NASA has partnered with Microsoft over technology that would help the company to manage deep space missions more efficiently. Microsoft announced that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL has turned to Azure Quantum to explore ways to communicate more efficiently with spacecraft while exploring the solar system and beyond. Also Read – Microsoft launches new skilling courses for small and medium businesses

For reference, Azure Quantum is a cloud service with a diverse set of quantum computing-based solutions and technologies. It is an open ecosystem that enables users to access diverse quantum software, hardware, and solutions from Microsoft and its partners. Also Read – Microsoft is bringing its first major update to Windows 11 next month

Now, NASA is planning to use Microsoft’s quantum computing based solution for making it easier for the spacecraft to communicate with the special antennas in space. Also Read – Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 have been played by over 38 million people

How will Microsoft help NASA?

As Microsoft explains it, JPL communicates with spacecrafts via Deep Space Network (DSN), which is a global network of large radio antennae located in California, Spain, and Australia that allows constant communication with spacecraft as the earth rotates. Spacecrafts schedule requests to use the DSN antennae from the space missions. But this communication comes with a bunch of constraints. In addition to requiring intensive computing resources, these missions also require access for key communication, which results in several hundred weekly requests when each spacecraft is visible to the antenna.

Furthermore, missions like the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover and the James Webb Space Telescope also require higher-fidelity data operations that significantly increase the load on the DSN. That is where Microsoft’s quantum computing capabilities come into picture.

Microsoft says that its Azure Quantum team has developed a solution for a version of JPL’s scheduling problem “with a limited feature set with the eventual goal to incorporate a broader set of requirements.” Essentially, this solution will help in speeding up the communication process between the spacecrafts and antennae in space.

While the company didn’t share specifics of this solution, it did say, “at the beginning of the project, the Microsoft team recorded runtimes of two hours or more to produce a schedule. By applying quantum-inspired optimization algorithms, the Microsoft team used Azure Quantum to reduce the time needed to 16 minutes, and a custom solution reduced it to about two minutes.”

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