NASA is now communicating with spacecraft via laser

There was a nice update yesterday relating to one of our previous posts, Space laser to prove increased broadband possible, reporting on how an ESA optical ground station will take part in a laser communication test with NASA later this year. The news? Looks like the first tests, between a NASA ground station and that Agency’s LADEE Moon mission, were a success! (We’ll post news on ESA’s coming participation in the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration shortly.)

Via NASA

NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) has made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles between the moon and Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps).

LLCD is NASA’s first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon.

NASA’s Lunar Lasercom Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory (OCTL) Terminal, sending a laser beam to the Moon. Image: NASA

NASA’s Lunar Lasercom Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory (OCTL) Terminal, sending a laser beam to the Moon. Image: NASA

And a nice report via Popular Mechanics:

Over the weekend, NASA and MIT made spaceflight history when their Lunar Laser Communications Demonstrator (LLCD) beamed data at 622 megabits per second—5 times the current rate—back from a spacecraft in lunar orbit.

In an interview with Popular Mechanics, Don Cornwell, mission manager at NASA’s Goddard Fight Center, said that LLCD “is working better than expected” after its initial tests. “We just finished the first four days, and it has been extremely successful, beyond our expectations.”

 

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