NASA test the future of space communication

Trials with the agency's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration prove successful

Credit: NASA

LLCD could represent the future of NASA's space communication system

By Kieron Allen

NASA’s space communication programme took a giant leap forward this week when its Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) transmitted data from the Moon using a pulsed laser beam – the first time a laser has been used in place of radio waves.

LLCD, one of a collection of highly-advanced instruments on board the recently launched Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), beamed back the transmission 384,633km from the Moon to Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second.

With its revolutionary two-way, laser communication system NASA was also able to transmit data to the orbiting spacecraft from its ground station in New Mexico.

Since the agency’s first foray into space flight, NASA has relied on radio frequency communication, but as technology improves and plans for more missions into deep space surface, so comes the growing need for a more sophisticated method of communication. NASA’s new laser communications system will provide increased image resolution and even transmit 3D video from distant parts of our Solar System.

"The goal of LLCD is to validate and build confidence in this technology so that future missions will consider using it," said Don Cornwell, LLCD manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "This unique ability developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory has incredible application possibilities."




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