Here's how Microsoft helps NASA chat with the James Webb Space Telescope

Microsoft Logo 2022
Microsoft Logo 2022 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory uses Azure Quantum to efficiently plan schedules for communication with spacecraft through the Deep Space Network.
  • Azure Quantum was used to reduce the needed time to create a schedule from two hours to approximately two minutes.
  • The Deep Space Network is used to communicate with the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover and the James Webb Space Telescope.

Microsoft's Azure Quantum is being used to improve the scheduling of communication with spacecraft such as the James Webb Space Telescope. In order to communicate with spacecraft, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) uses the Deep Space Network (DSN), which is a network of radio antennae in California, Spain, and Australia.

Scheduling time on the DSN is complicated due to several constraints and the fact that the network receives hundreds of requests each week. Microsoft explains (opens in new tab) how its Azure Quantum is being used to streamline the scheduling process in a recent blog post.

Since the DSN has antennae around the globe, it can constantly communicate with spacecraft. But as the number of spacecraft increases and missions become more complex, it becomes more difficult to meet the demand for key communication.

Microsoft's team recorded runtimes of at least two hours when it first looked into the scheduling situation. Using Azure Quantum, the required time was lowered to 16 minutes. A custom solution further brought the time needed down to approximately two minutes.

Despite relating to communication through space, Microsoft notes that the lessons learned through this project can apply to situations on earth.

This isn't the first time that Microsoft has helped speed up tasks related to spacecraft. HoloLens 2 headsets have helped NASA workers complete tasks in 45 minutes that originally took eight hours. The International Space Station also uses Microsoft Azure for data processing.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

1 Comment
  • I know that space agencies have been doing this for a long time, but I am just blown away every time I think about how people on Earth get a robot literally millions of miles away (in this case just one million, but who's counting?) to do exactly what they want. The one that really got me was the Mars helicopter.