Future of NASA laser communications

(ORDO NEWS) — On December 7, 2021, the Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD) mission was launched to test laser communication capabilities. LCRD is NASA’s first technology demonstration of a two-way laser relay system.

In May 2022, NASA announced that the LCRD was ready to conduct experiments. Testing and improving laser systems is the main goal of the mission.

Experiments conducted by NASA and others are measuring the long-term effects of the atmosphere on laser communications signals, evaluating the technology’s applicability to future missions, and testing the capabilities of laser relay in orbit.

NASA continues to accept proposals for new experiments to improve optical technologies and identify future applications.

On May 25, 2022, TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) was launched as part of the Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 (PTD-3) mission. TBIRD will feature 200 Gb/s data transfer, the highest optical rate ever achieved by NASA.

TBIRD continues NASA’s implementation of optical communications, demonstrating the benefits that can be obtained with lasers.

The launch of an LCRD modem and an ILLUMA-T (Integrated LCRD Low-Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal) on the ISS in early 2023 will bring laser communications to the orbiting laboratory, which will expand the capabilities of astronauts.

ILLUMA-T will collect information about experiments at the station and send data to the LCRD at 1.2 Gbps. LCRD will then relay this information to ground stations in Hawaii and California.

The Orion Artemis II Optical Communications System (O2O) will provide laser communications during the Artemis II mission.

O2O will be able to transmit high-resolution images and video when astronauts go to the moon. Artemis II will be the first manned lunar mission to demonstrate laser communications technology.

“By introducing new laser communications technologies to the Artemis mission, we are giving our astronauts more access to data than ever before,” said O2O project manager Steve Horowitz.

“The higher the data rate, the more information our instruments can send home to Earth, and the more scientific experiments our lunar explorers can perform.”

The introduction of laser communication systems will be an integral part of NASA’s future missions. Higher communication speeds will allow exploratory missions to learn more about the universe.

NASA will be able to use information from images, videos and experiments not only to study near-Earth space, but also to prepare for future missions to Mars and beyond.


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