The International Space Station has received a 600 Mbps data rate upgrade, according to NASA, enabling astronauts and control centers on Earth to communicate at faster rates. The upgrade doubles the ISS’s data rate, making it possible to conduct new types of tech demonstrations and scientific experiments that come with more demanding data requirements. This upgrade will also play an important role in communication capabilities for the future Gateway station.
Communication between the International Space Station and Earth is made possible by the Space Network, a series of antennas located on the ground, as well as Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) in orbit over Earth. Data from the ISS is relayed by these satellites to the ground antennas, after which point the data is sent by landlines to NASA centers.
These centers, the space agency explains, feature computer systems that convert the radio signals into readable data, a process that is reversed when teams on Earth need to send data to astronauts on the ISS. Though the process is extensive, NASA says it takes less than a single second to pass data between the ISS and its ground systems.
With its new 600 Mbps connection, the International Space Station can now send and receive twice the amount of data at any given time compared to before the upgrade. As a result, teams in space can conduct experiments that require larger amounts of information to be sent, such as more detailed data or higher resolution content.
Space Network upgrade project lead Risha George said via NASA:
This project demonstrated that advanced radio frequency waveforms can be used efficiently to increase data rates and improve performance for high-rate communication services. Operational use of these advanced waveforms proves that they can also be used for future missions, such as on the Gateway, a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon and provide a stepping stone to human exploration on Mars.