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Communications

Space communications have relied on radio since the first Sputnik in 1957. It’s a mature, reliable technology, but it’s reaching its limits. The amount of data sent has increased exponentially for decades and NASA expects the trend to continue. The current communications systems are reaching their limits, so NASA and ESA are going beyond radio as a solution. As part of this effort, ESA has finished tests of part of a new communications system, in preparations for a demonstration in October in which it will receive a laser data download from a NASA lunar orbiter. Read More

Europe's largest telecommunications satellite has gone into orbit following a successful launch from French Guiana on Thursday. At 8:38 p.m. GMT, Alphasat (all 6.6 tonnes of it) was picked up at Inmarsat's Beijing ground station, confirming that the satellite was operating as expected. Read More

Researchers from the Universities of Bath and Exeter have shown that a few layers of graphene stacked on top of each other could act as a formidable material for optical switches, delivering speeds up to 100 times faster than current telecommunications technology. Read More
After linking the world for 167 years, the commercial electric telegraph is no more. The speed with which electromagnetic telegraph systems took over both short- and long-distance communication in the mid 19th century set the pattern which telephones and the internet would follow, spawning the connected world we now live in. The closing down of India's state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam, Ltd. (BSNL) network on Monday sparked a last-minute rush of people looking to send a souvenir telegram to mark the historic event before the electric telegraph was relegated to the history books. Read More
In internet engineering, there’s a problem called the “last half mile," which looks at how to connect users to high-speed fiber optic networks without going through old-fashioned copper wires that can slow data down to a crawl. NASA has more of a “last 250 miles” problem in making data connections with the International Space Station (ISS). The upcoming Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) project is an optical technology demonstration for using lasers to improve communications with the ISS and other spacecraft in hopes of boosting connection speeds by a factor of 10 to 100. Read More

The Ford Motor Company recently tested its experimental “Electronic Brake Light” system, as part of the 4-year Safe Intelligent Mobility - Testfield Germany (simTD) joint industry research project. The technology causes a dashboard light to illuminate in your car, when a vehicle in front of you applies its brakes. Read More

PayPal has teamed with the SETI Institute and the Space Tourism Society to start preparations for the coming upheavals of Solar System commerce. Having whetted their teeth on global commerce, PayPal is looking forward to the challenge of figuring out how to let John or Jill check their balance when they are living on Mars or visiting the Orbital Technologies commercial space station. It's answer is PayPal Galactic. Read More

Imagine if you were having a real-time conversation with someone at another location, and wanted them to see what you were seeing, from the perspective you were seeing it. Well, you soon may be able to do just that, once the PairASight project is up and running. Read More

GiraffPlus is an EU-funded project that uses telepresence technology to monitor the elderly in their own homes. The system has already been tested in a demo apartment in Örebro, Sweden. Now GiraffPlus is being taken further afield to be tested in real homes in Sweden, Italy and Spain. Read More

Vehicle-to-vehicle communications are a fundamental pillar of autonomous, self-driving cars. Once vehicles can exchange data with each other and the greater driving infrastructure, they'll be able to "see" and adapt to driving obstacles more completely, preventing accidents and delivering more efficient driving. Mercedes plans to be the first automaker to bring a Car-to-X vehicle-to-vehicle communications system to market. Read More
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