The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may have produced some of the most awe-inspiring images in the history of deep space photography since its launch, but even the most modest modern laptop can beat it in the storage stakes.
The world’s most advanced telescope only has a 68 GB Solid State Drive (SSD), although this still beats the modest 2 GB used by the Hubble telescope (the world’s previous top telescope), it’s next to nothing compared to what available to consumers today.
To put things in perspective, the Acer Predator GM7000 1TB NVMe Gaming SSD will give you about 1 terabyte of storage for only about £150, quite a bit less than JWST’s estimated $10 billion budget.
Why so small?
An interpretation by Tom’s hardware notes that it’s important to realize that it’s virtually impossible to compare hardware operating in space orbit with that on Earth.
The vastly different conditions in space can easily destroy an ordinary hard drive.
How does NASA get around the problem?
The storage is usually for short-term use anyway, and should only last about 24 hours, according to Alex Hunter, a flight systems engineer at the Space Telescope Science Institute.
JWST will apparently have scheduled opportunities to send the image data to Earth before it fills up again, making the journey of about 1.5 million kilometers (932 thousand miles) in the process.
Even the 68GB figure may be an exaggeration, with 3 percent of the storage apparently reserved for engineering and telemetry data according to IEEE spectrumand in about 10 years the storage capacity will probably be reduced to about 60 GB.
But what the telescope lacks in storage it certainly makes up for in other capabilities.
The JWST’s 25 square meter main optic can capture infrared light with a wavelength of up to 28 m.
NASA didn’t say why the telescope has such a limited amount of storage space, but it could just be an age issue.
The first designs for the project started in 1996, while the first contract for its manufacture was signed in 2003.
- Want more space than the world’s best telescope? Check out our guide to the best cloud storage
Via Tom’s Hardware (opens in new tab)