Jagran Explainer: How NASA's laser demonstration mission could revolutionise space communication?

The mission is expected to spend two years conducting tests and experiments before it begins supporting space missions.

By Mukul Sharma
Sun, 05 Dec 2021 06:48 PM IST
Minute Read
Jagran Explainer: How NASA's laser demonstration mission could revolutionise space communication?
The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload is attached to the LCRD Support Assembly Flight (LSAF) | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

New Delhi | Jagran Trending Desk: NASA is set to test Laser Communication Relay that could revolutionise the way top US space agency communicates with its space missions. The use of invisible lasers in space may become reality by the end of Sunday, according to Indian Standard Time.

These lasers could lead to more high-definition videos and photos from space than ever before, the agency said.

The demonstration acts as a relay satellite, which eliminates the need for future missions to have antennas with a direct line-of-sight on Earth. The satellite could help reduce the size, weight and power requirements for communications on future spacecraft, although this mission is about the size of a king mattress, CNN reported.

“Currently, most NASA missions use radio frequency communications to send data to and from spacecraft. Radio waves have been used in space communications since the beginning of space exploration and have a proven track record of success. However, as space missions generate and collect more data, the need for enhanced communications capabilities becomes paramount,” NASA said in an official statement.

Bandwidth to increase by 10 to 100 times

Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will provide significant benefits for missions, including bandwidth increases of 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems, NASA said, adding that such mode of communication will result in less expensive space missions.

“Optical communications provides decreased size, weight, and power requirements. A smaller size means more room for science instruments. Less weight means a less expensive launch. Less power means less drain on the spacecraft’s batteries. With optical communications supplementing radio, missions will have unparalleled communications capabilities,” NASA added.

How LCRD mission will work?

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration is NASA's first end-to-end laser relay system that will send and receive data from space to two optical ground stations in Table Mountain, California, and Haleakalā, Hawaii. These stations have telescopes that will receive the light from the lasers and translate it into digital data. Because the satellite can both send and receive data, laser communication receivers can be up to 44 times smaller.

Once the mission arrives in orbit, the team at the operations center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, will activate the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration and will start sending the tests to the ground stations.
The mission is expected to spend two years conducting tests and experiments before it begins supporting space missions.

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