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NASA’s New Communications System: LCRD

  • 13 Dec 2021
  • 3 min read

Why in News

Recently, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has launched its new Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD).

Key Points

  • About:
    • It is the first-ever laser communications system that will pave the way for future optical communications missions.
      • Currently, most NASA spacecraft use radio frequency communications to send data.
    • The LCRD payload is hosted onboard the US Department of Defense’s Space Test Program Satellite 6 (STPSat-6). It will be in a geosynchronous orbit, over 35,000km above Earth.
    • It will be controlled by engineers at the LCRD mission’s ground stations in California and Hawaii.
    • The team will send test data through radio frequency signals and the LCRD will reply using optical signals.
  • Features:
    • It has two optical terminals. One to receive data from a user spacecraft, and the other to transmit data to ground stations.
    • The modems will translate the digital data into laser signals. This will then be transmitted via encoded beams of light.
    • These capabilities make LCRD NASA’s first two-way, end-to-end optical relay.
  • Significance:
    • Laser uses infrared light and has a shorter wavelength than radio waves. This will help the transmission of more data in a short time.
      • Using infrared lasers, LCRD will send data to Earth at 1.2 gigabits-per-second (Gbps). At this speed, it will take less than a minute to download a movie.
      • It takes roughly nine weeks to transmit a completed map of Mars back to Earth with current radio frequency systems. With lasers, we can accelerate that to about nine days.
    • Optical communications will help increase the bandwidth 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems.
    • Optical communications systems are smaller in size, weight, and require less power compared with radio instruments.
    • 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.

Source: IE

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