(ORDO NEWS) — A video released by NASA in November 2021 shows how their soon-to-launch demonstration spacecraft will test laser communications in space, both between two satellites and between the International Space Station and Earth. The system, dubbed the “Laser Communications Relay Demonstrator” or LCRD, aims to prove the viability of using laser fiber communications in space, without the need for physical cables between sender and receiver.
BACKGROUND: THE ADVANTAGES OF LASERS FOR COMMUNICATIONS
On Earth, the fiber optic network, which covers most of the developed world, allows the transmission and reception of high-definition images, audio and video almost instantly. This capability is not available to geosynchronous satellites, which transmit most of these transmissions from thousands of miles above the Earth’s surface. This is mainly due to the destructive nature of the earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, not to mention the fact that laying a fiber-optic cable from the earth to these satellites is currently impossible.
“The Earth’s atmosphere distorts laser beams due to turbulence,” said Jason Mitchell, director of advanced communications and navigation technology for the space communications and navigation (SCaN) program at NASA headquarters in a recent press release from the mission. “Understanding these issues is critical to making it possible to quickly relay optical communications.”
VIDEO NASA DEMONSTRATES TECHNOLOGY
NASA has now released a video animation of the upcoming LCRD mission that they believe will conquer this final frontier, providing superior laser communications capabilities and benefits to both satellites and earth stations.
“Overall, commercial efforts have focused on the development of space-to-space laser systems for use in low Earth orbit,” the press release explained. “Companies are investing in satellite constellations that use laser communications to provide global broadband coverage.”
Such proposed constellations, according to the same press release, have from several hundred to several thousand satellites designed to create an extensive in-space laser communication network.
“Commercial groups still rely heavily on radio frequency channels to transmit data to Earth,” the release adds. “Whereas LCRD uses lasers to communicate both in space and directly with Earth.”
HOW LASERS MAKE ISS GO TO HIGH RESOLUTION
According to the same press release, “Satellite 6 (STPSat-6) of the US Department of Defense Space Test Program, which is part of the Space Test Program 3 (STP-3), will be launched by the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Cosmodrome in Florida. no earlier than December 5, 2021 “.
And according to NASA, the LCRD will be part of that payload, which will launch soon.
“LCRD includes commercially designed and manufactured components along with custom systems developed by NASA,” the press release explained. “The optical module that directs lasers to and from the payload was designed by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.”
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