James Webb , the most powerful space telescope in history, has less memory capacity than your computer.
The James Webb Space Telescope is making history 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, and it’s doing it with a much smaller hard drive than you might think: just a 68GB SSD .
According to IEEE Spectrum, the $10 billion telescope has a small memory because its survival has been prioritized over its capacity.
James Webb’s SSD memory is smaller than your PC
The SSD memory chosen for the mission is special because it must work in extreme conditions, such as temperatures close to absolute zero. For this reason, it maintains special characteristics for its survival, in addition to having coatings against radiation.
The James Webb can transmit data to Earth at 28 Mbps through the Ka band at 25.9 Ghz that works with the Deep Space Network distributed on the planet. Unlike Hubble, it can send more information back to the planet.
The probe sends 28.6GB of scientific data in two windows per day, so the space of 68GB is enough to collect the images in 24 hours and send them without saving them in the telescope.
The probe’s communications with Earth incorporate an acknowledgment protocol: only after James Webb gets confirmation that a file has been successfully received will he go ahead and delete his copy of the data to free up space.
It will degrade
NASA estimates that only 60GB of storage will be available at the end of James Webb ‘s 10-year lifespan due to wear and tear and radiation, with 3% of the drive used for engineering and telemetry data storage.
That will leave the telescope with very little leeway for urgency, which makes us wonder if it will have a longevity anywhere near that of Hubble, which will still be going strong after 32 years.