Australian knowhow to ensure ‘live’ coverage of US manned Mars mission

October 17th, 2008 - 1:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 17 (IANS) Whenever the US manned Mars mission materialises, the whole world can watch live TV coverage of the event, thanks to the knowhow provided by an Australian outfit. John Bunton, senior member of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) ICT Centre Wireless Technology lab has designed a novel ‘beamformer’ capable of providing a live video link from Mars, for which he will be honoured by NASA with its Space Act Board Award Oct 28 in California.

CSIRO ICT Centre is home to one of the world’s leading wireless technology labs, whose recent achievements include developing the world’s first six gigabits per second wireless link.

Bunton said NASA required a such a link from Mars for its planned future manned mission, however the current Deep Space Network does not have enough ’sensitivity’ for the task, even with its 70m antenna, according to a CSIRO press release.

“One solution is to employ a large antenna array, possibly with 400, 12 metre antennas, but this solution requires data from all antennas to be added together in a very precise manner,” Bunton said.

Bunton suggested an alternative - a novel frequency domain beamformer architecture, in which the video signal data is divided into narrow channels and transported to beamformer boards. Each board sums the narrow channel data from all 400 antennas. This data can then be reconstructed back into a broadband signal.

A prototype system based on the frequency domain beamformer has been built at the US Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and shown to work on signals from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn.

Bunton’s research is also important to the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder project and has other potential applications in space communications and earth sensing.

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