By packing big antennas into tiny satellites, JPL engineers are making space science cheap
One morning in November 2014, Kamal Oudrhiri, a colleague of mine at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, Calif., burst into my office with an intriguing proposition. A first-of-its-kind satellite was headed for Mars. The satellite would fly alongside NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, relaying data in real time back to Earth during the lander’s critical entry, descent, and landing. “We have to achieve 8 kilobits per second, and we’re limited in terms of power. Our only hope is a large antenna,” Oudrhiri explained. “Oh, and the satellite itself will be only about the size of a briefcase.”
Nothing as diminutive as the Mars satellite—which belongs to a class called CubeSats—had ever gone farther than low Earth orbit. The antenna would be stowed during launch, occupying only about 830 cubic centimeters. Shortly thereafter, it would unfurl to a size three times as large as the satellite itself. It would have to survive the 160-million-kilometer flight to the Red Planet, including the intense vibration of launch and the radiation and extreme temperatures of deep space. How hard could that be?
Fortunately, my colleagues and I love a challenge, and we welcomed the chance to push CubeSat technology to its limits. These tiny spacecraft have become the go-to vessel for researchers and startups doing Earth imaging and monitoring. Compared with traditional satellites, they are relatively inexpensive and small, weighing just a few kilograms, and they can be ready to launch in a matter of months, rather than the years it typically takes to prepare a standard spacecraft. Over time, the onboard sensors and processing that CubeSats can carry have been the beneficiaries of Moore’s Law advancements in electronics, growing more powerful and sophisticated, lighter in weight, and energy efficient…..READ FULL ARTICLE
➤ UP TO 8 MILES RANGE: A further and more impressive communication range comes from the 10W high power feature. The Radioddity GA-510 can be set in 3... Read more
Icom are pleased to announce details of the new IC-2730E dual band mobile transceiver which will be available in early 2015. This stunning new... Read more
“The 2015 editions of the Icom Amateur radio and D-STAR catalogues are now available to download from this website. Both catalogues have been up... Read more
External Speakers is the topic of the new (November 8) episode of the “ARRL The Doctor is In” podcast. Listen…and learn!
External Speakers Would you benefit by adding an external speaker to your radio? The answers may surprise you. Read more
Introduction and Background This is an experimental project that may lead to further development in the future, but even as presented below, it does w... Read more
Chameleon MPAS 2.0 1.8-54 MHz Modular Portable Antenna System IT’S IMPORTANT TO WATERPROOF THE CHA MIL EXT 2.0 BEFORE PERMANENT INSTALLATION Us... Read more
This example is installed at KJ4AJG and is a 4el for 28MHz. Tom is so impressed, he has ordered another to stack! If you don’t see one for a ban... Read more