Exploring Space Through Embedded Technology

Embedded systems are a mainstay on spacecrafts. Right from the cameras to the motors, everything is dependent on embedded technology. Consider NASA’s New Horizon’s space probe that recently completed a flyby of Pluto and its moon Charon.

New Horizons is the first space probe to reach Pluto. No bigger than a piano, New Horizons went through 3 billion miles of cold, pitch black space to arrive at Pluto. The journey, which took 9 years is akin to traveling 5,000 miles to hit a target only three inches wide. There were seven payloads on the space probe – one receiver/radiometer, one dust sensor, two plasma instruments and three optical instruments all of which contain top notch embedded technology.

During the flyby, the probe captured some beautiful pictures (available on the internet) of the planet and it’s moons, expanding our knowledge of that part of our universe. The interesting thing is, New Horizon’s payload draws just 28 watts of power. In comparison, an incandescent bulb uses 60 watts of power. The extent of miniaturization on the space probe is unprecedented. Moreover, the instruments have to function in extremely cold conditions, in low light. These things couldn’t have been possible without embedded technology.