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Holographic Storage: A Viable Alternative for Space?

Photonics Spectra
Jun 1998
Aaron J. Hand, Senior Editor/Technology

As space missions venture further into the depths of the universe n and further away from Earth n engineers are pressed to come up with data storage systems that will prove more capable and more reliable. While holographic storage hasnit been chosen yet as the answer to these problems, its large storage capacity, fast record and access times, and rugged design might some day be able to offer space applications what they need.
For its upcoming mission to Pluto, NASA plans to enable the spacecraft with 5 GB of memory, according to Tom Fraschetti, manager of the observational systems division at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Because the data rate from Pluto is so low, the mission will have to be able to store some data onboard while other data is being transmitted back to Earth. Conceivably, such needs will only continue to grow.
But the space industry is not going to jump on a new technology just because itis advanced. A technology must prove its worth; prove that it can offer something considerably more advantageous than the last design, and that it can do so without forcing the players to spend much more money.
With this in mind, holographic storage has its work cut out for it. It may be able to offer capacities 100 times that of other storage technologies and retrieve a billion bits of data in a second, but if it canit do so at a price comparable to current devices, and if designers canit convince users that they actually need these kinds of capabilities, then the technology will go nowhere.


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