The space agency is working hard to develop laser-based space communications systems, which officials say are key to ensuring rapid and accurate transmission of information from spacecraft around the solar system. The agency’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration mission (LCRD), which is slated to lift off in December 2017.
Demonstrating Laser Communications
LCRD will launch to geosynchronous orbit as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite developed by the company Space Systems/Loral.
The experiment’s two optical modules will use lasers to send information to two ground stations, one in California and one in New Mexico, at rates of up to 1.25 gigabytes per second. LCRD will operate for at least two years, with the aim of demonstrating the long-term viability of a space-based laser communications system.
LLCD has already set a record, using a pulsed laser beam to send data 239,000 miles from lunar orbit to Earth at a rate of 622 megabits per second. The previous record from the moon had been 150 megabits per second, achieved by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), said Bernard Edwards, chief communications systems engineer at the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
The LLCD system is also more efficient than the radio-frequency approach employed by LRO and other spacecraft, requiring significantly less mass and power.
Excerpt from an article by Mike Wall, senior writer for Space.com
- NASA fires 622Mbps broadband LASER AT THE MOON – Register (theregister.co.uk)
- NASA Has a 622 Mbps Data Connection – to the Moon (nasa.gov)
- Historic demonstration proves laser communication possible (esciencenews.com)
- NASA brings broadband to the moon (geek.com)