Data Transfer from New Horizons

It is going to take a while.

New Horizons Data Transfer
A long wait for your files to transfer!
As we wait for the New Horizons Data to be returned to Earth it is worth considering the difficulty in getting it back. 2.9 billion miles is a long way away for a radio signal. This is not the record, we can still communicate with the Voyager spacecraft at over 12 billion miles out. Unlike Voyager, there is a great deal of data in the memory of New Horizons, we want it here on Earth ASAP.

Each LORRI image is a 1Mpix image at a 12bit depth, even with image compression this is 2.5Mbyte per image. LORRI was one of three cameras taking imagery during the encounter, there is also the data from Alice and Ralph. At the distance of Pluto about the best data transfer rate we can expect is around 1Kbit/sec. I am old enough to remember the days when a 1200 baud modem was state-of-the-art, large files were painful. At this data rate it will take about sixteen months for the entire Pluto encounter data set to be returned to Earth. I can only imagine the anticipation within the mission team, waiting for their data to be arrive.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

2 thoughts on “Data Transfer from New Horizons”

  1. The image shows 1 kb/s, but you say it’s 1 kbit/s. Those are different by a factor of 8… I’m genuinely curious which is the correct one.

    Also impressive is that the ping is on the order of hours.

    1. The correct number is 1kilobit/sec, the graphic is a bit off on that one, need to fix it I suppose.

      Yes, the ping would be a bit long, about 9 hours round trip;)


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