Will the Microsoft and NASA Partnership help NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to carry forward its missions into space?
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has partnered with Microsoft’s Azure Quantum team to traverse how it can communicate more efficiently with spacecraft, as NASA launches more frequent and complex missions into space, managing communications with the growing number of spacecraft are becoming increasingly challenging. Will the Microsoft and NASA Partnership take a new shape in Spacetech?
Compared to some of the hurdles the agency has overcome to put missions like Perseverance on Mars, staying in touch with those spacecraft might not seem so difficult. However, sending instructions to every mission the agency has on the go is its logistical challenge. But there are some early signs of success.
As Microsoft explains it, JPL communicates with spacecraft via Deep Space Network (DSN), which is a global network of large radio antennas located in California, Spain, and Australia that allows constant communication with spacecraft as the earth rotates. But this communication comes with a bunch of constraints. In addition to requiring intensive computing resources, these missions also require access for key communication, which results in several hundred weekly requests when each spacecraft is visible to the antenna. NASA has to devote considerable computing resources to prioritize and schedule the hundreds of communication requests its teams put in each week.
This is where Microsoft could help. The company applied some of the things it learned optimizing quantum algorithms to tackle NASA’s scheduling headache using classical computers. At the start of the project, it took two hours for the company to compile a DSN schedule. Using its Azure network, Microsoft created a schedule in 16 minutes. A further “custom solution” allowed it to make one in two minutes.
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