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New Antennas Will Take CubeSats to Mars and Beyond

By packing big antennas into tiny satellites, JPL engineers are making space science cheap

9 min read
Illustration: John MacNeill
Illustration: John MacNeill

One morning in November 2014, Kamal Oudrhiri, a colleague of mine at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, Calif., burst into my office with an intriguing proposition. A first-of-its-kind satellite was headed for Mars. The satellite would fly alongside NASA’s InSight Mars Lander, relaying data in real time back to Earth during the lander’s critical entry, descent, and landing. “We have to achieve 8 kilobits per second, and we’re limited in terms of power. Our only hope is a large antenna,” Oudrhiri explained. “Oh, and the satellite itself will be only about the size of a briefcase.”

Nothing as diminutive as the Mars satellite—which belongs to a class called CubeSats—had ever gone farther than low Earth orbit. The antenna would be stowed during launch, occupying only about 830 cubic centimeters. Shortly thereafter, it would unfurl to a size three times as large as the satellite itself. It would have to survive the 160-million-kilometer flight to the Red Planet, including the intense vibration of launch and the radiation and extreme temperatures of deep space. How hard could that be?

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Rory Cooper’s Wheelchair Tech Makes the World More Accessible

He has introduced customized controls and builds wheelchairs for rough terrain

6 min read
portrait of a man in a navy blue polo with greenery in the background
Abigail Albright

For more than 25 years, Rory Cooper has been developing technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Cooper began his work after a spinal cord injury in 1980 left him paralyzed from the waist down. First he modified the back brace he was required to wear. He then turned to building a better wheelchair and came up with an electric-powered version that helped its user stand up. He eventually discovered biomedical engineering and was inspired to focus his career on developing assistive technology. His inventions have helped countless wheelchair users get around with more ease and comfort.

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Intel’s Take on the Next Wave of Moore’s Law

Ann B. Kelleher explains what's new 75 years after the transistor's invention

4 min read
image of a black and gold computer chip against a black background

Intel's Ponte Vecchio processor

Intel

The next wave of Moore’s Law will rely on a developing concept called system technology co-optimization, Ann B. Kelleher, general manager of technology development at Intel told IEEE Spectrum in an interview ahead of her plenary talk at the 2022 IEEE Electron Device Meeting.

“Moore’s Law is about increasing the integration of functions,” says Kelleher. “As we look forward into the next 10 to 20 years, there’s a pipeline full of innovation” that will continue the cadence of improved products every two years. That path includes the usual continued improvements in semiconductor processes and design, but system technology co-optimization (STCO) will make the biggest difference.

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FAST Labs’ Cutting-Edge R&D Gets Ideas to the Field Faster

BAE Systems’ FAST Labs engineers turn breakthrough innovations into real-life impact

1 min read

FAST Labs is an R&D organization where research teams can invent and see their work come to life.

BAE Systems

This is a sponsored article brought to you by BAE Systems.

No one sets out to put together half a puzzle. Similarly, researchers and engineers in the defense industry want to see the whole picture – seeing their innovations make it into the hands of warfighters and commercial customers.

That desire is fueling growth at BAE Systems’ FAST Labs research and development (R&D) organization.

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