Deep Space Telecommunications Systems Engineering (Applications of Communications Theory)

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The challenge of communication in planetary exploration has been unusual. The guidance and control of spacecraft depend on reliable communication. Scientific data returned to earth are irreplaceable, or replaceable only at the cost of another mission. In deep space, communications propagation is good, relative to terrestrial communications, and there is an opportunity to press toward the mathematical limit of microwave communication. Yet the limits must be approached warily, with reliability as well as channel capacity in mind. Further, the effects of small changes in the earth's atmosphere and the interplanetary plasma have small but important effects on propagation time and hence on the measurement of distance. Advances are almost incredible. Communication capability measured in 18 bits per second at a given range rose by a factor of 10 in the 19 years from Explorer I of 1958 to Voyager of 1977. This improvement was attained through ingenious design based on the sort of penetrating analysis set forth in this book by engineers who took part in a highly detailed and amazingly successful pro­ gram. Careful observation and analysis have told us much about limitations on the accurate measurement of distance. It is not easy to get busy people to tell others clearly and in detail how they have solved important problems. Joseph H. Yuen and the other contribu­ tors to this book are to be commended for the time and care they have devoted to explicating one vital aspect of a great adventure of mankind.
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