Museum Blog

NASA's Laser-Communication Tech for Spacecraft Zaps Forward

Posted 9/8/2015 12:09 AM by Kim Evans | Comments

opals laser large.jpg

An artist's illustration shows the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) laser beaming data to Earth from its perch on the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA

In space, a slow data connection can cause frustration and mistakes on the International Space Station and it's forcing scientists to wait 16 months to get all the data back from the New Horizons spacecraft's historic July 14 flyby of Pluto.

But a new, high-precision laser communications system will burst through those old radio-wave barriers for a faster back-and-forth, agency officials say.

A recent NASA experiment probed the effects of communications delays aboard the International Space Station by mimicking the gaps in communication that might happen during a crewed mission to a faraway destination.  The researchers found that a 50-second communications delay frustrated space station astronauts and made it more difficult for them to complete tasks.

Going "optical" means communicating with laser beams of near-infrared light — a process that can send a stream of data 10 to 100 times faster than standard radio, according to NASA, and uses much less power than today's fastest, strongest radio signals. The near-infrared rays are not visible to the human eye.

There are ways to overcome challenge of focusing the narrow beam to receivers and interference by clouds though, and the pace of the technology's development on Earth has let researchers take it farther, for a lower cost.

NASA is also looking into pushing the technology much farther away than Earth orbit. An earlier experiment, in October 2013, set up a two-way laser link between New Mexico and NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, which was orbiting the moon. Cornwell, who managed that mission, said a laser system in development now that could communicate with a satellite around Mars would need a signal about 1 million times more powerful than LADEE's. And the farther out you go, the more of a challenge it will be to aim and decipher the results.

So far, no laser connection has been made farther out than the moon. But that may change soon: The systems needed to do so are in development, and NASA offered a $30 million incentive to include laser communications on the next Discovery-class mission proposals.

Source: Space.com

 

 

 

Comments

Subscribe to our RSS feed

Authors

Categories

Social

Archives

Tags

2015 in Space2017 Solar Eclipse40 Eridani system60 Minutes in SpaceAltitudeAndromedaAntaresanthropologyarchaeologyArctic IceArtAsk a ScientistAsteroidAsteroid 2012 DA14Asteroid sample returnAstronomyAtmospherebeerBeetlesBig BangBinary StarBlack HolesBlood MoonBrown DwarfButterfliesCarnegie Institution for ScienceCassiniCatalystCelestial EventsCentaurus ACeresChandra X-Ray TelescopeChang’e 3 moon missionChang’e 4 moon missionCharonChina Space ProgramChinese Space ProgramChipmunksChristmasCitizen ScienceClimateClimate changecollaborationCollectionscollections moveColoradoCometComet 67PComet 67P/Churyumov–GerasimenkoComet Swift-TuttleConferenceConversations in Local Health ResearchCootiesCosmic InflationCuriosityCuriosity RoverCygnusCygnus SpacecraftDark EnergyDark MatterDatabaseDawnDawn missionDawn SpaecraftDDIGDenverDiscovery MissionsdonationDream ChaserDung BeetlesDwarf PlanetEagle NebulaEarthEarth and MoonEarth from SpaceEarth Observation SatellitesEclipse ViewingEducation and Collections Facilityeducation collectionsEinsteinEl NiñoEnceladusentomologyESAEuclid SpacecraftEuropaEuropean Space AgencyEvolutionExoMarsExoMars SpacecraftExoplanetExoplanet Search TechniquesExoplanetsExtinctionextremophilefieldfieldworkFirst Earthrisefolk artfoodGAIA MissionGalaxiesGalaxyGalaxy ClustersGanymedegem carvingGeneticsGRACE SpacecraftGravitational WavesGravity Recovery and Climate ExperimentGreenhouse GasesHabitable ZoneHolidayHolidayshorticultural pestHot JupitersHubbleHubble Space TelescopeHuman SpaceflightHydrainsect collectioninsectsInsightInternational Space StationISSISS SightingsJason-2 (Spacecraft)JPLJWSTKeplerKepler Missionknow healthKonovalenkoKuiper Belt ObjectLaser CommunicationsLawrence Livermore National LaboratoryLepidoperaLepidopteraLibraryLiceLight PollutionLinear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA)literatureLockheed Martin DenverLROLunar EclipseLunar Reconnaissance OrbiterMadagascarMarathon ValleyMars 2020Mars ExplorationMars OrbiterMars Reconnaissance OrbiterMars RoverMars RoversMars Science LabMars Science LaboratoryMars spacecraftMars WaterMAVENMemoryMesa VerdeMeteor ShowersMeteorsMilky WayMongoliaMoon Rise/SetMothsMount SharpMROMSLMurray ButtesNASANASA-JPLNASA-TVNeptuneNeuroscienceNeutron StarNew HorizonsNew Horizons spacecraftNight SkynomenclatureNSFNutritionOcean CurrentsOcean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)Opportunity RoverOrbital SciencesOriginsOrionOrion spacecraftOSIRIS-RExPaleo DietpaleontologyparasitesPerseidsPersied Meteor ShowerPhilaePhobosPhotographyPlankPlutopoisonPolar bearsProgresspublishingPulsarQuasarRADRadio AstronomyRegolith ExplorerRelativityResource IdentificationRosettaRussiasamplesSaturnSaturn MoonsSaturn Ringsschoolscience on tapScientific visitorSecurityShrewsSierra NevadaSky calendarSky watchSmellSnowmassSolar SystemSoyuzSpace CommunicationsSpace ProbesSpace Stories of 2015Space TelescopesSpaceXspecimensSpectral InterpretationspidersSpitzer Space TelescopeStar ClusterStar TrekstarsStickney craterSunSuomi National Polar-orbiting PartnershipSuper EarthSuper MoonSupernovaTasteTeen Science Scholarsthe MoonTongueTravelturtleUniverseUtopia PlanitiaVenusVery Large ArrayVestaVirgin GalacticVLAvolunteeringVulcanWebb Space TelescopeWeddingwormXMM-NewtonX-ray Multi-Mirror Missionzoology
^ Back to Top
comments powered by Disqus