A spacecraft which is not much bigger than a briefcase could potentially be sent to Jupiter, Uranus or beyond. However, its ability to send back useful data is limited by communications. The small size of these craft makes it difficult for them to generate the level of power needed for high-speed, long-distance transmission. It also limits the size of antenna that they can have, further hurting signal strength. In a recent article in Scientific Research Publishing’s Communications and Network, University of North Dakota computer scientist Jeremy Straub demonstrated the utility of using a pre-existing model (that is sent with the spacecraft) and a series of confirmation and update-to-the-model messages to reduce communications needs and enable these missions. In the article, entitled “Model Based Data Transmission: Analysis of Link Budget Requirement Reduction”, he noted that mission scientists could also choose the level of accuracy that they wanted and not have to spend valuable communications time transmitting updates to data beyond this level of accuracy. The two concepts, combined, allow scientific data to be transferred using only a small fraction of the communications time. This technology, thus, prospectively allows smaller craft to perform bigger missions and send back the scientific finding data produced.
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