Mars beckons for ATDI

The planet Mars and Cairo are about 35 million miles apart but one firm exhibiting at this year’s ITU Africa has an interest in both.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  May 8, 2004

The planet Mars and Cairo are about 35 million miles apart but one firm exhibiting at this year’s ITU Africa has an interest in both. ATDI is a Paris based telecoms firm recently sub-contracted by NASA to investigate the feasibility of a proximity wireless network to enable communication between the elements of robotic exploration missions such as the rovers, probes and in-space vehicles. The firm’s core business involves designing and developing services and software covering the main areas in the design, planning and use of microwave networks operating in a range of frequencies from 30 MHz to 450GHz. ATDI’s involvement with NASA follows a trend in specialised industries, such as the military, where Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products are being utilised in a bid to reduce costs and deployment time of new systems. Working in conjunction with New Mexico State University, ATDI will analyse utilisation conditions using its own radio coverage calculation software. A typical scenario, for example, is when a rover, having explored an area, moves to an elevated point from where it will have the possibility to connect to a relay station that will resend data to Earth. To simulate scenarios of exploration missions, it was necessary to obtain precise terrain data of the Red Planet, so in the middle of the flat and rocky desert of New Mexico, a great approximation of the Mars terrain has been set-up. The mock planet’s accuracy was confirmed by the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA), which is on board the Mars Global Surveyor satellite. It acquires the raw terrain data by measuring the travel time of a laser pulse. A Digital Terrain Model at 10m resolution is then built and loaded into HerTZ Mapper, ATDI’s simulation software, to calculate the coverage from various locations. The project is years away from completion according to ATDI.

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