PASADENA (CNS) — A pair of radios designed by Jet Propulsion Laboratory were launched into space today aboard a European Space Agency craft bound for Mars, and they are expected to provide enhanced communication between landers on the planet’s surface and a satellite orbiting above, increasing the amount of data sent back to Earth.
The ESA’s ExoMars 2016 mission — carrying two Electra UHF, or ultra-high frequency, radios — launched from Kazakhstan and is expected to arrive at Mars in seven months.
The radios are included in the mission’s Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander, and they have features designed to improve the relay of data. For example, with the enhanced features, the Electra radios can adjust the data-transmission rate based on the proximity of the lander on the surface and the orbiter above, maximizing the data that is ultimately returned to Earth, according to JPL.
The improved radios are expected to have a signal about twice as strong as the Electra radios already aboard NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
“This partnership with Europe will strengthen and extend the existing infrastructure at the Red Planet for orbiters to support assets on the surface,” according to JPL’s Phillip Barela, project manager for NASA’s role in the ExoMars mission.