Using in-orbit laser communication, two military satellites recently exchanged more than 200 gigabits of data at a distance of about 100 kilometers. Satellites rarely communicate directly with each other. Instead, radio waves are used to send data to a ground station on Earth, which then sends it to another satellite. Optical terminals between satellites are considered more secure and faster. The two satellites, dubbed Able and Baker, were launched by the United States last summer. As part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Project Blackjack.
Much slower data transfer takes place under harsher conditions when communicating with humanity’s outpost beyond our solar system. NASA engineers are studying anomalous telemetry data produced by the venerable Voyager 1 space probe. They are now trying to debug the probe, a formidable task as data flows from Voyager at 160 bits per second, and signals take 20 hours and 33 minutes to reach the probe. A Wednesday announcement says the probe is operating normally, receiving and executing commands from Earth, and continuing to do science and phone home with data. But Voyager 1’s Attitude and Articulation Control System (AACS), which helps point the probe’s antenna at Earth, doesn’t currently reflect what’s actually happening on board. NASA says the AACS data may appear to be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possible state the AACS might be in. The good news is that the craft is still doing well. It doesn’t need to enter safe mode and its signal is still strong, so it looks like the main antenna is aligned properly even though the system data suggests otherwise.
In its latest weekly newsletter, AMSAT announced the publication of a detailed article describing the reception of China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission carried out by AMSAT-DL using the 20-meter dish. from the Bochum observatory in Germany. A real-time GNU Radio decoder was used to receive and store telemetry almost daily for 10 months. Some of the telemetry variables, such as trajectory information, were successfully interpreted and used to track mission progress.
Summary of news:
- telecommunications in space
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