NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration – Bringing Optical Speeds to the Final Frontier

Space Test Program Satellite-6

Illustration of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) with the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload communicating data over infrared links. Credit: NASA

Our televisions and computer screens display news, movies, and shows in high-definition, allowing viewers a clear and vibrant experience. Fiber optic connections send laser light densely packed with data through cables to bring these experiences to users.

NASA and commercial aerospace companies are applying similar technologies to space communications, bringing optical speeds to the final frontier. Free-space optical communications leverages recent advancements in telecommunications to allow spacecraft to send high-resolution images and videos over laser links.

“Free-space” refers to the absence of the insulated, fiber optic cables that enable the terrestrial internet. Free-space laser communications flow freely through the vacuum of space, however atmosphere poses unique challenges to communications engineers.

NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will send data to and from ground stations and, eventually, in-space user missions over laser links.

Experimental optical communications terminal hosted on the International Space Station communicating with LCRD. Credit: NASA

“LCRD leverages the work done in the telecommunications industry for the past several decades. We’re taking the concepts that they’ve created and applying them to space,” said Russ Roder, product design lead for LCRD’s optical module. “The trick is that we have to optimize the technology for space.”

LCRD’s mission will be spent proving out the technology by testing laser communications capabilities with experiments from NASA, other government agencies, academia, and – in particular – the commercial aerospace community. Industry-developed experiments will allow companies to test their own technologies, software, and capabilities. NASA is providing these opportunities to grow the body of knowledge surrounding laser communications and promote its operational use.

While LCRD’s experimenter program will allow NASA and industry to test and refine techniques, both the agency and the commercial sector have been demonstrating and using laser communications for the past few decades.

LCRD Communicating Data

LCRD communicating data from the space station to Earth. Credit: NASA/Dave Ryan

Generally, commercial efforts have been focused on developing space-to-space laser systems for use in low-Earth orbit. Companies are investing in satellite constellations which leverage laser communications to provide global broadband coverage. Proposed constellations have several hundred to thousands of satellites, creating an extensive in-space laser communications network. Commercial constellations still largely rely on radio frequency links to send data back to Earth. Whereas, LCRD uses lasers for both in-space and direct-to-Earth communications.

While industry is focused on in-space optical communications to support terrestrial users, NASA is demonstrating direct-to-Earth capability from geosynchronous orbit to increase communications capabilities for future missions. With laser communications onboard, missions will be able to communicate more data in a single transmission than they could with traditional radio frequency communications.

“The Earth’s atmosphere distorts laser beams due to turbulence. Understanding these challenges are critical to enabling operational optical communications relay capability,” said Jason Mitchell, Director of the Advanced Communications and Navigation Technology division in the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program at NASA Headquarters.

With these two different yet complementary goals, NASA also is partnering with industry to further refine laser communications hardware. In fact, LCRD includes commercially designed and built components alongside custom, NASA-developed systems. The optical module, which sends lasers to and from the payload, was designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory and built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. However, multiple parts of LCRD came from companies like L3Harris Technologies, SEAKR Engineering, Moog Inc., and the Sierra Nevada Corporation. These include the telescope system, controller electronics system, and space switching unit – all critical to LCRD operations.

Low-Cost Optical Terminal (LCOT)

The Low-Cost Optical Terminal (LCOT). Credit: NASA

Additionally, NASA’s Low-Cost Optical Terminal (LCOT) will use commercial off-the-shelf or slightly modified hardware to reduce expense and speed implementation. NASA depends on a robust domestic space industry and hopes these investments will allow the U.S. government to purchase future laser communications hardware and services. This will decrease costs while enabling more missions to use laser communications.

NASA is committed to fostering the growing space economy and the commercial aerospace community to encourage technological innovation/ bring down costs for all users. This dedication extends to new technologies and capabilities like laser communications systems.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6), part of the Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission, will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida no earlier than December 7, 2021. STP is managed by the United States Space Force’s Space Systems Command.

LCRD is led by Goddard and in partnership with JPL and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. LCRD is funded through NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

4 Comments on "NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration – Bringing Optical Speeds to the Final Frontier"

  1. Laser light in space doesn’t travel any faster than radio or microwaves – all are electro-magnetic waves. Lasers have higher frequency so they can transmit more data per second.

  2. jaywhitney billingsmontana | December 5, 2021 at 11:14 pm | Reply

    they wont be able to focus the laser long distances.

    • dr mehrdad sahebzaman iran | January 28, 2024 at 2:24 pm | Reply

      GODS you and iran and rabic…..
      Americans are pioneers in the world, their astronauts, but scientists and astronomy students in America should not underestimate us in Iran. I know well that you are the leader in this field in America, but you should not be proud and not accept us Iranians. I was among those who 42 years ago in 1982 got acquainted with Einstein’s Astronomy, Astrology and Astrology books and in 2012 the spirits of the prophets of the world appeared to me in a veil from their Lord. He saw Prophet Muhammad. I testified that later I realized that the spirit of a person who was buried in Medina thousands of years ago could appear to me. In Iran, 12 years later, I met a person named Mohammad Hemti, who knew about supernatural affairs. I asked him what is the story of this matter? Mohammad Hemmati gave me correct information about meditation and summoning the spirit and I was exactly of his opinion. The great spirit of that person descends on him so that he can understand the truth of a prophet or a person who he thinks is true, that the story of that prophet is the truth, and when I left the religion of Islam, Muhammad because he was killed by agents of the Haram regime on the 9th of December. died Loqmeh and the criminals of the Islamic Republic were in the streets and cities of Tehran, etc… I went to the top of my father’s office and went to the roof of the warehouse there, I closed the door and said Muhammad is the Messenger of God. God, you are the most hateful and cruel person on earth, if you don’t answer me, and later I understood that God sent the spirit of Muhammad and Jesus to me to prove to me that the prophets were right and this was done by God and the elders of the earth. And the author put the date of that year exactly according to verse 89 of Surah Al-Baqarah and in the year 89 AH my Iranians testified to me that the soul of Muhammad is the Messenger of God and in the same year 89 AH I finished the book and chapters and by the year 1391 AH the book And I finished a treatise which I named Kalam Allah Majid. It took me a long time to finish that religious and ritual book of Iranians, and this is how I manage my time. In that book, God refers to a land where humans have drawn the Americas in the form of a flying bird that is an old man. The picture of the old man has the face of Brazil, and his face is a view of the entire continent of South America, the chest of the man, the head of the tribe is visible, there is a horse that is the map. The country is Argentina and one or two feathers are placed on Indian cheeks and ears. They made the continents in the form of humans and birds, but when a planet collides with the sun, all the elements inside the planet explode and hit the earth, and the fish die, and oil is created from them. Human life was destroyed on earth tens of millions of years ago. And big cities are hidden under three thousand meters of soil along with humans under the bed of evils, they have to dig the shores of the seas as far as the oil is to find the bodies of humans. At the same time, the satellites that were built by humans were taken out of the system due to the explosion. They took the sun and that’s why people didn’t think that the earth is the result of life on the earth and the system.
      Greetings to the elders of astronomy, you are somewhat right about the structure of solar bodies.I have reviewed all the comments of Mike Pollock on this page and others.I will explain about Robert at the end.Robert, if he is a religious and godly person, he should not consider others as ignorant.Our religious scholars did not call me a fool when I read a surah about God.Mike, if you want to find out the structure of the solar system, you should start your research from the earth.Know the history of solar objects.Please refer to the address I leave at the end.I must have left many comments on that page, and Robert’s answer is also on that page.In 20 to 30 billion years ago, there were no moons in the solar system and no rocky planets, but planets.Jupiter and Saturn may have existed.Astronomy enthusiasts can tell the size and age of stars from the distance between the stars.A billion years have passed since the age of the sun.I asked, Robert, he must know that the spirit is not capable of creating matter.Didn’t God say in the holy books, “Father, Son, Holy Spirit?”The world of the unseen and the knowledge of it sent me with a message, and the lords of the earth and the world told me the same words of God.Tusi on the cabinet that I bought with that stone from a Christian for 17 thousand tomans, I named it Ura Mohammad, of course, I was doing dentistry with the cabinet, which was my desk, and I bought the cabinet with its Tusi stone froma Christian in Gostan Street, Vahidiya district, and the soul of Muhammad Rasul The Lords of the earth revealed to me the spirit that God sent to me.When Muhammad, the Messenger of God, left, I named that spirit Muhammad.Wahidiyya, the word revelation and diya are two secret words.Wahi and diya together mean the same in Farsi.Diya, but I translated it in Latin for you and the meaning of wahidiya for you in the translation from Farsi to English, the word wahidiya does not have two meanings.The word wahidiya is actually two words.Please let me send the word Vahidiya in Farsi to that person, then I will SMS the word Vahidiya in Farsi to him, that is, type it in a short message, you will understand what I mean.I was a child of a region called Wahidiya, a revelation was given to me, and the money should be paid by those who killed people with knives in the same Wahidiya region, and they were Arabs from their paternal ancestors, and Arabs are not afraidof death because it is said in the Holy Quran.If a man is killed in the way of Islam, he has fought in the way of God, he will go to heaven, and in heaven he will receive heavenly nymphs with beautiful faces and beautiful breasts, and they will welcome those men in heaven whofought and killed in the way of God.became But I spoke to the Messenger of God, whose name I named Muhammad, about this issue that is in Surah An-Nisa, in the Qur’an, Surah An-Nisa, it talks about women, I mean the same issue that Itold you that a man or a soldier in Islam The way of God should be killed, Muhammad said that the soul cannot drink wine

      • dr mehrdad sahebzaman iran | January 29, 2024 at 12:42 am | Reply

        I bought that stone from a Christian for 17 thousand. I mean the stone. It was a stone that is used on the cabinets that are used in kitchens. In 2008, I made a cabinet for a work table with a gray stone that I bought for 17 dollars. Several years later, in 2012, God and the lords of the earth appeared to me for the first time. Sang Tosi, I understood that God and the lords of the earth have heard the call of myrrh. I knew later, that is, I found out the secret that the souls of the dead are revealed by God and the lords to the people who are chosen, and in fact, the souls of those whom God’s special people see are the souls of their departed souls. No, that means it was impossible for me to see the souls of the prophets, which are their own souls, that came out of the grave, in a curtain or a stone or…. I want them to believe the secrets of the world of the occult, that the stories of their lives and prophets are real, prophets like Jesus, Abraham, Isaac, Ismail…..and Muhammad and….the prophets of Iran and some of our imams, of course, after seeing those prophets of God. And the Lords of the Earth, Hazrat Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet of Islam, Nabi Akram, also appeared to me with a herding dog, and I understood that even animals that are buried in the ground and their flesh is not eaten, their souls come from under the soil in our Farsi, just like the souls of humans. We call the spirits of animals demons, and the spirits of humans were called jinns in the old days. Why do God or the lords of the earth manifest an animal spirit on a chosen human being? I will check your answers on this page. I will try to give the correct answer. God and your lords are watching you sometimes. Every important question that is in the minds of special people, for a few days when a chosen person thinks about it, the truth will be revealed to him by his lords after some time, not in One day, this issue will take several days. In fact, I should always mention and repeat the issue that because of the severe filtering that the servers of the Islamic Republic apply on the Internet, sabotage occurs when translating Persian text into English and Latin, and the text that I I try hard and type, the essay and its dictation are ruined and some words are deleted or a sentence disappears and becomes incomplete. America should prevent the Islamic Republic from doing this. Politically and religiously, I don’t have access right now, maybe it’s because they didn’t manage to filter this site, maybe it’s the grace of America and the NASA organization, which includes the chosen state of God and the Lords of Iran. You can find my number on this site. And the author of divine books and…and the guardian of time with dozens of signs in the verses of the holy books and signs in time and signs in eight or nine surahs that were revealed to the guardian of time, God is the guardian of the truth and the truth-telling creation time in iran 12:12pm

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