NASA has partnered with Microsoft on technology that will help the company manage deep space missions more efficiently. Microsoft announced that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is turning to Azure Quantum to explore ways to more efficiently communicate with spacecraft while exploring the solar system and beyond.
For context, Azure Quantum is a cloud service with a diverse set of quantum computing-based solutions and technologies. It is an open ecosystem that enables users to access diverse quantum software, hardware and solutions from Microsoft and its partners.
Now, NASA plans to use Microsoft’s quantum computing-based solution to make it easier for spacecraft to communicate with specialized antennas in space.
How will Microsoft help NASA?
As Microsoft explains it, JPL communicates with spacecraft via the Deep Space Network (DSN), a global network of large radio antennae located in California, Spain, and Australia that accompanies the spacecraft as the Earth rotates. Allows for continuous communication. The spacecraft schedule requests space missions to use the DSN antenna. But it comes with a slew of communication barriers. In addition to requiring intensive computing resources, these missions also required access to key communications, resulting in several hundred weekly requests when each spacecraft was visible to the antenna.
In addition, missions such as the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover and the James Webb Space Telescope also require high-fidelity data operations that significantly increase the load on the DSN. That’s where Microsoft’s quantum computing capabilities come into play.
Microsoft says its Azure Quantum team has developed a solution for a variant of JPL’s scheduling problem “with a limited feature set with the end goal being to cover a broader set of requirements.” Essentially, this solution will help speed up the communication process between the spacecraft and the antenna in space.
Although the company did not share the specifics of this solution, it said, “At the beginning of the project, Microsoft Teams recorded runtimes of two hours or more to generate schedules. By applying quantum-inspired optimization algorithms, Microsoft Teams used Azure Quantum to reduce the time required to 16 minutes, and a custom solution reduced it to about two minutes.
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