According to IEEE Spectrum (thanks to Engadget), the James Webb Space Telescope has an SSD with just 68GB of storage. For comparison’s sake, this means that it won’t even be enough to store the operating system of a modern game console, as the PS5’s 825 GB SSD has only about 670 GB of usable storage.
The James Webb Telescope cost $10 billion, the same as the PS5’s 2TB M.2 SSD, but aside from jokes, you’d probably think NASA could have provided a bigger storage drive. However, since the satellite was located in the harsh space, there were special considerations.
Solid state drives (SSDs) can be more sensitive and fragile than older hard drives in general, even without having to deal with the rigors of space, and those who handle them should be careful not to go electrified (eg from static buildup). But JWST is located a million miles from Earth where it is exposed to radioactive bombardment and must operate in temperatures as low as -370 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, the SSD used in the telescope has undergone a rigorous certification process and is designed to withstand radiation.
The telescope has also been greatly improved over its predecessor, Hubble, as it has much faster data transfer speeds. JWST sends data back to Earth on a 25.9GHz channel at up to 28Mbps and can collect 57GB of data per day compared to Hubble’s 1-2GB per day. It takes about 4.5 hours for JWST data to reach Earth.
Therefore, the size of the telescope’s SSD is not so important as it can send data back during two four-hour communication windows each day, which means that only one day’s storage value is required on board. However, NASA expects that only 60 gigabytes of storage will be available within 10 years, and three percent should be left for engineering and telemetry data.
This doesn’t give the JWST much wiggle room, but those NASA types are pretty clever so hopefully they all work and the JWST can last as long as its predecessor, as the Hubble telescope is still operating 32 years later. Meanwhile, make sure your PS5 doesn’t shrivel and melt during this summer’s heat waves, and thank the stars for no space radiation to contend with.
Next: I visited the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey sanctuary in Delphi in real life and felt like I’d been there before