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Space Probe Overload

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ABCnews reports that space scientists the world over are a little worried that the 50-year-old Deep Space Network, may be overloaded by all the traffic from over 25 space probes currently in-flight to various locations. Peak traffic is expected to happen in 2003-2004. 6-14 Update from Aureth: Additional information from Shockwave, who works for a NASA contractor, is in the comments. Very interesting...to me at least, since I'm a minor space buff.

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That's why we are trying to get the money to build new tracking stations around the globe. And 2004 _will_ be an exciting time as Cassini arrives at Saturn and pulls into orbit there.

Reality is not only stranger than we think, it's stranger than we CAN think!

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Ironically enough, I got an internal memo on this subject just minutes ago.

In coming years, as more and more craft circle and land on Mars, the red planet will be a focus for radio frequency frenzy. But that is only part of the static. Spacecraft like Cassini at Saturn; comet-inspecting vehicles such as Stardust and Contour; the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF); the Messenger mission to Mercury, along with a growing cadre of international probes - all these add up to a storm surge of data bytes ebbing and flowing between Earth and space. At present NASA's DSN consists of three deep-space communications facilities placed approximately 120 degrees apart around the globe: one at Goldstone, in California's Mojave Desert; a station outside Madrid, Spain; and the last near Canberra, Australia. The network - managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. - provides a two-way communications link that guides and controls planetary explorers. We've all been on the receiving end of the DSN, at least anybody that's ever eyed many a photo from Mars, Jupiter, asteroid Eros, or scads of other shots from distant worlds. The DSN is deemed the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system on the planet. It needs to be given the upsurge in outbound probes departing Earth. The issue is made more complicated by the output power of high-tech probes themselves. The chat rate of data-spewing spacecraft is climbing, Weiler said. "The DSN was quite fine when you launched a Galileo spacecraft every 10 years," Weiler said. In addition, as deep-looking astronomical instruments are positioned at the L2 point far from Earth, these too will demand DSN time. These issues and others, Weiler said, have prompted the taking of a global inventory of what antennas exist and how they might be utilized. There is recognition as well, that beefing up dishes is easier to do than building brand new antennas from scratch, he said.

Reality is not only stranger than we think, it's stranger than we CAN think!

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GeneBreshearsread storiescontact (login required)

a typographer from Seattle, WA, interested in writing, dabbling, publishing, and analyzing