The end of radio silence – wind tunnel tests simulate a new method for communicating with spacecraft
29 January 2016
Entering a planetary atmosphere is one of the most critical mission phases for a spacecraft. The enormous amount of heat generated not only places heavy thermal loads on the material of the re-entry vehicle, it also gives rise to an electrically charged plasma that flows around it. This blocks radio signals, with the result that the spacecraft is unable to communicate with its ground stations for several minutes. In a joint project, researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are working with colleagues at Stanford University in California to find a solution to this problem.