NASA Space News and Navigation: Support for Research
NASA's space aviation has been studying the Earth and the surrounding universe for more than 60 years, making gorgeous discoveries and exploring man. From hundreds, thousands and millions of miles, these spacecraft have to send their critical information to Earth and the scientists who can use it.
Here are three NASA space communication networks. Each of these networks covers a different part of the sky, from just a hundred kilometers from the Earth's surface to the interstellar space. They also use different infrastructures and technologies to allow different types of missions.
Explore the Earth
Earth observation satellites provide important information on the different aspects of our planet, including rainfall, ice coverage, soil moisture, ozone, air quality and much more. These observations help agriculture, climate monitoring and natural disaster monitoring to name just a few. Most spacecraft observing the Earth are located on low Earth orbit, which means they are circling the Earth about a thousand miles from the surface. Many orbits above the earth poles.
These missions often use NASA's Near Earth Network (NEN) to transmit their data to the ground. NEN consists of more than 14 land-based stations covering more than 25 antennas around the world. This data for uploading and downloading to and from spacecraft while they are in direct view of the antenna, moving from the horizon to the horizon line.
Explore people in space
Communications are perhaps the most critical of human space flight when human life depends on being able to exchange information with Earth's missions. NASA networks support the International Space Station, several commercial trucks, and will in the future support the NASA crew and crew. NASA's space network (SN) is currently transmitting the most human data for space flights, including space communications with the mission of control, and even data on the health and telemetry of spacecraft. The data from scientific and technological experiments are also low on Earth through SN.
SN is called this because it is currently the only space communications network of NASA that uses satellites to transmit data. Data Tracking and Transmitting (TDRS) satellites circle the Earth in geosynchronous orbit, orbit about 22,000 miles from the Earth's surface, allowing them to remain stationary in one place on the planet. Because of this orbit, these satellites are always within the eyes of the antenna on the ground. They are placed at key positions around the Earth, which means that a TDRS is always within the eyes of a low-Earth orbital spacecraft. This allows SN to provide 24/7/365 continuous communication coverage, which is crucial for the human space field.
Explore the Moon to Mars
NASA blazes along a trail to take people back to the moon in the years to come and then to Mars. The teams in the agency work on both robotic science missions and human research missions and technologies to achieve this goal.
Two of NASA's space communications networks will potentially play a key role in conducting research on these distant destinations. Current robotic moon missions such as the lunar reconnaissance orbiter usually use NEN to transmit data to and from Earth. With its global network of ground-based tracking stations, NEN can support missions from low Earth orbit to lunar orbit and beyond.
Deep Space Network (DSN) also plays a key role in these missions. Like NEN, DSN consists of terrestrial antennas and ground stations around the world. DSN antennas are huge – 70 meters in diameter and are located in three key locations every 120 degrees around the world, in Madrid, Spain; Canberra, Australia; and Goldstone, California. An antenna layout ensures that spacecraft can reach an antenna wherever they are in relation to the Earth. DSN mainly supports interplanetary missions such as those currently on Mars.
Explore the Solar System and beyond
Beyond Mars, NASA's missions are exploring the distant mouths of our solar system, from Jupiter to the excess space. These missions are key to learning more about our Solar System and the Universe beyond and even looking for life in other worlds.
DSN maintains these interplanetary probes through its international network of giant antennas, providing long contact for spacecraft to send their data over long distances.
NASA also uses several spacecraft in low Earth orbit, like the Hubble Space Telescope, to make observations of the universe outside of our solar system. These missions rely mainly on SN for their data coverage, allowing them to send data at any time during their missions.
Explore Space Technology
In addition to maintaining spacecraft operations, SCaN develops advanced technologies that enable tomorrow's missions. Currently, SCaN explores a wide range of new communication and navigation technologies as part of the Decade of Light initiative. In the coming years, SCaN will launch a number of optical communications missions using infrared waves to send 10 to 100 times more data at a time than current systems.
In addition, SCaN moves in the future by integrating artificial intelligence, quantum communications, pulsar navigation, X-ray communications and navigation, and still in its portfolio to support NASA's missions as they gather more data and explore further than ever.
Space communications and navigation are an integral part of NASA's vision of discovering and expanding knowledge for the benefit of mankind, which serves as a channel for transmitting the important observations of each mission on Earth.
Editor: Ashley Campbell