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Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Busy Signals on Mars

New ESA communication dish.
New ESA communication dish.
Credit: ESA
What happens when you get seven spacecraft on Mars, all trying to communicate with the same receiving network on Earth? As the number of spacecraft on Mars grows to the highest number in the history of spaceflight, engineers from around the world are having to come up with innovative ways to receive communications from their multibillion dollar projects.

From Japan's Nozomi to ESA's Mars Express to NASA's many ongoing and upcoming Mars projects, as well as other, non-related space projects such as NASA's Cassini, the traditional network that receives information from spacecraft out in the great deep is showing signs of strain. Luckily, the engineers that designed the systems in use had some foresight. NASA's Deep Space Network and ESA's beginning listening system, which will soon feature a new station in Australia, will be listening for both different frequencies and different call signs to distinguish between the different spacecraft. In addition, the spacecraft systems have been designed with flexibility in mind, so that, for instance, the Beagle 2 lander can communicate with the more powerful Mars Odyssey spacecraft system as a backup.

(More info: ESA)

- posted by Brian @ 16:29 EST