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Faster Communications

Finally, I just want to point to an exciting new prospect for New Horizons at Pluto itself: faster data rates. Our APL-based telecommunication team, led by Chris DeBoy, has worked out a way to use our redundant (opposite polarization) transmitters simultaneously to double our data rates. This "pump you up" technique will be tested later this year and used from time to time to reduce our need for downlink time on the Deep Space Network (DSN) on the way to Pluto.

When we reach Pluto, we plan to use the higher data transmission rates to cut the time required to send all of our data home in half—from what was almost 9 months, to just under 4.5 months. Even more impressively, the higher data rate will allow us to send home a "lossy compression" dataset with all of our spectra, all of our images, and all of our other data products within just two or three weeks of encounter! After all the years of delayed gratification that this mission entails, this is welcome news indeed. After all, everyone will be on the edge of their chairs in the summer of 2015 to see Pluto revealed — scientists and laypeople alike!

Well, that's all I have for now. So until next time . . .

-- Alan Stern


New Horizons, as it appears in cruise, outbound for the frontier.

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