for astronauts and scientists to conduct research and experiments that aren’t possible on Earth. The research includes insight into the effects of long-duration spaceflights on humans and other organisms and also allows for technology to be tested in microgravity.
All these experiments rely on high rates of data being transferred between the ISS and researchers on Earth. The recent boost in bandwidth will accommodate new experiments that required detailed data than was possible before.
Risha George, project lead for the Space Network, expressed:
This project demonstrated that advanced radiofrequency waveforms can be used efficiently to increase data rates and improve performance for high-rate communication services. Operational use of these advanced waveforms proves that they can also be used for future missions, such as on the Gateway, a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon and provide a stepping stone to human exploration on Mars.
Data is sent and received between the Station and Earth using a series of ground-based antennas called the Space Network and a system of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites which are placed in high orbit over various locations. These relay data back to Earth and then sent to various NASA centres using landlines where it’s interpreted. There’s a “delay” of less than a second.
Several components in this global communication system have been upgraded to accommodate the improved data rate. New digital ground architecture for the Space Network has been implemented and upgrades to the circuits and bandwidth in the terrestrial data lines between Earth-based components.
The ISS received updates in its software and improved data-processors were installed at NASA centres, as well as new software and hardware at various ground stations. At the same time, the network provides real-time support to 40 other missions.