How does NASA communicate with spacecraft?

What could go wrong with communications?

Once DS1 has launched, it is impossible for engineers to reach in and repair anything that breaks. When a few things go wrong, engineers will "work around" the problem, which means they will find other ways to send data back. However, if the communication system breaks down completely, no data would be received and we would lose a tremendous opportunity to learn about deep space, as well as be unable to see how the new technologies being tested on DS1 are performing.

Several things could go wrong with the communications system. There could be a failure of the equipment on DS1 caused by some unforeseen event, like a collision with a tiny micrometeoriod. The receiving equipment on Earth could malfunction or be mishandled or damaged as well. If the equipment stays intact, the signal could be interfered with by an object or by energy or noise along its path to Earth. This gets more likely the farther DS1 gets from the Earth.

What interferes with radio waves?
How does NASA run space missions?
What new technologies are being tested on DS1?
What is a micrometeoroid?
Is there sound in space?

How much data is DS1 able to transfer?
What problems are there besides noise?
Why do communications get harder at greater distances?
What new communications features are used by DS1?