NASA wants commercial space companies to help new Mars missions communicate

Sponsored Links

Mariella Moon
July 24, 2014 10:01 AM
In this article: mars, nasa, satellite, space
NASA wants commercial space companies to help new Mars missions communicate

The relay radios on two Mars science orbiters are making it possible to communicate with NASA's robots, rovers and landers on the red planet. But these spacecraft might be out of commission soon, and NASA believes one possible solution is to purchase services from commercial space companies that plan to launch orbiters of their own. See, the rovers and landers on Mars communicate with the ground crew by using a severely limited direct link or by using the Odyssey and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as relay stations. Sadly, the agency has no plans to launch more orbiters of its own at the moment, and this could disrupt communication in a few years' time.

Thus, the agency has asked for the detailed investigation (a process called Request for Information or RFI) on the feasibility of paying for the services of commercial orbiters to communicate with robots on Mars beyond 2020. To be clear, NASA hasn't talked to contractors and companies about anything concrete yet, and it's also working on other projects that could solve the issue, including LADEE, which transmitted data to the moon via laser beams in 2013. Using orbiters as relay stations has been really cost effective, though, so the space division's hoping to make it work for future missions.

[Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

Turn on browser notifications to receive breaking news alerts from Engadget
You can disable notifications at any time in your settings menu.
Not now

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publishing.
View All Comments
NASA wants commercial space companies to help new Mars missions communicate