In connection with the preparation of the expedition to Mars, which, according to some estimates, may start in 2035, many of its technical aspects of the technical, social and other aspects of the expedition are being worked out.
Some problems have already been solved, but many are still looking for solutions. These problems include the problem of the Earth-Mars-Earth connection. Back in 2009, NASA intended
to solve this problem using a laser communication channel, but no final decision was made.
According to the calculations of scientists, for an expedition to Mars, this may be one of the options for communication with Earth.
However, ESA and other aerospace agencies are planning to launch a series of vehicles to the outer planets of the solar system. For such large distances, the organization of the laser communication channel will be difficult.
The problem of data transmission via radio waves is a strong weakening of the radio signal at such a distance. In order for terrestrial antennas to disassemble it, it is necessary to reduce the bandwidth of the channel up to 1 gigabyte per day (about 12 Kb / s).
For example, a full map of Europe or Titan with high resolution using modern technologies would have weighed 10-20 terabytes. Transferring it from a probe to the Earth over a radio channel will take about 50 years.
As an alternative to this method of information exchange, Thales Alenia Space suggests using data clippers to transfer large amounts of information from the outer planets of the Solar System.
Thales Alenia Space offered to create
solar sailboats following the example of the acclaimed Japanese probe IKAROS, which will ply between Mars and the earth (or other planets of the Solar System) and carry information in their memory. Having approached the probe of the planet under study, such a clipper could quickly download data via a laser channel.
If we imagine the same situation with the study of Europe and Titan, then it would take the clipper three years to get closer to the Earth at a distance sufficient to exchange information on the laser beam. From a distance of several tens of thousands of kilometers, a clipper using laser communications could, in 3-5 hours, download all data at a speed of about 1 gigabyte per second. Saving time - 47 years. Increased costs - 100-200 million euros for the "sunny sailboat" 150 x 150 meters. You can design and build a data clipper in 20 years.
The same solar sailboat, as it orbits around the Sun, could adjust its trajectory to visit different outer planets and serve different scientific missions.
I wonder why the idea of installing 2-3 such clippers for using them as repeaters of a laser signal is not being considered. I did not find the answer to this question.