New orbiter will provide future missions with high data rates IEEE Spectrum

When NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reaches the Red Planet next month, it will immediately seek out areas where water once flowed, try to identify habitats where ancient life might have thrived, and start mapping the entire planet in unprecedented detail. But the orbiter’s arrival at Mars will also set the stage for a new epoch in spacecraft telecommunications. Its onboard Electra UHF relay transceiver [see photo, “Relay”] will serve as an engineering test bed for new communications and navigation technology that will be required for all future orbiters, landers, and rovers, to provide the faster data rates required for transfer of information from rovers and landers on the Martian surface to orbiters circling above.