NASA is preparing to install a laser-based communications system linking ground stations with the International Space Station. The agency says it expects the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration system to provide two-way data transmission at rates of more than 1 gigabit per second – more than 100 times faster than home broadband systems.
The Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is taking the lead on the project.The system will be tested for two to five years.NASA researchers hope their tests will help them discover the best ways to operating future laser-based communication systems.
High-speed data links would allow the transmission of high-resolution 3D video from space.It would also help robots and other devices provide high-definition images when exploring other planets and moons throughout the solar system.
NASA says laser communication systems could be put on spacecraft too, which would allow astronauts to share more satisfying audiovisual messages with loved ones at home.
The test system will communicate with laser modems set up in ground stations in Hawaii and on Table Mountain, California.The earth stations will user lasers to share information with the LCRD satellite, which will be in geosynchronous orbit.The LCRD will then relay information to the International Space Station.
The LCRD is scheduled to be launched in summer 2019.The International Space Station will get its own laser communications system two years later.