Away Team Tech: Proxima Centauri Interstellar Flyby Scientific Data Downlink Design

status report

astro-ph.IM

July 1, 2023

Illustration of the phases of a flyby mission for a probe powered by energy directed from the launch pad. The goal is to reliably retrieve scientific data collected on the launch pad. – astro-ph.IM

Editor’s note: One of the main interests The Proxima Centauri system (in addition to its proximity to Earth) means that at least one of the three planets detected (Proxima Centauri b) is in that star’s habitable zone. How would astrophysicists best use such a flyby mission and its ability to observe and send back data?

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The design of a downlink communication system to return science data from interstellar flyby probes is reviewed in this tutorial white paper.

The probe is assumed to be ballistic, and data is downloaded following an encounter with the target star and its exoplanet(s). Performance indices of interest to scientific investigators include total output-completion data latency and total amount of reliably retrieved data.

Issues to be considered include the relationship between speed and mass and the duration of downlink transmission. Optical communication with error correction coding (ECC) is considered by Pulse-Position Modulation (PPM). The largest receiver collecting area on or near Earth is composed of individual incoherent-coupled diffraction-limited apertures.

Other important design issues are reviewed, including transmit and receive pointing accuracy and beam size and receiver field of view. Numerical examples for Proxima Centauri (the closest star to our Sun) were initially launched from near-Earth by directed-energy propulsion.

David Messerschmidt, Philip Lubin, Ian Morrison

Subjects: Astrophysical Instruments and Methods (astro-ph.IM)
Citation: arXiv:2306.13550 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2306.13550v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Submission history
Posted by: David Messerschmidt
[v1] Fri, 23 Jun 2023 3:21:57 PM UTC (690 KB)
https://arxiv.org/abs/2306.13550
Astronomy

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Co-Founder of Spaceref, Explorers Club Fellow, Ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Labst Claimer.

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