When civilizations were first spreading out across the Earth from its place of origin, traders and travelers harnessed the wind to circulate people, goods, and information from locale to locale, keeping the wheels of exchange turning as efficiently as technology would allow. Now, space sailing may take on a similar role. Fleets of "data clippers" could soon circulate around the solar system, ferrying scientific data from deep space missions back to Earth.
Higher-resolution imaging technology and space-rated flash memory will soon permit deep-space scientific missions to map planets and moons in faraway corners of the solar system in unprecedented detail. But all that data would take decades to download back to Earth from so far away. What's needed is a means to physically grab all that data and send it back to Earth via a separate vehicle.
Today at the European Planetary Science Congress in Rome, representatives of Thales Alenia Space outlined a plan to create just such a network of solar-sail propelled spacecraft that make huge laps around the universe, swinging close enough to deep space missions to quickly download their data then making a return pass by Earth to dump the data to receivers below. Once the download is complete, the maneuverable data clipper could head back out to deep space to pick up more data.
Of course, a single clipper would take a painfully long time to make a complete lap to, say, Saturn and back. But a fleet of data clippers constantly swarming the solar system could provide a means to move data around the solar system much like European Galleons moved goods in a circle (it was really more of a triangle) around the Atlantic a few centuries ago.
This all relies on solar sail technology coming along at a pace that makes it a sustainable propulsion system for spacecraft. But with Japan's IKAROS already sailing its way across the solar system and several other space agencies working on their own space sail tech, Thales Alenia's team thinks data clippers could be sailing the solar trade winds by the late 2020s.
I think whomever wrote this article missed the boat on data tranmission. And that is if data can be transmitted at the speed of light, why do solar sails need to slowly return to Earth to make those tranmissions? Yes solar sails represent low cost ways to explore the universe, needing only the power of sun light to propel them, however all that is needed is data repeater devices spread around the universe to redirect and reboost transmissions back to Earth! Think about a universal mesh network where a small test tranmission would go out in multiple directions finding the best route, then full data tranmissions following the best path back to Earth. Faster than a speeding solar sail!!
Good point MrBrat2U, but CLEARLY, the universe is vast so the big question to know if this would be viable is: how many of these data-transferring devices would be needed to 'cover' space? If the answer is 'too much' then your alternative fails ie it wouldn't be cost effective.
Right now, data is not trasmitted at the speed of light. Radio wave transmissions is the primary means by which data is transmitted from our "deep space" probes to Earth. From what I have researched, deep space probes use S band transmitters. We're talkign VHF and UHF frequency bands.
I think this would only be good for actual transportation of goods needed by human expeditions. Which seem to fall more along the lines of the old clipper ships. I think it be much easier to just build up the Space Laser Communication tech some more and just put one of them around each planet in one of its Lagrange points. Depending on where each planet is it could jump from one to another maybe skipping some to get back to earth faster. I still think the Solar sails are a great tech to work upon and may be used to get all these stationary data transfer points out to their final location. StaDaTP, there is the acronym for you to refer to it as. lol
Most Radars function in the UHF bands with some operating in the higher end of the VHF bands. Most Commercial Navigational Radars operate in the 3 to 9GHz range.
Yeah at first glance that's what I thought this was, MeBratU2. Guess it wasn't viable, I mean, they can't have not thought of that.
"Right now, data is not trasmitted at the speed of light. Radio wave transmissions is the primary means by which data is transmitted from our "deep space" probes to Earth"
...RADIO WAVES TRAVEL AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT...
99.9999999999999% of an atom is empty space
Signal degradation. If the space science types say that this will help, then it will help. But think of this example - you're sitting outside with your laptop waiting for a video to load, so you step inside, and the stronger signal makes faster transmission possible. You've saved time. Same thing. = ) What you're suggesting, with "booster stations" in a grid across the solar system, is running an ethernet cable to Saturn. = ) It's not practical because of the amount of hardware it would take.
The speed of light isn't the consideration. Again, your wifi is still travelling at the speed of light whether you're sitting next to the router or on the neighbor's porch. The weakness of the signal means that errors happen, bits have to be repeated, and your hardware has to slow down the overall transmission rate to cope. With our little radio antennae working at interplanetary distances, that degradation becomes extreme and the transmission rate drops to an unmanageable crawl. Halving or quartering the distance with booster sites wouldn't do any good - it would, at best, halve or quarter the degradation and double or quadruple the speed. With the data clippers, I can see how they could actually transmit more information total even if the transmission is only happening for brief periods of time. It's total transmission capacity to the year that matters, so if the math works, it's a good idea.
Paragraph 3 - that's laps around the *solar system.* Not "universe," which is just silly. = P
*puts a dunce cap on and sits in the corner*
Was just checking to make sure everyone was awake and paying attention... of course radio waves travel at c.
I'm going to be quiet now :)
Why not have transponders seeded through out the solar system, being a type of regenerative relay that act's much like nodes of the internet, passing the signal on to the next node. The signal and bandwidth could be considerable larger than today.
yes that would be a good idea say starting at lagrange 3,4,5 kind of like creating a big equilateral triangle that would always be at most one signal hop away from earth. then nasa could add 3 more say at the orbit of mars and so on... then we could have vast network to relay all the scientific data other probes collect and the starting of a solar system wide internet. if we ever get quantum entanglement working properly and can send data with it we can send out fleets of probes passed the oort cloud that use the speed of light to transmit to each other and then one satellite in the fleet equipped with the quantum entangled particles could relay the combined data from the fleet back to earth.
Love all the additional comments! Thank you for your input. I am not a scientist (just a brat) so all your comments may have been informative!
Whether the speed of laser light or the speed of radio signals, it just seems using data repeaters to be faster than the fastest solar sail's speed therefore more efficient than having solar sails returning to Earth with their collected data.
As for the cost of data repeaters, every object sent into space, including all the solar sails, should be equipped with these data repeaters as well as data collectors and transmitters thus building a large data mesh network and thereby building a very long distance network.
And yes of course the solar system first then a universal network!
Also the cost of launching solar sails can be reduced if and when the space cannon and space elevator technologies are functional. (Google these if you want to know more).
And a long term space/air platform: balloon raised, supported, and tethered as high up as possible, could also possibility reduce the requirements of launching these solar sails (and other objects) from a higher altitude then ground level.
Finally, now that solar sail technology has been proven, even a rocket with hundreds of these solar sails could be launched at the same time with each solar sail having a different destination!
I am at a loss as to the value of this plan. Something is not being described clearly.
The company proposing this seems to be a reputable and competent outfit ( I looked them up). Yet the plan makes no apparent sense. Space explorers do indeed send data back at the speed of light. Why would you ever download to an intermediary that would then have a slow transit until it was in range of earth stations.
It seems inconceivable that this ships could go out far enough to make a significant difference in the power required to communicate. That is, if they were to come back near earth in any meaningful time.
I don't get it.
Ok solar sails can collect data from various points or while traveling around the universe and then transmit the data collected back towards Earth at the speed of light. And the size, type (solar sails with solar panels or not), mission, and downsize able or not would be different for each solar sail. For example the mission and composition of a solar sail orbiting one of our solar system's planets or moons, would be different from a solar sail that is on a one-way, long-range mission to the edge of our solar system (or galaxy). And because there may be objects (planets, asteroid belts, black holes, etc that is with the line of sight of these solar sails, intermediate solar sails containing data repeaters would be required.
Also if these solar sails could be used to power and control manned space craft, then the data collected (and results from discoveries) from other solar sails would be useful if shared with the other manned space craft around.
I also envision each long mission solar sail using some type of long range Hubble and/or other types of telescopes to explore the even farther reaches of our universe. While short range solar sails (with our solar system) deploying probes, rockets, or even landing crafts to explore objects much closer and with different types of analytical equipment.
Why not place buys at specific key "locations" near planets and moons that will relay the signal at N.L.S. all the way back to Earth and that they could be possibly as small as a man's fist?
Now I do like science talk, but I'm excited about the plunder and fun movies that the space pirates will bring. ARRR, matey, sail the seven intergalactic systems with yee, arr.
So just to clarify, the article this links to is a bit more informative on the "why."
Outfitting every satellite and scientific mission with the capacity to beam its data directly to earth is hugely expensive, and largely overkill, especially for missions that collect petabytes of data (which will take scientists years to sift through).
Instead, by making all satellites smaller, you are saving cost and money. You only need to beam shorter distances with high integrity signal.
Also, for missions that currently only store their data, then wait until they get back to earth to be downloaded, there is a huge data bottleneck and it takes years to download all of it. The clippers would then basically be an intermediate dump of data, significantly more manageable.
Here's a good quote:
"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.
The "over and over" again part is the key.
You could send your mapping satelite to say, Uranus (because that is fun to say), wait a few years for it to get there, wait a few years (decades) for it to map the entire planet down to the centimeter, then have it shoot the memory physically back to Earth. 50 years later, we have a walk-on worthy virtual map of the planet. In the mean time, it has shot back a "google earth" worthy picture every day or so digitally.
Or, you could send the same satelite, and have a few of these things ferry the data in clumps - and get a full resolution upload each year of progress. That means more data sooner - alowing progress on that data without the massive down time. That kind of progress both takes advantage of manpower and is good for fundraising.
The biggest issue with that is the need for redundancy. To make sure the data got back to Earth and not lost due to Solar Storm or micro-meteors, there's the need for several "solar clippers" to be sent, that would eliminate the need for a smaller probe.
That doesn't eliminate the need for a smaller probe.
What it would benefit from is a large amount of probes that are all ferrying their data together.
Redundancy is fine as long as you are servicing multiple missions.
Plus these things look relatively easy and cheap to build.
Well since there was no physical layout statement or how these would be built, I would not go by the pictures.
The fastest way to transfer the data with double speed is, these data clippers transfer data to other data clipper which is nearer to the earth's surface and transfer the data using solar energy or any other technology, by this way the data will travel much faster toward the earth and would be a boon to space research technology. Servers can sequence the data as per the origin time.
gman45 your are right. The pictures about these clipper ships in this article are not very clear. Perhaps you might want to look at the related articles (referenced on this page) regarding Japan's IKAROS successfully solar sail already deployed and stearing in outer space!!
Does frequency have anything to do with the speed of the message? since radio waves have a lower frequency than light, doesn't that make it less information actually sent per second?
when I saw space-sailing clippers, I assumed it meant passenger vehicles with a side job as data gatherers.
Ugh, it'll take 20 years for you humans to develop the technology to get me off this rock.
Maybe we can save a few bucks by making the solar sail part of the launch vehicle. Please see www.h2liftship.com
Mr Brat, the problem is signal strength. The further away you are from the transmitter, the lower the signal strength. Even with a laser you have signal spreading (not to mention one hell of a problem aiming). Signal strength is a combination of transmitter power, distance, receiver antenna size, and bit rate. There is nothing you can do about distance. We have made the earthbound antennas pretty darn big. Placement on the moon might be the next best place. The more power you put on a probe, the heavier it is, which means it either needs a bigger rocket, or takes longer to get there. So what they do is drop the bit rate down so low it makes modems look fast.
While the idea does have merit, I think that the time to make orbits would be just too long, unless you can get it going really fast, probably beyond what we can do today. Instead, I would propose putting combination observation and relay satellites at the Lagrangian points around Jupiter and Saturn. These are stable areas where orbital corrections can be minimized. We can do long term observations of Jupiter, Saturn and their moons. And they are far out enough to allow faster data rate collection from probes further out.
It takes a specific type of individual to think that they can read a few paragraphs about a topic and instantly think of a better way of solving a problem than the professionals that have been working on that problem for years... Yes I realize that there is a small percentage that walk amongst us with that type of brilliance, but I am absolutely convinced that those minds have not converged on the Popsic message board!
Ignorance truly is bliss....
ford2go: Yes radio does travel at the speed of light. So does data. The problem is, space, like everything else, is noisy. You need to figure out how to tell the difference between the signal and the background noise.
Lets try this example. Lets say you need one byte of data, or 8 bits. You have two flashlights, a red one and a green one. You turn on the red flashlight, the bit is high, the green the bit is low. Lets try this in a dark room. You blink the red and green flashlights on and off and you can send a signal pretty fast. Pretty good so far? Ok, turn the light on and do it again. Its harder, but not too much harder. Go to a back yard in the day time and do it from 20 feet away. Its a bit harder right? Now, pretend the flashlights are on the moon, a full moon. And its partly cloudy. Hm, can't see those flashlights too well can you? But, lets say you had a device that could read light for an hour, and tell the percentages of colors in the light. On the moon, the transmitter keeps each flashlight on for an hour for each bit. The receiver says in the first hour there were more red than green, the next hour more green than red. That is why the data needs to be transmitted slowly when at great distances.
DON'T YOU KNOW THE INTERNET WORKS AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT TOO!!!!1
BUT ITS STILL REALLY SLOW
basically this is like an internet download. say you were in new york and you tried to download something from china. it would be slower and more packets would get lost on the way there.
basically they want the ships to go closer to the earth so they can send greater bandwidth and therefore send more data faster than beaming it across space for it to get lost somewhere