NASA NIAC Study – Petabits of Planetary Survey Data Earth-Mars Cycler

The Solar System Pony Express is a global, multi-spectral, high-resolution planetary surveyor supported by regular visits from a cycler satellite network to retrieve petabits of data for transit to Earth. This is a phase 1 NASA NIAC study.

The “courier” satellites use optical communications to receive 1-3 petabits from the surveyor at least once per year. They then travel close to earth where they can downlink the data quickly. By exploiting cycler orbits, the couriers need minimal onboard propulsion and can operate for decades as an augmentation to the Deep Space Network and a precursor to a Human Exploration logistics network.

Written by Brian Wang,