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Space Dynamics Lab To Build Radios For NASA Mission Investigating Asteroids

August 6, 2020 | Utah Public Radio

Listen to the interview (1.41 MB MP3)

Making phone calls from deep space is a challenge even from large spacecraft, but from small satellites it is exceptionally hard. The communications devices for small spacecraft that will be used in an upcoming NASA mission will be provided by the Space Dynamics Lab at Utah State University.

The Janus mission is targeted to launch in two years with plans for dual small spacecraft to travel over 10 million kilometers to meet up with a pair of asteroids. Because the satellites are small, communication between the craft and earth will be especially difficult.

The Space Dynamics Lab at Utah State University just announced that they will be building the radios needed to do the job. Each are very small, about half the size of a loaf of bread and weighing only 1.1 kilograms. The radios will be designed to work over multiple years and will include advanced thermal management for navigation tracking.

Space Dynamics Laboratory electrical engineer Craig Thompson is shown in this July 28, 2020, photo performing acceptance testing on one of the Iris radios at SDL in North Logan, Utah. The SDL-built Iris radios will provide communications for dual Lockheed Martin small spacecraft being built for NASA’s deep-space mission called Janus, to visit near-Earth asteroids. CREDIT KELDEN PETERSON / SPACE DYNAMICS LABORATORY

Janus is part of NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration. The program is expected to boost understanding of the solar system’s makeup, provenance and evolution as well as supporting planetary defense and infill knowledge gaps as NASA plans human exploration of Mars and the Moon, according to NASA.