X-rays Might be a Better Way to Communicate in Space

Universe Today | 2/23/2019 | Staff
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In the coming years, thousands of satellites, several next-generation space telescopes and even a few space habitats are expected to be launched into orbit. Beyond Earth, multiple missions are planned to be sent to the lunar surface, to Mars, and beyond. As humanity’s presence in space increases, the volume of data that is regularly being back sent to Earth is reaching the limits of what radio communications can handle.

For this reason, NASA and other space agencies are looking for new methods for sending information back and forth across space. Already, optical communications (which rely on lasers to encode and transmit information) are being developed, but other more radical concepts are also being investigating. These include X-ray communications, which NASA is gearing up to test in space using their XCOM technology demonstrator.

Inception - NASA - Radio - Communications - Contact

Since its inception in 1958, NASA has relied solely on radio communications to stay in contact with all of its missions beyond Earth. Much of this has been handled by NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), a worldwide network of giant radio antennas that has supported all of NASA’s interplanetary missions and some missions to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).

But with renewed missions to the Moon, crewed missions to Mars, and an expanding array of miniature satellites coming in the near-future, NASA will need a more efficient and robust communications system than ever before. So far, the use of lasers to encode and transmit data has shown promise, capable of operating 10 to 100 times more efficiently than radio systems.

NASA - Parts - Spectrum - Flow - Information

However, NASA is looking beyond these parts of the spectrum to accommodate the flow of information. This is where the concept of X-ray communications (XCOM) come into play, which offer even more in the way of advantages than lasers. For one, X-rays have much shorter wavelengths than both radio waves and lasers and can...
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