Cycler Satellites Will Shuttle Petabits of Info from Deep Space Missions

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. 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.

A car loaded with ten petabytes of hard drives or magnetic tapes has 10,000,000 GBs of information. There are 100 weeks in two years. Cycler trajectories between Earth and Mars occur in whole-number multiples of the synodic period between the two planets, which is about 2.135 Earth years. There are about 1 million seconds in 11.5 days. You can send 10 petabits of information at 10 gigabits per second in 10 days. A close flyby of Mars would enable high bandwidth communication to a data mule. The mule would cycle back to Earth and unload 1000 times the information of slower long range transmission.