Advances in Space Technology

Apr 11, 2017Applications, General

Advances in Space Technology

Spring 2017 is an exciting time for space technology here in the UK as two important events will discuss and showcase the newest innovations in this area. The Future for the UK Space Industry Seminar takes place in London on 25th April and later this season, the UK Space Conference 2017 takes place at the Manchester Central Convention Complex from May 30th to June 1st.

Here at MPE Electronics, we are excited about new developments in this field and have taken a sneak preview of the sort of technology that might be on show by looking at the latest from NASA.

Laser Communication

A current hindrance to space research is how slowly data can be transmitted to and from spacecraft. Radio waves are an ideal way to communicate over long distances but mean that spacecraft can’t send more data than a few megabits per second (mbps).

Sending information via lasers would greatly increase the speed. NASA estimates that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter could up its data rate from the current 6mbps to around 250mbps if it changed from radio waves to lasers. The downside of using lasers, however, is that they are much more susceptible to interference from clouds and other atmospheric conditions. Also, the ground infrastructure currently does not exist to use them. NASA is currently developing a Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, which is due to be launched in 2019.

Autonomous Rendezvous in Space

For space exploration to progress, machines and unmanned spacecraft will need to be able to rendezvous in space without direct control from Earth. To facilitate this, NASA is sending the Raven technology module to the International Space Station to collect data and test its systems by monitoring spacecraft coming and going from the space station. Raven’s capabilities will then be used to help the Restore-L servicing mission to dock with the Landsat 7 satellite to refuel it. NASA anticipates needing this technology to advance its mission to Mars.

Structural Battery Material

Space is a huge issue in space travel. Spacecraft and satellite designers are constantly looking for ways to reduce the weight and space of essential systems on their craft. One innovation that furthers this is a new type of solid-state battery, only 2-3 millimetres thick.

Made of layers of carbon fibre, these batteries can be configured to be compact and moisture resistant, as well as flame retardant. These properties, together with their light weight and small size, make them ideal for applications such as CubeSat (tiny satellites roughly the size of a large toaster) and many other uses in space and on Earth.

As the upcoming events in the UK will show, fascinating space-related technological developments are going on all over the world. As electronics assembly specialists MPE is well-placed to provide PCB assemblies suitable for cutting-edge space technology.

Contact us now on 01825 764822 or to find out more about our contract PCB assembly expertise.

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