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International Space Station after undocking of STS 132

The ISS Now Has Better Internet Than Most of Us After Its Latest Upgrade

  • Recently NASA upgraded the connection of ISS as a result of which it can transmit data at double the existing rate. ISS can now send and receive data at a speed of 600 megabit-per-second (Mbps)
  • For increasing the data rate, components in the global communications system were also upgraded
  • A new digital ground architecture for Space Network was upgraded along with circuits in the land data lines connecting various components on Earth. 
  • Data processors at NASA were changed along with the ISS software-based modem.

Data connectivity is very crucial in this age. We are constantly connected to each other through the web and it gets very important when it comes to research that can lead to deep space destinations such as the Moon and Mars. 

Recently NASA upgraded the connection of ISS as a result of which it can transmit data at double the existing rate. To ensure seamless transfer of mission data to control centres on Earth an effective communication system gets the top priority. ISS can now send and receive data at a speed of 600 megabit-per-second (Mbps)  at any point in time. Similar upgrades will be deployed in the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway proposed by NASA. 

George Morrow, acting centre director of Goddard Space Flight Center said that for every NASA mission, the communication system plays a very important role. It helps in the transfer of data from human spaceflight and space research missions to Earth. Upgradation in the communication transfer for ISS displays commitment in the services for current and future NASA missions. 

ISS has given the astronauts an opportunity to conduct research which would not be possible on Earth since its operations started in 2000. This has allowed learning about the effects of long duration in space on human bodies and testing of different technology in the presence of microgravity. All these experiments need very high speed of data transmission between ISS and Earth. Now it would be possible to conduct experiments which need higher resolution data. 

Risha George, upgrade project lead said that the project showed that advanced radiofrequency waveforms can be used for increasing the rate of data transmission and thereby improve the performance for high-speed communication services. They can also be used for missions in the future like the Gateway which will be a stepping stone to human exploration on Mars. Data communication between ISS and Earth takes place with the help of ground-based antennas known as Space Network and system of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites(TDRS).

These satellites are placed in a high orbit over various strategic locations so they can relay data to the ground, which is then sent to various NASA centres using landlines where it is interpreted. The entire process has a delay of less than a second. For increasing the data rate, components in the global communications system were also upgraded. A new digital ground architecture for Space Network was upgraded along with circuits in the land data lines connecting various components on Earth. 

Upgrades were also made to the ISS software-based modem, improved data-processors were installed at various NASA centres, as well as new software and hardware at the ground stations. Rigorous testing followed to check that the upgrades functioned properly. During the upgradation, the network still supported more than 40 missions in real-time. Penny Roberts, upgrade project lead for the space station said that it was possible due to cooperation from NASA which can take the partnership to scale new heights. 

Chasing SpaceX, Amazon plans to launch 3236 satellites

Chasing SpaceX, Amazon plans to launch 3000 internet satellites

  1. Amazon asked the United States for permission to launch 3236 communication satellites under its ambitious Kuiper satellite project
  2. Amazon mentioned that the satellites would be operating at altitudes of nearly 370-390 miles.
  3. It is a separate Amazon project and doesn’t involve Blue Origin LLC, an aerospace manufacturer company also owned by Bezos
  4. Kuiper System will be helping several mobile network operators in expanding wireless services

Amazon asked the United States for permission to launch 3236 communication satellites (named the Kuiper project). With this, it joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX in a space race for offering internet connectivity from low orbits. In a July 4 filing, Amazon informed the Federal Communications Commission that its Kuiper satellites will be delivering the broadband connection to several million consumers and businesses that lack appropriate internet access. FCC’s task is to coordinate the trajectories and use of radio-frequency.

FCC has previously given the approval of almost 13000 low-Earth orbiting satellites. Among these, there a huge chunk precisely 11,943 belong to Space Exploration Technologies of Elon Musk. SpaceX made an initial launch of 60 spacecrafts in the month of May.

In the case of low-Earth orbits, at altitudes of 112 to 1200 miles which translates to 180 to 2000 kilometers, satellites have to move around the Earth for staying aloft, thus completing the orbits in time as minimum as 90 minutes. When one satellite moves towards the horizon, it will be handing off the signal duties to the next satellite that is coming. For continuous and wide coverage, there is a requirement of many satellites. In the FCC application, Amazon mentioned that the satellites would be operating at altitudes of nearly 370-390 miles.

 

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, and CEO said last month that the Kuiper project will be costing several billions of dollars. It is a separate project and doesn’t involve Blue Origin LLC, an aerospace manufacturer company also owned by Bezos. Amazon mentioned in its statement that it is a long-term project which has plans of serving millions of people who do not have basic access to internet connectivity.

It filed its satellite program with the International Telecommunications Union in April. It has plans of offering service to the communities in the United States through its offering of fixed broadband communication in the areas which are difficult to access such as the rural areas.

Kuiper System will be helping several mobile network operators in expanding wireless services. In addition to this, it also promises to offer high-throughput wireless broadband connectivity services for airplanes, land vehicles and maritime vessels.

Amazon cited studies by the FCC which mention that close to 21 million Americans lack fixed or residential broadband service and almost 33 million Americans do not have access to high-speed internet connectivity. When stretched to the worldwide level, this figure blooms to 3.8 billion people who are without reliable broadband connectivity as per the application.

Starlink Mission

SpaceX loses contact with 3 of its starlink internet satellites

Recently, the well-renowned company SpaceX had launched the first batch of its much awaited “Starlink” program satellites. The commencement witnessed 60 spacecraft which were launched in the orbit which is very close to the earth.

In the recent report provided by SpaceX revealed that they are no more in touch with three of the 60 internet satellites.

Apart from these three satellites, SpaceX has said that the remaining 57 spacecrafts are working in an apropos manner. 45 of these 57 Starlink satellites have reached their desired orbit which is 342 miles from earth. Five satellites are still in the process to raise their orbits and there are another 5 satellites which are under system checks for future launching.

For the last 2 spacecrafts, SpaceX plans to test their deorbiting feature and for that, they will be crashing them straight into earth’s atmosphere though they do not have any problems. The remaining three failed satellites will crash into earth within a year due to their positioning in a lower orbit.

This failure hasn’t perturbed SpaceX and its higher authorities as they claim that the technology used is relatively new and thus prone to error. This kind of reaction from SpaceX has made people think about how they have been permitted for such a project. To support the launching of this project, Elon Musk-led company says that they have taken permission from the Federal Communications Commission. This permission grants them to place nearly 12000 small spacecrafts in the upcoming 8 years.

The main agenda behind this project is to provide ubiquitous internet with high bandwidth. For the same purpose, this Starlink constellation will be used for streaming videos and will also enable to play high bandwidth games aiding them to understand the operability and latency.

On the other hand, the failure of those three satellites has caused contemplation amongst the space scholars who think that the debris will enhance the chances of the collision leading to catastrophic results. This has come at a time where NASA’s research says that almost 99% of satellites should be removed within half a decade for the proper functioning of necessary space projects.

To bolster their point, Elon Musk has assured that his company is in touch with the US Air Force which helps them in locating their spacecrafts and avoid any kind of collisions. Along with this, Musk has also spoken about their initiative to contact different astronomy groups for taking their guidance which will provide a path to make necessary amendments in their systems.

Starlink Mission

SpaceX launched the first batch of 60 satellites in Starlink satellites project

SpaceX, the space transportation company founded by Elon Musk successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites. If everything goes properly, then the Starlink network of satellites can provide superfast internet connectivity across the globe.

Before the launch of the satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX announced that Starlink will make the entire earth connected through reliable and cheap broadband connectivity.

The first Starlink mission was broadcast by SpaceX which was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket at 10:30 pm ET on 24th May. Just over an hour of the liftoff, all the 30000 pounds of satellites were deployed by the rockets’ upper stage. This is the heaviest payload which the SpaceX has launched till date.

The release of spacecrafts took place 440 kilometres above the Earth’s surface over the Indian Ocean. The method of deployment was described as odd yet efficient by Elon Musk, as it managed to launch 60 satellites at once. Usually, during a multi-satellite deployment process, a device present at the uppermost stage of the rocket deploys them one after the another with the help of complex spring mechanisms. In December, SpaceX successfully deployed 64 satellites in this way with the help of one rocket.

However this time, a different process was followed by SpaceX. The rocket’s upper stage was spun resembling that of a baseball pitch and slowly the whole stack of Starlink satellites were launched. A SpaceX engineer, Tom Praderio commented that since they are no deployment mechanisms present, the satellites are actually launched like a deck of cards.

The size of an individual satellite is almost that of an office desk and its weight is closely 500 pounds. It is equipped with solar panels and has antennas present for transmission of data. Besides that, the spacecraft has an ion engine which releases krypton gas. It would prevent the Starlink satellite colliding with other satellites and avoid space junk. Once it nears its useful life, it would self-destruct. The engine will also power the satellite to an orbit of 550 kilometres above Earth.

However, the present batch of satellites lack a major component, laser beam interlinks. The future satellites will have these lasers for connecting with other four satellites. In this way, it will form a strong mesh network over Earth facilitating the internet speed almost to that of light’s speed in a vacuum. It is almost 50% greater than fibre-optic cables giving the Starlink satellites a great advantage over the current status.

SpaceX aims to deploy 12000 similar satellites before the deadline of 2027 set by the Federal Communications Commission. For reaching this goal, SpaceX needs to launch more than a mission per month through the next eight years. However, for making the concept work and generate revenue, it needs to launch only 1000 satellites which is way less than 12000.