Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Data clippers to set sail to enhance future planetary missions

Date:
September 20, 2010
Source:
Europlanet Media Centre
Summary:
A new golden age of sailing may be about to begin -- in space. Future missions to explore the outer planets could employ fleets of ‘data-clippers’ -- manoeuvrable spacecraft equipped with solar sails, to ship vast quantities of scientific data to back Earth. The technology could be ready in time to support mid-term missions to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

An artist’s illustration of the data clippers.
Credit: Thales Alenia Space

A new golden age of sailing may be about to begin -- in space. Future missions to explore the outer planets could employ fleets of 'data-clippers' -- manoeuvrable spacecraft equipped with solar sails, to ship vast quantities of scientific data to back Earth.

Related Articles


According to Joel Poncy of Thales Alenia Space, the technology could be ready in time to support mid-term missions to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Poncy will be presenting an assessment of data clippers at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2010 in Rome on Sept. 20, 2010.

"Space-rated flash memories will soon be able to store the huge quantities of data needed for the global mapping of planetary bodies in high resolution. But a full high-res map of, say, Europa or Titan, would take several decades to download from a traditional orbiter, even using very large antennae. Downloading data is the major design driver for interplanetary missions. We think that data clippers would be a very efficient way of overcoming this bottleneck," said Poncy.

Poncy and his team at Thales Alenia Space have carried out a preliminary assessment for a data clipper mission. Their concept is for a clipper to fly close to a planetary orbiter, upload its data and fly by Earth, at which point terabytes of data could be downloaded to the ground station. A fleet of data clippers cruising around the Solar System could provide support for an entire suite of planetary missions.

"We have looked at the challenges of a data clipper mission and we think that it could be ready for a launch in the late 2020s. This means that the technology should be included now in the roadmap for future missions, and this is why we are presenting this study at EPSC," said Poncy.

Poncy's team have assessed the communications systems and tracking devices that a data clipper would need, as well as the flyby conditions and pointing accuracy required for the massive data transfers. Recent advances in technology mean that spacecraft propelled by solar sails, which use radiation pressure from photons emitted by the Sun, or electric sails, which harness the momentum of the solar wind, can now be envisaged for mid-term missions. The Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, is currently testing a solar sail mission, IKAROS.

"Using the Sun as a propulsion source has the considerable advantage of requiring no propellant on board. As long as the hardware doesn't age too much and the spacecraft is manoeuvrable, the duration of the mission can be very long. The use of data clippers could lead to a valuable downsizing of exploration missions and lower ground operation costs -- combined with a huge science return. The orbiting spacecraft would still download some samples of their data directly to Earth to enable real-time discoveries and interactive mission operations. But the bulk of the data is less urgent and is often processed by scientists much later. Data clippers could provide an economy delivery service from the outer Solar System, over and over again," said Poncy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Europlanet Media Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Europlanet Media Centre. "Data clippers to set sail to enhance future planetary missions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100919182645.htm>.
Europlanet Media Centre. (2010, September 20). Data clippers to set sail to enhance future planetary missions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100919182645.htm
Europlanet Media Centre. "Data clippers to set sail to enhance future planetary missions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100919182645.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Computers & Math News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Predictions Of Tablets' Demise Sound Familiar

Predictions Of Tablets' Demise Sound Familiar

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) The tablet's days are numbered, at least according to a recent IDC report. The market-research firm paints a grim outlook for tablets. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
FCC Forces T-Mobile To Alert Customers Of Data Throttling

FCC Forces T-Mobile To Alert Customers Of Data Throttling

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) T-Mobile and the FCC have reached an agreement requiring the company to alert customers when it throttles their data speeds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Symantec Uncovers Sophisticated Spying Malware Regin

Symantec Uncovers Sophisticated Spying Malware Regin

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) A Symantec white paper reveals details about Regin, a spying malware of unusual complexity which is believed to be state-sponsored. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins