Interplanetary communication: The L3XPRIZE

Proton Astrophysics X PRIZE Corp.

A major challenge for space travel is ensuring satellites can communicate with one another and with ground-based systems while in space. One possible method is using an electro-optical system, called a laser interferometer, to see how the data the satellites are transmitting is received.

Researchers at NASA and the European Space Agency, and member states of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteoroid and Planet-Hunting In 2005, joined forces to propose the X PRIZE for an Interferometer using a Laser Interferometer for Communicating Over Longitudes. It required a system that could beam data back to Earth from a near-Earth satellite about 80 times a second.

In 2018, the competition will be resumed with a new challenge: to demonstrate the system before humans travel to Mars and, perhaps, introduce it to lunar environments. In the new competition, one large space station could be used as a prototype. This time around, the competition is open to teams around the world that are equipped to demonstrate an interferometer using a laser interferometer.

Below are some basic materials you’ll need to build a prototype. Note: This list may be updated as the competition progresses.

The apparatus should be able to work using 1,000 nanowatts of power, according to Rob Arreguin, leader of NASA’s Ames Research Center team and co-founder of the NanoRacks organization.

The laser should only go out about six feet. It should be in pulsed state–going rapidly off the grid.

To attach the laser, you should build a small hollow box about a foot long by two feet wide with two boxes held in place by metal rods.

This device needs to weigh about one pound.

It should have four retractable arms that can double as mirrors.

It needs to be able to open and close slightly so that each side is facing different sides of the room and can observe different areas of the room on its own.

The team you build should be about three feet wide by four feet long by three feet high.

It needs to be able to get up and down a few times to determine if the legs are good.

In the next stage, you should demonstrate to the Space Agency that the equipment can shoot data about three times a second, for about five minutes.

Then the competition switches to creating a working model of the system, so you can see how it works.

The Space Agency will choose the top teams, and their results will be announced at the 8th Congress of the X PRIZE Foundation in Kuala Lumpur on 20-21 May 2022. If successful, the top group wins $15m.

You can sign up for a free trial of the online application system here.

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